Examining the Relationship Between Diet and Common Skin Conditions

by Ella

In the midst of a myriad of claims and information about diet’s impact on skin health, recent evidence suggests a connection between certain foods and an increased risk of skin conditions such as acne, psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, and rosacea. This exploration prompts an investigation into the specifics of each case and how dietary changes might enhance the health and quality of life for individuals dealing with these skin conditions.

The surge in interest surrounding the influence of food on skin issues necessitates a closer look at the research. Vivian Shi, MD, an associate professor of dermatology at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock, recommends familiarizing oneself with the available research on ‘diet’ and ‘skin’ to engage in informed discussions with patients.


Acne and Dietary Factors
One prominent area of focus is the relationship between diet and acne. The prevalence of sugar and dairy in the Western diet has led to inquiries about their impact. These foods, along with red meat and carbohydrates, can contribute to the breakdown of leucine, an essential amino acid. The combination of leucine and sugar can lead to the production of insulin and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), activating androgen receptors, and subsequently triggering acne-related processes such as sebogenesis, lipogenesis, and keratinization.


Dairy products, especially milk, can elevate IGF-1 levels, further affecting hormonal mediators and exacerbating acne. Interestingly, not all types of dairy milk are equal in this regard, with skim milk being identified as the most acnegenic. Shi suggests opting for whole milk, preferably organic, from an acne perspective.


Psoriasis and Dietary Considerations
In the case of psoriasis, a systematic review of 55 studies indicates that obesity can worsen the condition. The strongest evidence supports a hypocaloric diet for individuals with overweight or obesity. Additionally, alcohol consumption has been linked to a lower treatment response and more severe psoriasis. Some evidence suggests that a gluten-free diet or vitamin D supplements may benefit specific subpopulations of individuals with psoriasis.


Vitamin D deficiency is prevalent among psoriasis patients, according to Shi, emphasizing the importance of addressing nutritional deficiencies in this population. The National Psoriasis Foundation recommends a healthful diet, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, as well as adherence to a Mediterranean diet for reduced psoriasis severity.

Atopic Dermatitis and the Role of Synbiotics
Atopic dermatitis (AD) is identified as a condition where diet plays a significant role. A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials focused on synbiotics—combinations of prebiotics and probiotics—for treating AD. While synbiotics did not prevent AD, they showed efficacy in treating the condition in adults and children over one year old. Prebiotics alone were also found to reduce AD severity.

Despite these findings, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) has not issued recommendations regarding prebiotics or probiotics for AD. A 2022 review ranked the efficacy of different supplements for AD, with vitamin D supplementation showing the most substantial benefit, followed by vitamin E, probiotics, hemp seed oil, histidine, and oolong tea.

Rosacea and Dietary Triggers
Rosacea, characterized by facial flushing, edema, burning, and inflammatory responses, appears to be influenced by certain dietary factors. Triggers for rosacea include sunlight, alcohol, chocolate, spicy foods, and caffeine. These foods can activate skin receptors and sensory neurons, releasing neuropeptides that act on mast cells, leading to flushing. The skin-gut axis may also play a role in this process.

In conclusion, the evolving understanding of the links between diet and common skin conditions emphasizes the importance of informed discussions between healthcare practitioners and patients. Recognizing the impact of specific foods on skin health opens avenues for potential improvements in managing these conditions and enhancing overall well-being.



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