Is that pimple in the mirror in the morning the result of a pack of fries the night before? Is that pale complexion caused by the two bars of chocolate? It is certain that there is a link between nutrition and our skin. But how exactly?
“Our diet absolutely affects our skin,” says Lauren Ploch, a dermatologist in Aiken, South Carolina. The skin is an organ, just like your heart or liver, and it is built and maintained by nutrients from food.
For example, protein is used to produce collagen, which plumps and maintains the skin and helps heal wounds. Antioxidants such as vitamins C and E protect the skin from air pollution and the sun, she says. Here’s what we know.
Certain nutrient deficiencies can cause obvious skin problems, says Mary Wu Chang, associate professor of dermatology and pediatrics at the University of Connecticut. For example, a vitamin C deficiency can cause scurvy, leading to symptoms such as bruising, poor wound healing and rough, thickened skin. A protein deficiency can cause flaky, discolored skin. But these conditions, Chang adds, are rare in the West.
It’s difficult to study the subtler ways your diet can affect your skin, but some research offers clues, says Rajani Katta, a dermatologist and clinical professor at Baylor College of Medicine.
For example, in a study from the Netherlands published in 2019, researchers analyzed the dietary data and photos of about 2,800 older adults, most in their 60s and 70s. They found that women who ate more fruits, vegetables, fish and fiber-rich foods had fewer wrinkles than women who ate more meat and snacks.
Another study, published in 2019, found that women in France who followed the Mediterranean diet had a significantly lower risk of skin cancer than women who did not. The authors hypothesized that the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of the diet may have played a role.
Some small studies have also shown that individual foods can directly affect the skin, Katta said. For example, two studies showed that consuming about three tablespoons of tomato paste per day, which is rich in an antioxidant called lycopene, protected the skin from sun damage. There is also some evidence that other plant compounds – such as those in colorful fruits and vegetables, tea, dark chocolate and certain herbs and spices such as cloves, cinnamon and mint – may provide similar protection, although consuming them does not negate the need to wear sunscreen. replaces.
A few small studies (mostly conducted on teenage boys and young men) have found that cutting back on sugary and starchy foods, such as soda, candy, white bread and pasta, helps with acne, Chang says. And some reports suggest that consuming dairy products or whey protein powder is associated with more severe acne.
The Mediterranean diet may also benefit people with psoriasis, a condition that causes thick, dry, and itchy patches on the skin, Ploch adds.
Overall, however, evidence that dietary changes can treat skin conditions is limited, says Aaron Drucker, a dermatologist and associate professor of medicine at the University of Toronto. And even if dietary changes help, you may still need medication.
Unless you’ve been diagnosed with a specific deficiency, it’s best to get your nutrients from food rather than from supplements, which are poorly regulated and can sometimes do more harm than good, Ploch claims.
In a large clinical trial in France, adult women who took a daily antioxidant supplement containing vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, selenium and zinc for 7.5 years were 68 percent more likely to develop skin cancer than women who did not take the supplement. Biotin supplements, which claim to support hair, skin and nails, can contain up to 650 times the recommended dose, which can lead to incorrect test results.
Ploch’s favorite recommendation for healthy skin is the Mediterranean diet, which contains beneficial nutrients such as antioxidants and protective plant compounds. Chang also often recommends that her acne-prone patients avoid dairy products and foods high in sugar and refined carbohydrates for at least four to six weeks. This won’t help everyone, she says, but some notice significant improvements.
Eczema and other skin conditions naturally go back and forth, so it’s not always clear whether a change in diet helps or hurts, Drucker says. But if you find that a particular food consistently makes your symptoms worse, it makes sense to avoid it.
© The New York Times