Blackheads, inflammations and pimples disturb the even skin appearance? This could be acne. In addition to hormonal changes – especially in youth – an incorrect diet can promote the development of the skin disease. A study by the the Munich LMU university shows exactly how.
Smooth, soft skin is the ideal image of many people. But the reality often looks different. According to a study by the Harvard “Global Burden of Disease” project, more than 231 million people worldwide suffer from acne (acne vulgaris)(1). A German study has now been able to show to what extent nutrition has an influence. The finding: a certain nutrient deficiency in particular promotes the development of acne.
Nutrient deficiency: Acne sufferers lack omega-3 fatty acids
At the spring symposium of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology (EADV), the research team led by dermatologist Anne Gϋrtler of Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich presented the results of their acne study. In this, the scientists found a possible link between acne and a nutrient deficiency. The study participants lacked omega-3 fatty acids.
As part of their study, Gürtler and her colleagues had determined the nutritional parameters in the blood of 100 subjects who suffered from acne. In 94 percent of them, the level of omega-3 fatty acids was below the recommended value. At the same time, the study participants had elevated levels of IGF-1. This is a growth factor (insulin-growth-factor-1), a hormone produced mainly in the liver but also in fatty tissue. According to research, this has long been considered important in the development of acne.
Does omega-3 therapy make sense for acne?
The results of the LMU study support earlier research findings demonstrating the anti-inflammatory effect of omega-3 fatty acids(2). In a research letter published in the “Journal of the German Society of Dermatology,” Gürtler therefore advocates a treatment concept that also takes nutrition into account. Specifically, an increased intake of the nutrient omega 3 could achieve positive effects in acne therapy(3).
Pay general attention to nutrition in acne
Martin Schaller, senior physician at the University Hospital of Tübingen, agrees with this assessment. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in foods such as legumes, algae, nuts, seeds and fish such as wild salmon and sardines.
In addition, acne patients should generally pay attention to their eating habits: “For about 15 years, there has been increasing evidence that the Western diet promotes acne,” Schaller says. Large epidemiological studies have shown that milk consumption in particular could have an influence, especially the hormones and growth factors contained in milk, Schaller said. In addition, it can be observed that protein-rich drinks used to build muscle can promote acne.
Basically a nutrition, which lets the blood sugar rise fast, is to be advised against. A study by New York University in 2013 had already provided indications of this(4). However, genetic and hormonal factors also play an important role in the development and progression of acne.
1. Chen, H., Zhang, T.C., Yin, X.L. et al. (2021). Magnitude and temporal trend of acne vulgaris burden in 204
countries and territories from 1990 to 2019: an analysis from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2019.
British Journal of Dermatology.
- Khayef, G., Young, J., Burns-Whitmore, B., Spalding, T. (2012). Effects of fish oil supplementation on inflammatory acne. Lipids in Health and Disease.
- Guertler, A., Neu, K., Fiedler, T. et al. (2022). Clinical effects of omega-3 fatty acids on acne vulgaris. Journal of the German Society of Dermatology.
- NYU. (2013). Steinhardt Dieticians: Less Dairy and Carbs Could Curb Acne Breakouts. (accessed 07/11/2022)