Omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients for any number of medical conditions. It plays a critical role in brain development and functioning and it has been recommended by the American Heart Association for reducing the risk of heart disease. Apart from helping in several inflammatory conditions, omega-3 deficiency can lead to fatigue, dry skin, mood swings, poor blood circulation, poor memory, depression etc.
Unfortunately the diet in most developed countries contains more of omega-6 (14-25 times) than omega-3. This causes too many health problems. The Mediterranean diet on the other hand has a healthy balance between the two fatty acids. The people in these regions consume greater quantities of healthy foods like whole grains, vegetables, fresh fruits, fish, garlic and olive oil all rich in omega-3 fats. Omega-3 for skin care has been studied by many eminent researchers.
Importance of the Skin
The human skin forms a protective barrier between the external environment and internal organs. It prevents damage to the body from noxious substances like radiation and microorganisms invading the body. In recent studies, the importance of the skin as an essential immune system has been proven. Apart from this, the skin is also important for a psychological feeling of well-being and attractiveness. The appearance of the skin is determined by surface properties like color and texture and physiological properties like scent, elasticity, sweat and sebum production.
The skin is affected by external factors like UV rays, pollution, toxic compounds, mechanical damage, hormone and immune status and stress. All these factors result in problems like inflammation, photo-aging, imbalanced epidermal homeostasis, reduced immunity and many other skin disorders.
Omega 3 benefits to Skin
Photo Dermatitis : Omega-3 for skin care has been examined in a study of 13 people who suffered from photo dermatitis (skin sensitivity). They took fish oil supplements and showed less sensitivity to UV rays. Topical sunscreens are however said to provide greater protection than consuming omega-3 supplements.
Psoriasis : In a study, 40 patients suffering with psoriasis were given EPA in combination with their medication and showed improvement. However a similar experiment on a larger group of psoriasis patients showed no benefits from consumption of fish oil.
Acne : Acne is a problem that troubles at least 79% – 95% of adolescents in the US. Even children and adults are not spared from this skin condition. Omega-3 for skin care has been studied extensively by researchers like Loren Cordain (Colorado State University). She found many loopholes with the widely accepted belief among dermatologists that diet had nothing to do with the prevalence of acne.
In fact acne is almost absent in non-industrialized countries. When these people move to a modern industrialized city then incidences of acne suddenly increases. In their extensive travels, Loren Cordain and her team discovered that acne mainly troubled westernized cultures.
Pimples: Cordain’s study involved two groups – the Ache people of Eastern Paraguay and natives of Kitavan Islands in Papua New Guinea. Both these groups were extremely healthy and rarely suffered from incidences of heart disease and stroke. They were assessed on several parameters – one of which was an evaluation of the skin. Both populations were found to possess extremely clear skin with no sign of a blackhead or pimple. So, what was the reason for this great difference in acne rates between these and industrialized societies? Apart from their genetic differences, it could also be greatly due to other environmental factors and diet.
Diet and Skin Disorders : Acne is an inflammatory condition of the skin. Since it has already been proven that both omega-3 and omega-6 posses anti-inflammatory properties, Cordain has suggested that a diet with the right balance of both these fatty acids can prevent acne and pimples. A recent study has supported this theory where it was found that LOX-blocker medication can result in a 70% reduction of acne lesions.
Patients with PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) had both acne and insulin resistance. Diet-induced resistance to insulin can lead to acne since excess oil is produced on the skin. When such patients were given medications to stabilize their insulin metabolism, their acne condition also showed a marked improvement.
A diet rich in EPA – long-chain omega-3 fatty acid – improved other inflammatory skin conditions like scaling, itching and patchy skin, which is characterized by congestion of tiny blood vessels, and causes abnormal skin redness. More studies are however needed to strengthen these claims of the connection between diet and acne.
Diet as polyunsaturated fats found in omega-3 and omega-6, vitamins and carotenoids provide the required nutrients to protect the skin from skin disorders. One reason for skin lesions is nutritional deficiency. Modern nutritional science is studying the correlation between a diet specific in certain nutrients and its effect on various skin conditions. There are several specific results that prove biologically relevant and allow researchers to claim that products with these nutrients help provide relief for skin conditions.
Right combination of PUFA’s from omega-3, vitamins and carotenoids in regular diet can protect the body and especially the skin from UV irradiation. Omega-3 for skin care is therefore beneficial and inclusion of this in our diet can provide glowing skin free of disorders and protection from many other serious illnesses too.