More and more research is looking at the role nutrition plays in disease. And it is fascinating stuff. At the time of writing, I am looking after my 80-year old father who was discharged from a 3-day stay in ITU only 5 days ago and I can clearly see how important it is that he receives good quality nutrition as part of his convalescence and recovery.
An article published in the journal Pediatric Dermatology towards the end of 2022 looks at the role of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals on paediatric atopic dermatitis.
[Labib A, Golpanian RS, Aickara D et al. The effect of fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals on pediatric atopic dermatitis: A systematic review. Pediatr Dermatol 2022;40(1):44-49.]
What did they look at?
The authors looked at trials between January 2000 and January 2022 that looked at the use of these nutrients in the management of atopic dermatitis. One thousand and seventy-eight research articles were identified but only twenty-eight studies were eventually included.
Why omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids?
These two fatty acids contribute to the maintenance of an optimal skin barrier and help in the management of inflammation.
And what vitamins and minerals did they look at?
The main vitamins and minerals looked at were vitamin D, vitamin E and zinc. We all know vitamin D is essential but it is thought to improve symptoms of atopic dermatitis by affecting cellular pathways and also have effects on the skin barrier. Vitamin E also is reported to improve itch and zinc deficiency is known to cause a characteristic skin eruption called acrodermatitis enteropathica which can look like eczema initially.
What did they find?
The results are conflicting unfortunately.
With regards omega-3 and omega-6 supplementation, the majority of studies were not in favour of supplementation for atopic dermatitis treatment.
And what about supplementing with Vit D, E and zinc?
There was a good body of evidence supporting the use of vitamin D as part of atopic dermatitis treatment. This is even more so for those with cow’s milk allergy aswell as eczema or for those whose eczema worsens in the winter months when there is less sun.
The studies looking at vitamin E and atopic dermatitis are also promising with reductions in itch, redness and thickening of the skin.
As for zinc, one study found that eczema scores and itch improved after 2 months of supplementation. However, another study did not show improvement.
What dose should I give?
Well that’s the trouble. High doses of certain vitamins can give rise to very serious side effects especially if they are fat soluble vitamins which vitamin D and E are.
So the advice is to attempt to get these nutrients from a wholesome, nutritious diet rather than from taking food supplements unless there is a proven deficiency. Vitamin D can also be generated in the skin with safe sun exposure.
Dr Sandy Flann, Consultant Dermatologist