- Short report
- Open Access
Effects of fish oil supplementation on inflammatory acne
© Khayef et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2012
- Received: 1 November 2012
- Accepted: 28 November 2012
- Published: 3 December 2012
Given that acne is a rare condition in societies with higher consumption of omega-3 (n-3) relative to omega-6 (n-6) fatty acids, supplementation with n-3 may suppress inflammatory cytokine production and thereby reduce acne severity.
13 individuals with inflammatory acne were given three grams of fish oil containing 930 mg of EPA to their unchanged diet and existing acne remedies for 12 weeks. Acne was assessed using an overall severity grading scale, total inflammatory lesion counts, and colorimetry.
There was no significant change in acne grading and inflammatory counts at week 12 compared to baseline. However, there was a broad range of response to the intervention on an individual basis. The results showed that acne severity improved in 8 individuals, worsened in 4, and remained unchanged in 1. Interestingly, among the individuals who showed improvement, 7 were classified as having moderate to severe acne at baseline, while 3 of the 4 whose acne deteriorated were classified as having mild acne.
There is some evidence that fish oil supplementation is associated with an improvement in overall acne severity, especially for individuals with moderate to severe acne. Divergent responses to fish oil in our pilot study indicates that dietary and supplemental lipids are worthy of further investigation in acne.
- Acne Vulgaris
- Fish Oil
- n-3 Fatty Acid
- Omega 3 Fatty Acid
Acne vulgaris is a common yet complex inflammatory skin disease in Westernized nations and the overall occurrence rate appears to be rising [1, 2]. Inflammatory mediators are predominantly released by activated leukocytes and result in inflammatory acne lesions characterized by pain, redness, and swelling . Given that acne is a rare condition in non-Westernized societies with higher ratios of n-3 to n-6 from dietary intake, it appears that the lower n-3 content of the western diet is an important dietary modulator of these inflammatory mediators [1, 4–6]. A case control study of Koreans found that individuals with acne consumed significantly less fish and more junk food than the control group . A similar study of an Italian population found that consumption of fish was associated with a protective effect against moderate to severe acne . This inverse association between fish consumption and acne severity is expected because fish contains high levels of n-3 fatty acid eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) that acts as a competitive inhibitor of AA conversion to inflammatory mediators, PGE2 and LTB4, which leads to reduced inflammatory acne lesions . Some of these mediators include n-6 eicosanoids, prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), and leukotrine B4 (LTB4) that are derived from arachidonic acid (AA), an n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid. Cytokines such as interleukin 1B (IL-1B) and tumor necrosis factor α (TNF-α) are also important inflammatory mediators . It has also been shown that n-3 fatty acid supplementation suppresses the production of TNF-α and IL-Iβ in healthy individuals [3, 10–12]. Despite the fact that the anti-inflammatory properties of EPA have been well-established in the literature, very few human studies have examined the clinical effects of this n-3 fatty acid on reducing inflammation in acne patients. A recent retrospective study examined the effect of a poly-nutrient supplementation containing EPA and antioxidants on 5 patients with mild to moderate acne who had consistently used the supplement for 2 months. Inflammatory acne lesion count was significantly reduced in all patients . Given that the various studies that supplementation with antioxidants may help reduce severity of acne, it would be interesting to investigate whether fish oil can exert the same effects [14–17]. The objective of this study was to detect the isolated effects of EPA in the form of fish oil on severity of inflammatory acne in young healthy males.
Changes in acne grade severity after 12 weeks of fish-oil supplementation
Acne Grade n (%)
A total of 16 healthy men were enrolled in this study and 13 completed the protocol. Two participants withdrew from the study and 1 participant was excluded from the data analysis due to self-reported compliance of less than 70%. The participants were young and had a BMI consistent with being normal in weight . Seven participants (54%) identified their ethnicity as Hispanic/Latino, 3 as Caucasian (23%), and 3 (23%) as Asian.
The research protocol was approved by the Human Subjects Committee of the Institutional Review Board at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, protocol # 10-190.
In addition, it should be noted that in counting the inflammatory lesions, we did not differentiate between the types of inflammatory lesions for our data analysis. In other words, we did not distinguish between papules, pustules, and cysts in the lesion count, but rather categorized them all as inflammatory lesions. This may be why we did not achieve high correlation between a* and actual inflammatory lesion counts, 0.42, 0.62, and 0.44 at baseline, week 6, and week 12, respectively. Thus, given the fact that acne is a dynamic disease, any improvement in the type of inflammatory lesion might have not been accounted for in our study. For the same reasons, more accurate and reliable results could be obtained if a larger measuring head were used to obtain the redness and lightness measurements.
Although non-significant, there was a visible decrease in mean Δa* at week 6 (Figure 1) which suggest that fish oil supplementation for 6 weeks is sufficient to reduce inflammation, because a* is well-understood to be correlated with erythema (increased blood flow to the skin) [20, 21]. The non-significant linear increase in ΔL* from baseline to week 12 is also consistent with existing studies that found an inverse relationship between a* and L* in inflammatory skin diseases [22, 23]. However, there should be more investigation into whether L* correlates with subjective assessment of different stages of an acne lesion.
Although we cannot draw any firm conclusions from our study with a small sample size and no placebo group, there is some promising evidence that fish oil supplementation is associated with an improvement in ratings of overall acne severity, especially for individuals with moderate and severe acne. It is possible that increasing the dose of EPA from 930 mg to 3–6 grams daily, as recommended for arthritis patients, would reveal more significant results . In addition, effects of n-3 fatty acids should be examined in cohorts of subjects with the same acne severity grades or lesion counts in order to isolate the potential effect on different types of acne severity.
GK and BBW are registered dietitians in the state of California.
Cyvex Nutrition, Inc. donated the fish oil capsules. Dr. Azin Meshkinpour, MD and Dr. Robert A. Harper, Ph.D. conducted the clinical acne evaluation.
- Cordain L, Lindeberg S, Hurtado M, Hill K, Eaton B, Brand-Miller J: Acne vulgaris: a disease of western civilization. Arch Dermatol. 2002, 138: 1584-1590. 10.1001/archderm.138.12.1584View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
- Uhlenhake E, Yentzer BA, Feldman SR: Acne vulgaris and depression: a retrospective examination. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2009, 9: 59-63.View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- James MJ, Gibson RA, Cleland LG: Dietary polyunsaturated fatty acids and inflammatory mediator production. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000, 71: 343S-348S.PubMedGoogle Scholar
- Logan AC: Omega-3 fatty acids and acne. Arch Dermatol. 2003, 139: 941-943. 10.1001/archderm.139.7.941-aView ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
- Bowe WP, Joshi SS, Shalita AR: Diet and acne. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2010, 63: 124-141. 10.1016/j.jaad.2009.07.043View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
- Logan AC: Linoleic and linolenic acids and acne vulgaris. Br J Dermatol. 2008, 158: 201-202.PubMedGoogle Scholar
- Jung JJ, Yoon MY, Min SU, Hong JS, Choi YS, Suh DH: The influence of dietary patterns on acne vulgaris in Koreans. Eur J Dermatol. 2010, 20: 768-772.PubMedGoogle Scholar
- Di Landro A, Cazzaniga S, Parazzini F, Ingordo V, Cusano F, Atzori L, Cutri FT, Musumeci ML, Zinetti C, Pezzarossa E, Bettoli V, Caproni M, Scocco GL, Bonci A, Bencini P, Naldi L: Family history, body mass index, selected dietary factors, menstrual history, and risk of moderate to severe acne in adolescents and young adults. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2012, 10.1016/j.jaad.2012.02.018.Google Scholar
- Zouboulis C, Nestoris S, Adler YD, Orth M, Orfanos CE, Picardo M, Camera E, Cunliffe WJ: A new concept for acne therapy: a pilot study with zileuton, an oral 5-lipoxygenase inhibitor. Arch Dermatol. 2003, 139: 668-670. 10.1001/archderm.139.5.668View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
- Endres S, Ghorbani R, Kelley VE, Georgilis K, Lonnemann G, Schindler R, Dinarello C: The effect of dietary supplementation with n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids on the synthesis of interleukin-1 and tumor necrosis factor by mononuclear cells. N Engl J Med. 1989, 320: 265-271. 10.1056/NEJM198902023200501View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
- Meydani S, Endres S, Woods MM, Barry R, Soo C, Morrill-Labrode A, Dinarello CA, Gorbach SL: Oral (n-3) fatty acids supplementation suppresses cytokine production and lymphocyte proliferation: comparison between younger and older women. J Nutr. 1991, 121: 547-555.PubMedGoogle Scholar
- Caughey GE, Mantzioris E, Gibson RA, Cleland LG, James MJ: The effect on human tumor necrosis factor α and interleukin 1β production of diets enriched in n-3 fatty acids from vegetable oils or fish oil. Am J Clin Nutr. 1996, 62: 116-122.Google Scholar
- Rubin MG, Kim K, Logan AC: Acne vulgaris, mental health and omega-3 fatty acids: a report of cases. Lipids Health Dis. 2008, 7: 36- 10.1186/1476-511X-7-36PubMed CentralView ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
- Arican O, Kurutas EB, Sasmaz S: Oxidative stress in patients with acne vulgaris. Mediat Inflamm. 2005, 14: 308-384.Google Scholar
- Basak PY, Glutekin F, Kilinc I: The role of antioxidative defense system in paupopustular acne. J Dermatol. 2001, 28: 123-127.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
- El-Akawai Z, Abdel-Latif N, Abdul-Razzak K: Does the plasma level of vitamins A and E affect acne condition?. Clin Exp Dermatol. 2006, 31: 430-434. 10.1111/j.1365-2230.2006.02106.xView ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Dreno B, Foulic P, Reymaud A, Moyse D, Habert H, Richet H: Effects of zinc gluconate on propionibacterium acnes resistanceto erythromycin in patient with inflammatory acne: in vitro and in vivo study. Eur J Dermatol. 2005, 15: 152-155.PubMedGoogle Scholar
- Allen BS, Smith JG: Various parameters for grading acne vulgaris. Arch Dermatol. 1982, 118: 22-25.View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Database.http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/assessing/bmi/adult_bmi/index.html
- Healy ZR, Dinkova-Kostova AT, Wehage SL, Thompson RE, Fahey JW, Talalay P: Precise determination of the erythema response of human skin to ultraviolet radiation and quantification of effects of protectors. Photodermatol Photoimmunol Photomed. 2009, 25: 45-50. 10.1111/j.1600-0781.2009.00404.xPubMed CentralView ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
- Clarys P, Alewaeters K, Lambrecht R, Barel AO: Skin color measurements: comparison between three instruments: the Chromameter, the DermaSpectrometer, and the Mexameter. Skin Res Technol. 2000, 6: 230-238. 10.1034/j.1600-0846.2000.006004230.xView ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
- Lee DH, Li K, Suh DH: Pimecrolimus 1% cream for the treatment of steroid-induced rosacea: an 8-week split-face clinical trial. Br J Dermatol. 2008, 158: 1069-1076. 10.1111/j.1365-2133.2008.08496.xView ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
- Hoffmann K, Dirschka T, Schwarze H, Stucker M, El-Gammal S, Hoffmann A, Altmeyer P: Non-invasive evaluation of inflammation in atopic dermatitis. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 1994, 3: 347-353. 10.1111/j.1468-3083.1994.tb00374.x. 10.1111/j.1468-3083.1994.tb00374.xView ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Cleland LG, James MJ: Fish oil and rheumatoid arthritis: antiinflammatory and collateral health benefits. J Rheumatol. 2000, 27: 2305-2307.PubMedGoogle Scholar
This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.