Diabetes and Skin Care: Nutrition (Part 2)

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This week, we finish up our series on diabetes and skin care. Last week (in "Diabetes and Skin Care: Nutrition [Part 1]") we looked at some of the various nutrients that play a role in keeping your skin healthy, glowing, and smooth. Vitamins A, C, and E are the "heavy hitters" of the skin vitamins, since they also act as antioxidants, but there are other nutrients that may be just as important.

Vitamin B complex. B vitamins play a big role in the body’s conversion of food into energy. Biotin (also known as vitamin H) is the B vitamin that’s most closely linked to skin health; in fact, this vitamin is a key component of skin, hair, and nails. Although biotin deficiency is pretty rare, even a mild deficiency can cause dermatitis (skin inflammation) and hair loss. (Interestingly, there’s some research that indicates that people with Type 2 diabetes may have lower blood levels of biotin; fasting blood glucose levels improve in some people when given biotin supplements). Food sources of biotin include egg yolks, liver, bananas, oatmeal, and rice. The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for biotin is 300 micrograms.

Adding vitamins to beauty products is big business. In fact, vitamins B3 (niacin) and B5 (pantothenic acid) are added to some creams because they help hold in moisture. B3 may also have some anti-inflammatory properties, working to soothe irritated skin, along with a mild bleaching ability to help with uneven skin tones.

Vitamin K. Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin (unlike the B vitamins and vitamin C, which are water soluble) that’s needed for blood clotting and bone health. Studies also show that topical vitamin K can help reduce dark circles commonly seen under the eyes. Still other studies point to a link between vitamin K and a condition called pseudoxanthoma elasticum, which results in severe wrinkling of the skin over the entire body. People with this condition may have a problem metabolizing vitamin K. These findings will hopefully prompt researchers to study the effects of vitamin K on “regular” wrinkles that people develop over time (perhaps vitamin K is the new fountain of youth!). In the body, bacteria that hang out in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract make vitamin K; food sources of this vitamin include cabbage, cauliflower, spinach, cereals, and soybeans. The recommended intake for vitamin K is 120 micrograms per day for men and 90 micrograms per day for women.

Copper. Copper is involved in many enzymatic reactions in the body. It’s also needed to form connective tissue. Copper deficiency is rare, and it’s not advised to take supplements. However, copper can be used topically in the form of creams. A study at the University of Pennsylvania showed that use of a cream containing copper improved skin texture, wrinkles, and fine lines compared to a “regular” cream and to a placebo. Another study showed that copper improved skin elasticity and thickness. The RDA for copper for adults is 900 micrograms per day.

Zinc. Zinc is well-established as a mineral needed for healthy skin. Zinc is necessary for collagen formation and plays a key role in wound healing. Its other functions related to the skin include treating acne, dermatitis herpetiformis (an itchy rash), contact dermatitis, and dandruff. Zinc is also found in some sunscreens to help block damaging UV light. Zinc is found in meat, poultry, beans, nuts, whole grains, and dairy foods. The RDA is 11 milligrams for men and 8 milligrams for women.

Other nutrients. Vitamins and minerals share the stage with other nutrients when it comes to skin care. For example, omega-3 fatty acids may help protect the skin against UV light, and they’ve also been used successfully to treat psoriasis and acne. Hyaluronic acid, a substance found in connective tissue that helps to cushion and lubricate, is a popular ingredient in skin care products aimed at preventing wrinkles. And we’ll likely see many more nutrients added in the future. Buyer beware—none of these products can reverse the effects of poor diet, lack of exercise, and smoking, so the message of eating well and taking care of yourself is still holds for healthy, glowing skin.

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