It’s no secret that gut health plays a major role in the clarity of your skin, with previous research suggesting that fruit and veggies can even clear up your blemishes. So how does a high-fat eating plan like the keto diet affect your skin? Well, it all depends on your food sources.
According to a new study in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, not all fats are created equal.
Testing mice with psoriasiform-like skin (think red and scaly) inflammation, researchers found that different ketogenic diets impacted the severity of symptoms. Keto diets heavy in medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) – oils (especially coconut) and dairy products – combined with omega-3 fatty acids sourced from plant-based foods – such as nuts and seeds – could cause the condition to flare up.
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“This study leads to a broader understanding of possible effects of ketogenic diets with a very high fat content on skin inflammation and underlines the importance of the composition of fatty acids in the diet,” explains co-lead investigator, Dr. Barbara Kofler.
“We found that a well-balanced ketogenic diet, limited primarily to long-chain triglycerides (LCTs) like olive oil, soybean oil, fish, nuts, avocado, and meats, does not exacerbate skin inflammation. However, ketogenic diets containing high amounts of MCTs especially in combination with omega-3 fatty acids, should be used with caution since they may aggravate preexisting skin inflammatory conditions.”
The rodent subjects in the study were fed a diet 77 per cent fat, considered extremely ketogenic. Scientists suggest that this is an uncommon eating regime and those undertaking the ketogenic diet shouldn’t be too concerned about skin inflammation. However, they do recommend not turning to the popular diet as a treatment plan.
“I think most people following a ketogenic diet don’t need to worry about unwanted skin inflammation side effects. However, patients with psoriasis should not consider a ketogenic diet an adjuvant therapeutic option,” adds Dr. Kofler.
In short, the keto diet is a high fat, low carb nutritional plan. The science behind it? If you eat a very low amount of carbs, you starve your brain of glucose, its main fuel source. Your body still needs fuel to function, so your brain signals it to tap its reserve of ketones (compounds created by your liver from your fat stores when blood insulin is low.).
The team of authors also note that when your diet is high in MCTs, it can impact neutrophils (white cells that fight infections) in the skin.
“Ketogenic diets supplemented with MCTs not only induce the expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines, but also lead to an accumulation of neutrophil (white s in the skin resulting in a worse clinical appearance of the skin of the mice. Neutrophils are of particular interest since they are known to express a receptor for MCTs and therefore a ketogenic diet containing MCTs may have an impact on other neutrophil-mediated diseases not limited to the skin,” notes co-lead investigator Dr. Roland Lang.