Omega-3 Benefits: Omega-3 and Skin

Omega-3 benefits for the skin

Atopic Dermatitis and Omega-3

The prevalence of allergic diseases in Europe and the United States has risen in recent years: atopic dermatitis has increased 20-fold in the last 60 years and affects 17-23% of the European and American population.(1) This is related to changes in western diet as a result of industrialisation (one such change is the increase in Omega-6 fatty acids and decrease in omega-3 EPA and DHA). 
In the opinion of some authors, the symptoms of atopic dermatitis are a precursor to developing allergic rhinitis or asthma, suggesting that this condition is the starting point for future allergic disease.(2,3) Up to 80% of children with atopic dermatitis will develop allergic asthma or rhinitis in their lifetime.(1) 
There is a causal relationship between high Omega-6 consumption and allergy disease, due to excessive production of arachidonic acid eicosanoids. Fish and fish oils are sources of long-chain Omega-3 and these fatty acids have the opposite effect to Omega-6. Omega-3 oils are thought to provide protection from atopic sensitisation and the clinical symptoms of atopy. Consumption of Omega-3 by the mother during pregnancy protects the child. Most studies also demonstrate a protective action when Omega-3 is consumed by children and adolescents. Consumption of fish oil by the mother during pregnancy is associated with immunological changes in the blood of the umbilical cord and can reduce sensitisation to common allergens as well as the prevalence and severity of atopic dermatitis in the first years of life. This effect can continue until adolescence.(4) 
A study in which 98 atopic mothers received supplements of long-chain Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFA) or placebo from 20 weeks of gestation until birth showed that the Omega-3 LC-PUFA supplement modulated the immunological response in atopic dermatitis: the children of mothers who received this supplement showed erythrocyte concentrations of Omega-3 LC-PUFA higher than the control groups. Cytokine concentrations (interleukin (IL) 5, 13 and 10 and interferon-γ) in response to all the allergens tended to be lower in the supplement group (the reduction was only statistically significant for IL-10 in response to cats).(5)

Psoriasis and Omega-3

Omega-3 LC-PUFA supplements complement topical treatment of psoriasis and contribute significantly to reducing the psoriasis area and severity index and the nail psoriasis severity index, and improve the dermatological life quality index, reducing lesions to the scalp, itching, erythema and desquamation in the area of psoriasis treated, compared to topical treatment without supplement(6).

Sun Protection and Omega-3

Skin cancer as a group (basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and malignant melanoma) is the most common cancer among white Caucasians and ultraviolet radiation (UVR) is involved in the genesis of all three types. Topical protection is normally badly used (insufficient or uneven application), so a systemic protection method is an attractive option, particularly if it is achieved with a healthy diet. An assessment of the effect of omega-3 EPA supplements on various early carcinogenesis markers in UVR-induced genotoxicity (in a double-blind, randomised study lasting 3 months, in which omega-3 EPA bioavailability was measured in the skin), showed that solar erythema sensitivity decreased in the omega-3 EPA supplement group (the threshold of UVR-produced erythema rose significantly compared to the baseline). Furthermore, in this group, UVR-induced p53 expression in epidermal cells decreased significantly when assessed immunohistochemically 24 hours after exposure to UVR. DNA fibre breakage in peripheral blood T-cells also decreased. This all suggests that omega-3 EPA supplementation can reduce skin cancer in humans in the long term.(7)



1. Honeyman J, Gaete M, Atalah E. Ácidos grasos omega-3 y atopía. Rev Chil Pediatr 2006;775:523-526. // 2. Gustafsson D, Sjoberg O, Foucard T. Development of allergies and asthma in infants and young children with atopic dermatitis: a prospective follow-up to 7 years of age. Allergy 2000;55:240-245. // 3. Spergel JM, Paller AS. Atopic dermatitis and the atopic march. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2003;112 (6 Suppl):S118-S127. // 4. Calder PC, Kremmyda LS, Vlachava M, Noakes PS, Miles EA. Is there a role for fatty acids in early life programming of the immune system? Proc Nutr Soc. 2010 Aug;69(3):373-80. Epub 2010 May 13. // 5. Dunstan J, Mori T, Barden A et al. Fish oil supplementation in pregnancy modifies neonatal allergen-specific inmune responses and clinical outcomes in infants at high risk of atopy: a randomized, controlled study. J Allergy Clin Inmunol 2003;112:1178-1184. // 6. Balbás GM, Regaña MS, Millet PU. Study on the use of omega-3 fatty acids as a therapeutic supplement in treatment of psoriasis. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2011;4:73-77. // 7. Rhodes LE, Shahbakhti H, Azurdia RM et al. Effect of eicosapentaenoic acid, an omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid, on UVR-related cancer risk in humans. An assessment of early genotoxic markers. Carcinogenesis 2003;24(5):919-925.