The study looked at 100 people with acne and found that 94% of them had low amounts of the Omega-3 fatty acid in their blood. Many also had more of a hormone that is known to make acne worse.
Dr. Sandra Johnson, a dermatologist in Fort Smith, Ark., said, “As someone who loves to treat acne and does clinical trials, I find this study very interesting.” Johnson didn’t have anything to do with the study.
Johnson said, “We have great treatments for acne, but they can be expensive and have side effects.” “Changing your diet, adding Omega-3 for acne, would be a more natural, less risky, and cheaper way to treat it.”
At a meeting of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology last week, the study’s results were shared. Before it is published in a peer-reviewed journal, research presented at medical meetings should be seen as preliminary.
Omega-3 fatty acids are often found in wild fish, algae, and other plant-based foods like legumes, nuts, and seeds.
Researchers found that these fatty acids reduce inflammation by telling the body to make anti-inflammatory prostaglandins E1 and E3 and leukotriene B5 and by lowering IGF-1 levels (insulin-like growth factor). It is known that IGF-1 can cause acne.
Dr. Anne Gürtler, who led the study, said that as part of a modern approach to treating acne, doctors should talk to their patients about what they should eat. She works at Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich, Germany, in the department of dermatology and allergies.
When her team looked at the blood samples of the participants, they found that most of them didn’t have enough omega-3 fatty acids, which should be between 8% and 11%.
When the team looked at the diets of each person, they found that those who ate chickpeas and lentils often and avoided sunflower oil had higher levels of omega-3s. In the past, research has shown that sunflower oil makes acne worse.
Patients in the study who had less omega-3 fatty acids also had more IGF-1 in their bodies. Those who had less than 4% omega-3s in their bodies had even more IGF-1 hormone.
Johnson said that researchers have been looking at the link between diet and acne for a long time. Still, the research hasn’t been very good because it hasn’t been well-funded.
She said that some people think that foods like donuts with a high glycemic index, nuts, meats with hormones, and foods with a lot of iodine can make acne worse.
Sugar and dairy are two other foods that have been blamed for making acne worse.
A dermatologist in New York City named Dr. Debra Jaliman said that she always talks to her patients about their diets as well as the products they use on their skin. Jaliman was not a part of this study either.
“Omega-3 seems to be a very important part of our diet in many ways,” Jaliman said, pointing out that it is linked to other health benefits.
“When we change my patients’ diets, I feel like it really makes a difference in their acne, but it could also be because I’m changing their habits and giving them new medicines. We do many things at the same time. It’s not a controlled study like here, but I do think it has an effect “Jaliman said.
Topical hormone blockers are a new treatment that is also changing the way acne is treated. Jaliman said that the cream blocks the effects of too many male hormones on the skin without the need to take harsh drugs. She said it was the most important thing to happen in 30 years.
Researchers say it’s too soon to say if an omega-3 supplement made to reduce acne based on blood serum levels would make skin better. First, we need to do more research.
Johnson said she would like to know if omega-3 fatty acids could have any side effects and what the best amount might be.
“Even though there aren’t a lot of clinical trials to support their use, omega-3-rich foods and supplements can be used as a supplement or natural alternative to treat acne,” Johnson said.
Jaliman said she would like to see more research with a larger sample size, but she also said that people with acne wouldn’t hurt themselves by eating more omega-3 foods.
Omega-3 for acne Supplements vs. dietary sources
Most research on omega-3s as a treatment for acne has been done on supplements, especially EPA and DHA. No one has looked into what effect ALA supplements have on acne.
There are also no studies that look at how eating more omega-3s might help treat acne.
Some observational studies, on the other hand, show that people who eat foods with omega-3 are less likely to get acne than those who don’t.
For example, a study of more than 500 people who went to dermatology clinics found that people who ate fish at least once a week were 32% less likely to have moderate to severe acne.
Even though these results suggest that eating more fish, which is the best source of omega-3s in the diet, may protect against acne, they don’t tell us how other food sources of omega-3s or omega-3s alone may affect the condition.
Potential side effects
Taking Omega-3 for acne supplements to treat acne could have side effects that you don’t want.
For example, in the study with 13 people that was just mentioned, 4 of the people who had mild acne at the start of the trial got worse after taking EPA supplements for 12 weeks. People with moderate to severe acne, on the other hand, saw their symptoms get better after the trial.
How omega-3s affect acne may depend on the person taking them. Since there isn’t much research on this topic, it’s hard to say whether taking omega-3s will help or hurt your acne.
There may be more than one side effect from taking Omega-3 for acne supplements.
Most Omega-3 for acne supplements come in the form of fish oil. Some things that can happen if you take fish oil are:
- bad breath
- body odor
Still, it looks like fish oil is safe for most people to use. Still, you should talk to a doctor first to find out if fish oil or another Omega-3 for acne supplement is right for you.
How to treat acne with omega-3s
Even though some studies have shown promising results, there is still not much known about the link between acne and fish oil supplements, fish, and other Omega-3 for acne sources. Because of this, there are no standard recommendations for how to use omega-3s to treat acne.
For example, the American Academy of Dermatology does not recommend taking fish oil or omega-3 supplements to treat acne.
If you have acne and want to get more omega-3s, a good place to start is to eat more fish. At least 8 ounces (227 grams) of seafood should be eaten each week. Omega-3s can be found in fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, and sardines.
Mercury in fish can hurt the brain and nervous system of children and people who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant. Choose fish that are low in mercury, such as salmon, cod, and shrimp.
The omega-3 fatty acid ALA can be found in flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts, all of which come from plants. But keep in mind that most studies on omega-3s, inflammation, and acne have focused on EPA and DHA.
Taking fish oil supplements might not be a way to get rid of acne. “For most people, eating a healthy, well-balanced diet is enough, so you might want to talk to your doctor about the possible benefits of a supplement,” says Hollmig. “Very rarely is a single supplement a cure-all when it comes to skin health,” he says, so keep that in mind if you decide to take one, even just to try it out.