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Dynamic Chiropractic – June 17, 2002, Vol. 20, Issue 13

Nutrition and the Skin, Part 1 - Supplements

By G. Douglas Andersen, DC, DACBSP, CCN
With summer approaching, I'd like to focus on those supplements backed by research that can help the skin by retarding photoaging and UV-induced erythemia.

Studies on single antioxidants1,2 have failed to demonstrate a protective effect against the sun.

However, when studied in combination doses,3,4,5 vitamin C, vitamin E and carotenoids can slow the formation of sunburn cells and can increase the time it takes for UV irradiation to cause visible erythema.

Omega-3 fatty acids have also been shown to be photoprotective.6 However, they may also increase skin lipid peroxidation because they are so easily oxidized.7 The solution is something advocates of fatty acid supplementation have stated for years - take them with the lipid-soluable antioxidant vitamin E.

So, what is a protective dose? The amounts in the reference studies varied widely. My extrapolated daily recommendations are as follows:

carotenoids: 25 to 30 mg;
vitamin E: 400 IU;
vitamin C: 2000 to 3000 mg; and
omega-3 fatty acids: three to five grams.
Note that the carotenoid conversion to international units of vitamin-A activity is as follows: 1 mg of beta-carotene = 1667 IU of vitamin-A activity.8

When recommending omega-3 fatty acids, look for the high-potency formulas. The size of the "softgel" is the same, but the amounts of EPA and DHA will be 300mg/200mg, as opposed to the standard 180mg/120mg amounts normally sold. Next month, we will explore how diet can help the skin and even protect against wrinkling.


  1. Werninghaus K, Meydani M, et al. Evaluation of the photoprotective effectiveness of oral vitamin-E supplementation. Arch Dermatol 1994;130:1257-61.
  2. Wolf C, Steiner A, Honigsmann H. Do oral carotenoids protect human skin against ultraviolet erythema, Tsoralen phototoxicity, and ultraviolet-induced DNA damage? Journal of Invest Dermatol 1988;90:55-7.
  3. Fuchs J, Kern H. Modulation of UV-light-induced skin inflammation by D-alpha-tocopherol and L-ascorbic acid: A clinical study using solar simulated radiation. Free Radic Biol Medical 1998;25:1006-12.
  4. Eberlein-Konig B, Placzek M, Prezybilla B, Protective effect of sunburn of combined systemic ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and D-alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E). J Am Acad Dermatol 1998;38:45-8.
  5. Stahl W, Heinrich U, et al. Carotenoids and carotenoids plus vitamin E protect against ultraviolet-light-induced erythema in humans. Amer Journal erythema in humans. Amer Journal Clinical Nutrition 2000;71:795-8.
  6. Orengo I, Black H, Wolf J. Influence of fish oil supplemental on the minimal erythema dose in humans. Arch Dermatol Res 1992;284:219-21.
  7. Rhodes L, O'Farrell S, et al. Dietary fish oil supplementation in humans reduces UVB-erythemal sensitivity but increases epidermal lipid peroxidation. J Invest Dermatol 1994;103:151-4.
  8. Ensminger J, Konlande Robson J. Encyclopedia of Foods and Nutrition 1995;1060:CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL.

G. Douglas Andersen,DC,DACBSP,CCN
Brea, California

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