According to new findings, increased intakes of four key nutrients have been found to reduce the risk of eczema in children.
The study from Korea suggests that increased intakes of beta-carotene, Vitamin E, folic acid, and iron are associated with reducing the risk of atopic dermatitis, a form of eczema.
Children with the highest average intakes of these four nutrients were found to have significantly lower risks of atopic dermatitis, than children with the lowest average intakes, according to findings.
Atopic dermatitis (AD), or eczema, is an inflammatory skin disease characterized by areas of severe itching, redness and scaling, which usually develops in early childhood. Although the cause is not clearly known, the disease is thought to be associated with a malfunction of the body's immune system. Scientists have found that people with atopic dermatitis have a low level of a cytokine (a protein) that is essential to the healthy function of the body's immune system and a high level of other cytokines that lead to allergic reactions.
In the first study of its kind, researchers used both data on intakes of vitamin and minerals, and corresponding biomarkers, in relation to atopic dermatitis.
The scientists recruited 180 five-year olds with atopic dermatitis, and 242 five-year olds without the condition, and assessed their diets. Blood samples were also taken after a period of fasting to determine levels of fat-soluble vitamins, like retinol, alpha-tocopherol (a form of vitamin E), and Beta-carotene, and Vitamin C.
Results showed that the risk of AD was 56 per cent lower in children with the highest average intakes of Beta-carotene, compared to the lowest.
Moreover, dietary Vitamin E, folic acid, and iron were associated with 67, 63, and 61 per cent reductions in atopic dermatitis risk.
These dietary findings were also matched by data from the blood samples, with the highest average levels of alpha-tocopherol associated with a 36 per cent lower risk of AD, while retinol was associated with a 26 per cent lower risk.
"These findings suggest that higher antioxidant nutritional status reduces the risk of AD and that such risk-reduction effects depend on nutrient type," wrote the researchers.
Commenting on the possible means, the researchers noted that reactive oxygen species (ROS), or free radicals, from environmental pollution and the sun could promote oxidative damage to proteins in the outermost layer of the skin (stratum corneum), which would exacerbate eczema.
"Antioxidant nutrients have been proposed to counteract oxidative stress and inhibit the inflammatory response and are known to be possibly associated with the ability of the individual to restrain the inflammatory response and allergic diseases," they added.
The nutrients from this study; Beta-carotene, folic acid, iron, Vitamin E are all found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and healthy oils.
Research Paper Details:
S-Y Oh, J Chung, M-K Kim, S O Kwon, B-H Cho. antioxidant nutrient intakes and corresponding biomarkers associated with the risk of atopic dermatitis in young children. European Journal of Clinical nutrition, 2009 published online ahead of print.