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Psoriasis & Diet: How the Mediterranean Diet Benefits

Psoriasis affects approximately 2 to 3 percent of the population worldwide, with nearly a quarter of those experiencing moderate to severe symptoms. As the quest to cure psoriatic disease continues, following a Mediterranean diet may lessen severe psoriasis symptoms.

Psoriasis & Diet: How the Mediterranean Diet Benefits

Psoriasis is the most prevalent autoimmune disease in the U.S. and affects approximately 2.2 percent of the U.S. population and 2 to 3 percent worldwide. What’s more, nearly one-quarter of people with psoriasis have cases that are considered moderate to severe, which can negatively impact quality of life.

As the quest to cure psoriatic disease continues, new research suggests the closer to following a Mediterranean diet, the less severe psoriasis symptoms.

What Is Psoriasis?

According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, psoriasis is an immune-mediated disease, meaning the body’s own immune system essentially attacks itself and destroys normally healthy cells.

Individuals with psoriasis have accelerated skin growth, causing new skin cells to surface in a matter of days rather than weeks. And instead of shedding off new skin cells, they accumulate and appear as raised, red, scaly patches to appear on the skin and causes an itchy, burning, or stinging sensation. While it may surface on any part of the body, it tends to affect the elbows, knees, or scalp and causes an itchy, burning, or stinging sensation.

Although psoriasis causes are thought to be diverse, they tend to include lifestyle factors and choices. The condition is also often in concordance with health conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease, though the cause is not directly known. However, researchers do know psoriasis is affected largely by immune responses and genetics. This generally leads to flare-ups following various triggers.

The aim of treatment is to reduce inflammation in the body, in which certain medical procedures, oral or injectable medications, topical creams, stress management, fat loss, and diet modifications may be recommended. Moreover, new research supports the anti-inflammatory properties of a Mediterranean diet may reduce psoriasis symptoms.

A Mediterranean Diet and Psoriasis

The Mediterranean diet encourages whole, plant-based foods and healthy fat sources, particularly monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids, all of which are considered to be anti-inflammatory nutrients.

A further breakdown includes whole grains, cereals, fruits and veggies, legumes, nuts and seeds, olive and canola oils, and fresh herbs and spices. The diet also supports fish and lean poultry at least twice a week, dairy products and red wine in moderation, and a low consumption of red meats.

Scientific evidence shows following a Mediterranean diet can support heart health, prevent against bone loss, manage diabetes, and, some of the latest research, reduce psoriasis symptoms.

How a Mediterranean Diet May Reduce Psoriasis Symptoms

Researchers led by Dr. Céline Phan at the Hôpital Mondor in Créteil investigated the question, "Is there an association between the adherence to an anti-inflammatory Mediterranean diet and the onset and/or severity of psoriasis?"

The research was published in JAMA Dermatology, in which Dr. Phan and colleagues analyzed the answers of almost 36,000 people who participated in a web-based questionnaire called NutriNet-Santé. Of those people, 3,557 had psoriasis and symptoms were self-assessed as "severe" by 878 of them.

Researchers investigated the average daily consumption of fruit, vegetables, legumes, meat, fish, cereals, olive oil and dairy products, as well as certain vitamins and supplements, fiber, carbohydrates, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and alcohol. Food consumption was gathered during the first two years of participation in the study group and recorded with MEDI-LITE. A calculated score represented adherence to a Mediterranean diet and ranged from 0 to 18: 0 for "no adherence" and 18 for "maximum adherence."

The researchers found a significant inverse relationship between the MEDI-LITE score and having severe psoriasis, meaning patients with severe psoriasis displayed low levels of adherence to the Mediterranean diet.

Moreover, even after adjusting for variables that relate to psoriasis severity, such as age, obesity, depression and cardiovascular disease, the impact of the Mediterranean diet on psoriasis severity persisted. The finding supports the hypothesis that the Mediterranean diet may reduce psoriasis despite the presence of other potential mitigating factors.

Strengths and Limitations of the Study

One of the most prominent strengths of the study relates to the richness of the NutriNet-Santé questionnaire. According to The Nutrinet-Santé Study, participants (or coined as "Nutri-netters") must completely fill an initial set of questionnaires aimed at assessing not only diet (featuring 3 random records of 24-hour food intake during a two-week period), but physical activity, anthropometry, lifestyle and socioeconomic conditions, and health status in order to be considered included.

As part of their follow-up schedule, the Nutri-netters further completed follow-ups every year. They also received automated emails each month, informing them of the necessity of completing their files by filling out a quick, new questionnaire.

However, let it be known the "Nutri-netters" were volunteer participants. As a whole, study volunteers tend to be worried about their health than the general population. Furthermore, the study was observational, which means researchers cannot establish cause and effect.

Final Remarks

A news release reciting the study concludes, "Further prospective observational studies and randomized clinical trials are needed to confirm these results, and experimental data are needed to establish the mechanistic links between diet and psoriasis. If these findings are confirmed, an optimized diet should be part of the multidisciplinary management to severe psoriasis, with a view to increasing therapeutic effectiveness."

Ultimately, especially when swapping highly-processed products with more natural, nutrient-dense foods, adopting a Mediterranean-style eating pattern can improve overall health. However, always work with a healthcare team to determine the safest and best dietary pattern to meet individual needs and target specific health conditions.

Statistics. National Psoriasis Foundation.

Christy Zagarella's Photo
Written By Christy Zagarella, MS, RDN. Published on December 16, 2018. Updated on August 21, 2019.


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