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Psoriasis Relief from Antioxidants?


Abundant in fruits and vegetables, antioxidants are compounds that block the action of free radicals, unstable molecules that damage cells. Antioxidants have been extensively researched for their ability to prevent or fight degenerative diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer, but also conditions that affect the skin, such as psoriasis.

Compromised Antioxidant Status Linked to Psoriasis in Some Studies

Published in the January 2003 edition of the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, a study involving twenty-two people with psoriasis and an equal number of healthy controls found low levels of superoxide dismutase and decreased glutathione peroxidase activity in the psoriatic group, compared with the control group. Superoxide dismutase (SOD) and glutathione peroxidase (GPx) are antioxidant enzymes that, just like other types of antioxidants, help protect the body against the damaging effects of free radicals. The researchers concluded that their findings support the idea that an imbalance of oxidants and antioxidants plays a role in the pathogenesis of psoriasis.

Another study, published in the Indian Journal of Clinical Biochemistry in 2010, echoes the findings of the 2003 study. This study, which involved 90 psoriasis patients and 30 healthy controls, found that the psoriasis patients had decreased total antioxidant status as well as decreased SOD and CAT activity, compared with the control group (CAT, or catalase, is yet another type of antioxidant enzyme). What's more, the severity of the lesions in the psoriasis patients, as measured by the Psoriasis Area and Severity Index (PASI), was found to correlate with the degree of the oxidant-antioxidant imbalance.

In other studies, psoriasis patients have been shown to exhibit decreased plasma levels of the antioxidant vitamins beta-carotene and vitamin E, as well as decreased serum concentrations of selenium, a trace mineral with strong antioxidant properties.

But the Jury is Still Out

While the observational studies described above have yielded promising results, the results of trials using antioxidant supplements have been less convincing. For example, an in-depth paper published in the British Journal of Dermatology describes two studies that investigated the effects of treating psoriasis patients with selenium-enriched yeast, either alone or together with vitamin E, but neither of these studies could prove that supplemental selenium would help alleviate psoriasis symptoms, at least not at the doses used in these trials. Similarly, a study investigating the effects of an antioxidant supplement containing selenium and vitamins A, C and E found no significant changes in the PASI scores of the psoriasis patients who took the supplement daily for four weeks. It must be noted, though, that this experiment only involved 11 patients.

Another study, however, did find evidence that supplementation with antioxidants could help alleviate psoriasis symptoms. Published in the journal Nutrition in 2009, this study involved 58 people suffering from either arthritic psoriasis, which affects both the skin and the joints, or erythrodermic psoriasis, which is a particularly inflammatory form of psoriasis affecting most of the skin's surface. Each patient was randomly assigned to receive either conventional psoriasis treatment plus an antioxidant supplement containing 50 mg of coenzyme Q10, 75 IU of vitamin E, and 48 mcg of selenium per day, or a placebo. After 33 days, the antioxidant group with arthritic psoriasis had 45 percent lower symptom severity scores, compared with the placebo group, and the antioxidant group with erythrodermic psoriasis had 37 percent lower symptom severity scores.

So, to conclude, the jury is still out on what role antioxidants can and should play in the treatment of psoriasis, and large-scale studies testing different types of antioxidant therapies and formulations are needed. However, according to the guide book NutriCures, written by Alice Feinstein and the editors of Prevention Magazine, it makes sense to supplement with antioxidants if you suffer from psoriasis, even though consistent evidence supporting the use of antioxidants as a treatment for psoriasis is lacking. The rationale is simple: metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular problems, arthritis and a number of other diseases and conditions that are common in people with psoriasis do appear to respond to antioxidant therapy.

Studies cited:
M. Yildirim et al (2003). The role of oxidants and antioxidants in psoriasis. Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, 17(1), 34-36.
D. Kadam et al (2010). Role of Oxidative Stress in Various Stages of Psoriasis. Indian Journal of Clinical Biochemistr, 25(4), 388-392.
M. Wolters (2005). Diet and psoriasis: experimental data and clinical evidence. British Journal of Dermatology, 153(4):706-14.
M. Abdel-Mawla et al (2013). Role of Oxidative Stress in Psoriasis: An Evaluation Study, Journal of American Science, 9(8).
Z. Kharaeva et al (2009). Clinical and biochemical effects of coenzyme Q10, vitamin E, and selenium supplementation to psoriasis patients. Nutrition, 25(3), 295-302.

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