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Psoriasis and Red Meat Intake – Is There a Link?

Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease characterized by abnormally high serum levels of various pro-inflammatory molecules. Considering the inflammatory nature of psoriasis, it is not surprising that many psoriasis sufferers have sought to manage their symptoms by adopting dietary habits that fight inflammation. The great thing about combating chronic diseases such as psoriasis by adopting healthier dietary habits is that eating healthy food is usually less expensive than taking drugs, plus it has no side effects.

As red meat contains inflammatory compounds, some psoriasis sufferers have decided to adopt a diet that limits the intake of red meat. In this article, we first take a look at some of these compounds, and then explore studies that have looked at associations between red meat consumption and psoriasis or inflammation.

The Theory of How Red Meat May Exacerbate Psoriasis Symptoms

Many epidemiological studies suggest diets high in saturated fat are pro-inflammatory in nature (1), but the high amounts of saturated fats found in many meat products are hardly the only reason why there have been concerns over the potential pro-inflammatory properties of meat and the effects of meat-rich diets in people with psoriasis. One compound that frequently pops up in discussions about the inflammatory nature of red meat is arachidonic acid (AA), a type of omega-6 fatty acid that is usually found in relatively low concentrations in the skin but that has been found in elevated levels in the skin of people with inflammatory skin conditions such as psoriasis and atopic dermatitis (2, 3).

Red Meat

The body uses omega-6 fatty acids, along with omega-3 fatty acids, to produce hormones called eicosanoids which play an important role in regulating inflammation in the body. According to a paper published in the British Journal of Dermatology, eicosanoids derived from omega-6 fatty acids (and particularly from arachidonic acid) tend to be pro-inflammatory, while those formed from omega-3 tend to be anti-inflammatory (4). In addition, a subclass of pro-inflammatory eicosanoids called leukotrienes has been shown to accelerate the growth of skin cells (5).

What's more, it has been proposed that a high intake of meat, which is rich in heme iron, could be problematic if the body's binding capacity of iron is exceeded. Free iron increases oxidative stress, which in turn promotes inflammation (6). On top of that, meat, particularly cooked meat, contains advanced glycation end products (AGEs) which may have pro-inflammatory activity (7).

But What Do Studies Say?

There have been no large studies looking directly at the effects increasing or decreasing intake of meat might have on psoriasis, but there have been a number of studies that have looked at associations between red meat consumption and psoriasis or inflammation. For example, a study investigating how various aspects of the Mediterranean diet affect psoriasis found that the Psoriasis Area Severity Index (PASI) score and CRP levels were positively correlated with the consumption of red and processed meats (8). However, it is not clear if the red and processed meats were the actual cause—it could also be that the people who ate a lot of meat also ate more (or less) of other foods that could have had an impact.

In another study, five patients with plaque psoriasis were put on a special diet that excluded red meat, processed foods, alcohol and refined carbohydrates. During the six month trial period, the study participants were also encouraged to consume plenty fresh fruits and vegetables, small amounts of protein from fish and fowl, fiber supplements, olive oil, saffron tea and slippery elm bark water. All five psoriasis cases improved when measured by the Psoriasis Area Severity Index (PASI) score, the Psoriasis Severity Scale (PSS), and the lactulose/mannitol test of intestinal permeability (9). But again, just by looking at this study, it is impossible to tell whether it was the entire diet or something more specific (such as the avoidance of red meat) that were responsible for the positive outcome of this study.

In addition, there are a couple of studies that have found a positive association between meat intake and plasma concentrations of the inflammatory marker CRP (10, 11, 12), but these studies were observational in nature and therefore we cannot draw any conclusions about possible causal relationships. Plus, the most recent one of these studies, which was published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2014, found that Body Mass Index (BMI) accounted for a significant proportion of the association between red meat intake and CRP, and once the data were adjusted for BMI, the association was no longer statistically significant.

What's more, in a Dutch study published in the journal Diabetes Care high CRP levels were positively associated only with processed meat intake, and not with red meat or poultry intake (14). And, in yet another study, published in The Journal of Nutrition, researchers found that replacing some carbohydrates in the diet with unprocessed lean red meat actually reduced markers of chronic inflammation (14).

For More on Diet & Psoriasis
Make it a habit to visit HealWithFood.org's online Guide to Healing Psoriasis on a regular basis. Updated once a week, the sidebar on the home page of the guide contains tons of links to interesting nutrition-related articles hand-picked for psoriasis sufferers. It also contains a weekly smoothie recipe featuring ingredients with psoriasis-fighting potential, and a book tip.   Visit Home Page

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Book You May Like
Dr. John Pagano has gained international fame with his groundbreaking book, Healing Psoriasis (available here), in which he presents an all-natural regimen designed to control psoriasis symptoms without drugs or ultraviolet treatments. Dr. John's Healing Psoriasis Cookbook is the indispensable companion book to Healing Psoriasis. Weighing in at nearly 600 pages, this extraordinary cookbook provides over 300 kitchen-tested recipes designed for people suffering from psoriasis, eczema or psoriatic arthritis, plus plenty of general nutritional information and advice. Available from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.ca.