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How Does A Keto Diet Affect Your Skin? New Study May Have The Answers

Jamie Schneider
mbg Beauty & Wellness Editor By Jamie Schneider
mbg Beauty & Wellness Editor
Jamie Schneider is the Beauty & Wellness Editor at mindbodygreen, covering beauty and wellness. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare.
New Study Shows A High-Fat Keto Diet May Cause Skin Inflammation

We know that not all diets are created equal, especially when it comes to skin care. Diets high in processed and sugary foods have been shown to wreak havoc on our skin, while other eating plans promise a glowy, smooth skin microbiome (Mediterranean diet, anyone?). 

And now, there's new research that sheds light on how we can truly eat our way to better skin. A new study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology analyzed one of the most popular diets out there and its influence on skin health: the beloved ketogenic diet

We know that healthy fats are essential for a healthy skin microbiome, but this study suggests that even the types of healthy fats we put into our bodies can have an effect on our skin. In this animal study, researchers analyzed different variations of the high-fat keto diet (after all, not every person follows every meal plan to a T). What they found was that certain fats affected skin inflammation conditions.

Ketogenic diets heavy in medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) such as coconut lead to psoriasis-induced inflammation, especially when these fats were combined with omega-3 fatty acids. On the other hand, the researchers found that a keto diet balanced with long-chain triglycerides (LCTs) such as olive oil, soybean oil, fish, nuts, and avocado did not cause this skin inflammation.

More simply, if you're following a keto diet and are prone to psoriasis-like symptoms, you may want to go easy on the coconut. 

But MCTs have been shown to have some pretty significant health benefits (boosting energy, lowering cholesterol, and managing epilepsy, to name a few), so we're not saying you should never consume these fats. In fact, coconut oil has also been shown to actually help psoriasis symptoms when applied topically to inflamed skin.

Although much more research is needed to make a definite correlation, this study only emphasizes that beauty really is created from the inside out, and it all starts with a balanced diet.

Is this what causes "keto rash"? Not so fast.

Isn't the keto diet supposed to reduce inflammation in the body? 

While contradictory, it does make sense, as this study isn't the first to measure keto's effects on our skin microbiome. Scientists have coined a condition called "keto rash," after studying levels of skin inflammation in individuals who recently made the switch to eating a keto diet. 

These studies, however, have primarily focused on carb restriction as the correlation for this skin concern. They suspect that a stark change in diet could be the reason for the rash, as people's bodies could be reacting to these new, strict restrictions

Co-lead investigator of the study, Barbara Kofler, Ph.D., believes this research could affect how professionals recommend this eating plan. "This study leads to a broader understanding of possible effects of ketogenic diets with a very high fat content on skin inflammation and underlines the importance of the composition of fatty acids in the diet," she says

Because the keto diet prides itself on its high-fat, low-carb lifestyle, this research is incredibly important for people to understand the certain types of healthy fats they should be aware of. If anything, it shows that not all fats (even all healthy fats) are created equal. 

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What does this mean for keto fans?

It's important to note that this study associated keto with exacerbating psoriasis-like inflammation—keto didn't just create this condition out of nowhere. That said, if you aren't prone to any inflammatory skin conditions like psoriasis, you're probably fine to stick with the high-fat, low-carb regimen. 

"I think most people following a ketogenic diet don't need to worry about unwanted skin inflammation side effects. However, patients with psoriasis should not consider a ketogenic diet an adjuvant therapeutic option," Kofler adds.  

Before opting for a keto diet (or any restrictive diet, for that matter), it's always best to consult your doctor before cutting out any food groups. The journey toward optimal health is different for everyone, and personalization is key.

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