Eating too much sugar and fat can have a dramatic impact on the gut microflora, which in turn can flare up inflammatory conditions such as psoriasis, says a new study. Researchers at the University of California observed a worsening of inflammation in the skin and joints shortly after the consumption of a “Western diet”—one that is rich in fat and sugar.
“Earlier studies have shown that Western diet, characterized by its high sugar and fat content, can lead to significant skin inflammation and psoriasis flares,” said one of the study's contributors, Sam T. Hwang.
“Despite having powerful anti-inflammatory drugs for the skin condition, our study indicates that simple changes in diet may also have significant effects on psoriasis.”
An overactive immune system mistakenly targeting the body’s own cells is the root cause of psoriasis, a skin condition characterized by itchy, red, and dry patches. However, this inflammation is not only restricted to the skin; almost a third of psoriasis patients also experience swelling in the joints.
Using a mouse model of psoriasis, Hwang and their team showed that consuming the Western diet exacerbated psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis in these animals. A high-fat, high-sugar diet for 10 weeks predisposed the animals to more pronounced symptoms of the condition, which improved after switching to a more balanced nutritional profile. These were linked to changes in the composition of the gut microbiota.
Zhenrui Shi, lead author of the study said: “It was quite surprising that a simple diet modification of less sugar and fat may have significant effects on psoriasis.”
“These findings reveal that patients with psoriatic skin and joint disease should consider changing to a healthier dietary pattern,” added Shi.