Approximately four in 10 teenagers suffer from acne or acne scarring, according to statistics from the American Academy of Dermatology website. Although acne is not a life-threatening condition, it can increase your risk of depression and anxiety. Nutrition is a double-edged sword when it comes to acne. Certain foods -- including tuna -- can help reduce acne symptoms while others can worsen acne.
Nutrition is an under-appreciated factor in acne development, reports nutrition scientist Loren Cordain, PhD, in an article published in the June 2005 "Seminars in Cutaneous Medicine and Surgery." In this review paper, Cordain notes that many people's diets -- rich in fast-digesting carbs, low in antioxidants and devoid of healthy fats -- play a crucial role in the biological causes of acne. Overproductive sweat glands, inflammation and clogged pores -- three factors in the development of acne -- can be reduced with certain modifications to one's diet. Tuna is one healthy food that may combat acne symptoms.
In the "Seminars in Cutaneous Medicine and Surgery" paper, Cordain notes that many people who follow Western diets don't get enough omega-3 fats. Omega-3 fats are anti-inflammatory fats found in plant foods, such as flaxseeds, and fish. Tuna is an especially abundant source of omega-3 fatty acids -- containing 1.5 grams of omega-3 fats per 170-gram serving -- according to the United States Department of Agriculture. A commentary published in the July 2003 "Archives of Dermatology" notes that an omega-3-rich diet may help combat acne in those who don't consume adequate omega-3 fats. Omega-3s combat inflammation on the skin -- a process that promotes sweat production and clogged pores.
A diet rich in protein and low in quick-digesting carbohydrates can significantly reduce acne, according to research published in the May 2007 "Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology." In this study of 43 men suffering from acne, it was discovered that a high-protein diet that also contained slow-digesting carbohydrates reduced acne symptoms by approximately 20 percent. A single can of white tuna contains 40 grams of protein, the United States Department of Agriculture states.
While tuna contains two nutrients that may reduce acne symptoms -- omega-3 fats and dietary protein -- no study has singled out tuna as a treatment for acne. As with any chronic skin problem, talk to your doctor about treatment options. Tuna is high in mercury, an environmental toxin, so the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends limiting tuna intake to two servings per week.
- "Seminars in Cutaneous Medicine and Surgery"; Implications for the Role of Diet in Acne; L. Cordain, et al.; June 2005
- American Academy of Dermatology: Acne Facts
- "Archives of Dermatology"; Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Acne; July 2003
- "Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology"; The Effect of a High-Protein, Low Glycemic-Load Diet Versus a Conventional, High Glycemic-Load Diet on Biochemical Parameters Associated with Acne Vulgaris: A Randomized, Investigator-Masked, Controlled Trial; R. Smith, et al.; May 2007
- USDA Nutrient Database: Fish, Tuna, White, Canned in Water, Drained Solids
- EPA.gov: What You Need to Know About Mercury in Fish and Shellfish