Supplements and skin health: Chinese college students with skin conditions more likely to take vits and minerals

By Guan Yu Lim

- Last updated on GMT

Vitamin and mineral supplement use more common among college students with inflammatory skin conditions ©Getty Images
Vitamin and mineral supplement use more common among college students with inflammatory skin conditions ©Getty Images

Related tags China Skin Vitamin c vitamin B Mineral

Chinese college students suffering from inflammatory skin conditions such as hives, eczema and acne are more likely to take vitamin and mineral supplements compared to their peers.

This is according to a study according by researchers from China universities, to investigate the prevalence of supplement use among Chinese college students and its association with skin diseases.

The cross-sectional study surveyed 20,138 university students in an online questionnaire alongside a health examination. Skin diseases were diagnosed by dermatologists during the health examination.

It was found that 18.3% of participants reported using supplements in the past year, in which vitamin C was the most frequently reported (12.9%), followed by vitamin B and mineral supplements.

Among those who used dietary supplements, participants with hives (chronic urticaria, p=0.008​), eczema (atopic dermatitis, p=0.001​) and acne (p=0.058) were associated with higher use of supplements.

This was the first study that provided detailed information on supplement use among Chinese college students, and that linked inflammatory skin diseases, especially atopic conditions, acne, and urticaria, with supplement use in China​,” researchers wrote in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition​.

Skin health

The study was conducted across five universities in China. Data was collected on demographic information, disease history, lifestyle behaviour and their use of supplements in the online questionnaire.

The overall prevalence of supplement use was 18.4% among college students, and these users were characterised as having a positive attitude toward their health.

The use of supplements was found to be associated with female sex, Han ethnicity, higher annual household income, and a series of healthy lifestyles such as more physical activity, less second-hand smoke exposure, less alcohol consumption, and higher intake of milk and yogurt (p < 0.001)​,” researchers said.

In addition, this study showed that participants suffering from inflammatory skin diseases were more likely to use supplements.

This may be attributable to the fact that people with health problems have stronger health awareness and are more likely to change their lifestyles to improve health conditions​,” they explained.

Researchers found that participants with chronic urticaria (aOR = 1.3), atopic dermatitis (aOR = 1.4), and acne (aOR = 1.2) were more likely to use supplements, but not those with rosacea (aOR = 1.0), Adjusted odds ratios (aORs) was used to assess the effect, reference is taken as 1.0.

However, while use of supplements among people with chronic urticaria, atopic dermatitis and acne were significant, for participants with rosacea, the prevalence of supplement use was statistically insignificant (p>0.05).

Researchers think a possible reason was that rosacea is not a well-known skin problem among the public, “many patients would never visit a dermatologist for rosacea owing to subclinical or atypical symptoms or even misdiagnosis​.”

Among the various skin diseases, participants with eczema reported the highest proportion of supplement use.

Researchers think that it may be related to public awareness that certain nutrients in supplements can reduce oxidative damage to cells and tissues by neutralising reactive oxygen species.

Future studies

This study is the first population-based study revealing that supplement use was more prevalent among China's college students suffering from inflammatory skin diseases. 

However, because the sample size was confined to college students with similar educational backgrounds, there might be a selection bias in representing general adolescents across China

Data was also not collected on the amount of supplement use.

Researchers said since individuals with inflammatory skin diseases were more likely to use supplements, health practitioners should pay attention to the potential benefits and risks of various supplements products in the context of inflammatory skin diseases.

Further research is required to elaborate on the reason or motivation for supplement use.


Source: Frontiers in Nutrition

“Behavior of Nutritional Supplements Use in Association With Inflammatory Skin Diseases in Chinese College Students”

Authors: Yan Yuan, et al​.

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