It has been known anecdotally for a long time that the B Vitamins cause acne eruptions. Until recently the understanding of why this occurs has eluded many. Recent research however has revealed that the acne bacteria, Vitamin B12 and skin microbiome have a intertwined relationship.
Research has identified that there is a difference between gene expression of skin bacteria in acne patients, compared to healthy individuals with clear skin. They found that the B12 synthesis pathway of Propionibacterium acnes (P.acnes) in acne patients was low compared to healthy individuals, which led them to study the relationship between B12 and acne. Many bacteria need B12 for metabolic activity and they have the ability to synthesise their own.
What the research found is that when B12 is supplemented that the bacteria stopped producing their own supplies and instead begin producing porphyrins molecules. Porphyrins can generate inflammation and acne is triggered by inflammation initially.
Vitamin B12 actually altered the normal metabolic pathway and activity of the skin bacteria. B12 supplementation can make clear skin become prone to acne skin, which has been evidenced by the increase in breakouts post vitamin B12 supplementation.
Researchers also observed that another pathway, the porphyrins biosynthesis, is linked to the B12 biosynthesis pathway. They hypothesize that when there is an elevated B12 level, it leads to an overproduction of porphyrins by P.acnes. Previous studies have shown that porphyrins can induce inflammation and acne.
So what can you do?
Avoid supplements that have high doses of vitamin B12 in them. Be aware of foods high in vitamin B12. Milk, Cheese, Liver, Kidney, Pate, Clams, Crab, Oysters and Mussels all contain high levels of vitamin B12. For those of you in Australia the beloved Vegemite is another source of B vitamins. You may want to limit some of these food choices if your skin is currently experiencing breakouts and flare ups.
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