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Too Much Intake of Vitamin B12 Linked to Acne, Study Reveals

Editor's Note: This article has been recently updated with latest information and research studies.

A new research indicates that too much vitamin B12 may promote acne. In the study, it was found that the presence of the vitamin in the skin causes certain bacteria to produce inflammatory molecules that promote pimples.

The researchers took a closer look at the differences between bacteria from people with clear skin and bacteria from people who are acne prone. The scientists studied the gene expression of the bacteria in order to determine why the most common skin microbe (Propionibacterium acnes) causes pimples only in some people. It was found that the gene expression of the skin bacteria was changed because of the presence of vitamin B12. This leads to inflammation which promotes* the development of acne.

There are many roles that vitamin B12 plays in humans including the formation of red blood cells, metabolism and central nervous system function. The vitamin is common in multivitamins and other dietary supplements but the study raises questions regarding whether acne-prone individuals should take supplements with vitamin B12.

Huiying Li, one of the co-authors of the new study and an assistant pharmacology professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine in UCLA believes that there is a link between vitamin B12 and acne. Her team found that there is a molecular pathway which could explain the link in the study. However, more research is still needed in order to confirm this according to her.

Looking For a Mechanism

The research team headed by Li first noticed that the pathway which produces vitamin B12 was different in the skin bacteria of people suffering from acne. They noticed this when looking at gene expression patterns. This is the finding that raised her suspicion about the role of the vitamin in acne development. There are prior studies which indicate that there may be an association between the two elements which confirms that there really is the possibility of a link. Some researchers date way back to the 1950s.

The research team proceeded and looked at the skin bacterium in people without acne who received an injection of vitamin B12. This confirmed that the vitamin repressed the expression of genes in the common acne-causing bacteria (P. acnes) when it comes to synthesizing the vitamin. As a matter of fact, the expression of such genes was decreased* to levels that are similar to those suffering from acne.

After one week from the vitamin B12 injection, one out of the 10 participants had an acne breakout. The bacteria’s gene expression pattern in the person also changed. 14 days after the vitamin B12 shot, it looked like the pattern in participants with acne.

The research also included experiments on P. acnes that were grown in laboratory dishes. It was found that adding vitamin B12 to the bacteria resulted to the production of porphyrins by the microbes. This promotes* inflammation which is a vital step during the later stages of acne development. Li stated that the pathway they studied could potentially give an explanation on a portion of the pathogenesis of acne.

Should You Stop Taking Those Vitamins?

Although the study indicates a possible link, it still doesn’t substantially prove that too much vitamin B12 will cause or worsen acne. Josh Miller who is a nutritional sciences expert from Rutgers University is intrigued by the data and hypothesis of the research. However, he believes that the study is still inconclusive and additional investigation is required in order to determine if there really is a cause and effect phenomenon. Take note that he wasn’t involved with the study in any way.

Additionally, although several studies indicate that B12 supplements may promote inflammation, there are also studies suggesting otherwise. These studies indicate that vitamin B12 may have anti-inflammatory properties that may reduce* or prevent acne. There is a lot more research needed in order to prove that there really is a strong connection between acne and vitamin B12. Li also stated that it is still too early to suggest that people with acne problems should stop the intake of supplements with vitamin B12. The studies mostly indicate that an increase* in acne only occurs with vitamin B12 injected in large doses.

The study presents some intriguing evidence that suggests vitamin B12 supplementation can cause or worsen acne in some people according to Dr. Whitney Bowe who is a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at the prestigious Icahn School of Medicine at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. However, there is still not enough evidence to make a broad recommendation that all patients with acne try and avoid vitamin B12 supplements or foods that are rich in the vitamin.

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As of now, the study only further supports the concept of changing a person’s diet in order to improve* skin health and/or reduce* breakouts. Further studies may also help improve* the understanding of microbial-disease pathways and this can possibly help with more targeted acne treatments in the future.

References:

  • http://www.livescience.com/51338-vitamin-b12-linked-acne-bacteria.html
  • http://www.newsmax.com/Health/Health-News/acne-vitamin-study-B12/2015/06/24/id/652062/
  • http://www.iflscience.com/health-and-medicine/too-much-vitamin-b12-could-lead-acne
  • http://stm.sciencemag.org/content/7/293/293ra103