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Stressful skin reflections

Think you can keep your anxiety a secret? Watch out-your skin might be giving away your stress levels. A 2005 study in the British Journal of Dermatology found that stress increases skin symptoms in patients with atopic dermatitis (AD), including such conditions as eczema. This can have a spiraling effect, as patients with AD reported significantly higher levels of worry than the control group. In other research, French scientists determined that mediators in the brain can stimulate oil production in the skin, providing physiological evidence that stress is a trigger for acne. Finally, a 2004 report showed that 56.9 percent of study participants connected the onset of vitiligo (a condition that causes changes in skin pigment) with psychological or stress factors. This result is hardly surprising, since vitiligo is related to an insufficiency of the adrenal cortex-and the adrenal glands are responsible for producing cortisol in response to a stressful event. Bottom line? Your skin doesn't lie. Talk to your health care provider about ways to relax, if stress is wreaking havoc on your complexion.

Smoking isn't pretty

We all know that cigarette smoking is a leading cause of death, but a survey of medical literature conducted by the Division of Dermatology at McGill University in Montreal shows the impact on smokers' appearances. The 2005 report concluded that smoking is strongly associated with numerous skin conditions, including premature skin aging, poor wound healing, psoriasis, squamous cell carcinoma, and wrinkles. The survey also found that smoking affects the lesions associated with AIDS, diabetes, and lupus and is also a contributor to hair loss. Clearly, smoking ages you in every way.

Ironing out wrinkles of EFAs

Scientists continue to research the impact of essential fatty acids on our health and the health of our skin. A 2005 report in the Journal of Lipid Research investigated the impact of dietary omega-3 fatty acid eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) on the sun-induced connective tissue damage that causes skin to become wrinkled and aged. Researchers found that EPA might be beneficial for the prevention and treatment of skin aging. Dietary EPA is available in cold-water fish such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines.

Alternatively, researchers in Arizona determined in 2005 that increased levels of the omega-6 EFA arachidonic acid in the membranes of red blood cells were associated with increased risk of squamous cell carcinoma.  Arachidonic acid is found in meat and dairy products.

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