Given the fact that it's required for our nervous system to function properly and is vital for the production of blood, vitamin B12 is pretty essential for our bodies. But while many believe that you can never have too much of a good thing, it seems that this is not the case here. According to new research, an excess of this vitamin could prompt skin breakouts.
As described in Science Translational Medicine, researchers from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) found that vitamin B12 altered the activities of a particular species of skin bacteria that’s associated with acne, causing them to produce compounds that are known to trigger inflammation in this skin disorder.
Although B12 is found in various foods – including meat, fish and eggs – at this stage there is insufficient evidence to suggest that changes in diet could help people towards clearer skin. However, if further studies support the suggested relationship between B12 and acne, people prone to the skin condition may want to reconsider vitamin supplementation choices as it is often found in high quantities in various multivitamin pills.
For the investigation, researchers were interested in finding possible explanations for the observation that the common skin bacterium, Propionibacterium acnes, causes spots in only a subset of individuals. They began by swabbing the faces of clear-skinned and pimple-ridden individuals and culturing the species of interest. After comparing the two groups, the researchers found that the biochemical pathway in P. acnes that produces B12 was significantly dampened in those with acne.
To probe this potential relationship further, the skin microbes were analyzed in healthy, spot-free subjects that were given vitamin B12 injections. Supporting the previous finding, they found that the bacterial B12 biosynthesis genes were repressed following supplementation, almost mirroring the expression patterns observed in those with acne. One patient even developed acne just one week after the injection.
For the final phase of their study, the team cultured P. acnes in the lab and exposed them to B12, hoping to find out more about the potential underlying mechanism for this apparent link. They found that the vitamin increased the production of inflammatory compounds called porphyrins, which have already been associated with the development of acne.
Although this study can’t prove that too much vitamin B12 causes acne, it does demonstrate that it is capable of altering gene expression in skin bacteria, which is interesting. Further studies will be needed before researchers are convinced of the link, especially since some studies have found that B12 may act as an anti-inflammatory agent, which contradicts these findings, Live Science points out.