Dietary supplements bring about some metabolic changes in smokers, the benefits of which are yet to be ascertained, according to a recent study.
Cigarette smoking damages the skin, heart and blood vessels through the formation of free radicals. Antioxidants taken as supplements may help to negate the effects of the free radicals and protect the body against their damaging effects.
AdvertisementA study was conducted to assess the effect of supplementation with over-the-counter antioxidants, vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids on serum metabolites, as well as on various skin parameters.
The study was conducted on 58 healthy female volunteers between 50 and 70 years of age, who were not exposed to excessive sunlight one month prior to the study. The volunteers were divided into two groups - 15 current smokers and 22 current nonsmokers. Some individuals from both groups dropped out before the end of the study.
The participants were given a nutritional supplement twice daily that contained antioxidants like catechins, carotenoids, lycopene, vitamin C, E and A, other vitamins and omega-3-fatty acids.
Blood tests were carried out at the end of 12 weeks. High quality digital photographs of the face were taken, which were later analyzed for wrinkles, visible spots, UV spots, and pores using particular software. The barrier function of the skin was analyzed using transepidermal water loss meter, and the skin elasticity using a cutometer.
The most important change noted at 12 weeks was a significant decrease in 11 out of 16 long-chain fatty acid levels in the blood of smokers. This change was not noted in the nonsmoker group. The level of the long-chain fatty acids, stearidonate, which was a part of the supplement, was increased in both groups.
The study also found that levels of vitamins like alpha-tocopherol and pyridoxate were significantly increased in nonsmokers at the end of 12 weeks but not in smokers. This may indicate that smokers use up more of the vitamins, and therefore require supplementation. Bilirubin levels were increased in nonsmokers but not in smokers. The relevance of this finding is not known.
Skin analysis was done following 12 weeks of nutritional supplementation. Smokers showed a decrease in fine wrinkles, increase in glow and a decrease in skin hydration. However, they showed a worsening of deep-wrinkled appearance. Nonsmokers showed a decrease in deep wrinkling. The beneficial skin changes however were not statistically significant. It is possible that some of the skin changes may have been due to changes in the long-chain fatty acid levels.
Mild adverse effects like headache, body ache, loose stools, belching and stomach upset were observed in some of the participants.
The study concluded that oral nutritional supplementation produces different effects in smokers and nonsmokers. However, the study was too short and conducted on too few participants. Further large scale studies are required to establish the benefits of the nutritional supplements in smokers.
1. Robert C Spitale et al. Differential effects of dietary supplements on metabolomic profile of smokers versus non-smokers. Genome Medicine 2012, 4:14 doi:10.1186/PREACCEPT-8646921766193071.