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Dr. Alpana Mohta Ranka, MD, DNB, IFAAD, is a triple-board-certified dermatologist with over 100 research publications in peer-reviewed scientific journals.


Vitiligo Diet: The Role of Food and Dietary Supplements

Vitiligo Diet: Introduction

This article focuses on vitiligo diet. In the vast tapestry of human health, nutrition has long been touted as a key player in developing, amplifying, and rehabilitating various disorders. Yet, the intricate relationship between diet diversity and immune-mediated skin diseases remains ambiguous. In this the article, we'll expand on the role of different vitamins and minerals in vitiligo. Please note that this doesn't mean you should start overdosing on vitamins. Before starting any new supplementation, especially if you suffer from a pigmentary disorder, you must consult a dermatologist.


Table of Contents


Vitamin B12 and B9 in Vitiligo

Vitamin B12 and B9 (folic acid) play important roles in supporting the repigmentation process in vitiligo. Vitamin B12 aids in the production of melanin, the pigment responsible for skin color, hair, and eyes. Adequate levels of vitamin B12 help stimulate the production of melanocytes, the cells that produce melanin. This can contribute to the repigmentation of the affected areas in vitiligo.

On the other hand, vitamin B9, or folic acid, is involved in DNA synthesis and repair. It helps promote healthy cell division and growth, including the melanocytes responsible for pigmentation. By ensuring sufficient levels of vitamin B9, the body can support the regeneration and proliferation of melanocytes, which may lead to repigmentation in vitiligo.

The body cannot produce folic acid, so it must be obtained through the diet. A study conducted at the Birmingham Medical Center, University of Alabama, revealed that vitiligo patients have lower levels of both Vitamin B12 and B9. This study also found that repigmentation was observed after three years of administering vitamins B12 and B9.

Foods rich in vitamin B12, such as meat, eggs, and dairy products, and sources of vitamin B9, like leafy greens, citrus fruits, and legumes, can provide the necessary nutrients to support melanin synthesis.

Vitamin D in Vitiligo

Vitamin D is an essential vitamin that is soluble in fat and aids in the absorption of substances such as calcium and magnesium. It plays a crucial role in the functioning of the skin by affecting the receptors within it, specifically disrupting the growth and development of melanocytes and keratinocytes.

A specific form of vitamin D, calcifediol, interacts with receptors found on melanocytes, stimulating melanin secretion. Research has shown that vitamin D levels also impact the immune system. Any disruption in vitamin D levels can potentially affect the physiology of the immune system, potentially leading to the development of autoimmune diseases like vitiligo.

A study published in Dermato-endocrinology observed that a daily dosage of 35,000 IU (international units) of vitamin D3 for six months showed significant repigmentation in vitiligo patients ranging from 25% to 75%. Please note that this was a research study; you shouldn't test this on yourself without first consulting a doctor.

Foods rich in vitamin D include fatty fish (such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines), fortified dairy products (milk, cheese, and yogurt), egg yolks, and mushrooms exposed to sunlight.

Zinc in Vitiligo

Zinc is vital in various biological processes involving over three thousand proteins, including hormones, enzymes, and nuclear factors. It serves as a necessary cofactor for their proper functioning. Zinc is particularly important for the activity of superoxide dismutase, an antioxidant present in the skin, which relies on zinc as an enzyme cofactor. Furthermore, zinc plays a role in regulating gene expression. In the context of vitiligo, zinc may potentially hinder the destruction of melanocytes, as a decrease in intracellular zinc levels has been linked to the activation of apoptotic caspases.

Using zinc, in conjunction with topical steroids, has shown some minor benefits in managing vitiligo.

However, further research is required to understand its effectiveness fully. Zinc-rich food sources include oysters, beef, lamb, pork, poultry, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, lentils, chickpeas, and cashews.

Polypodium Leucotomos in Vitiligo

The role of Polypodium leucotomos, a type of fern, has been extensively studied in relation to its potential benefits for various skin conditions, including vitiligo, psoriasis, and atopic dermatitis, as well as its ability to protect the skin from UV damage. Polypodium leucotomos has been investigated for its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, photoprotective, and immunomodulatory properties. In the case of vitiligo treatment, combining the ingestion of Polypodium leucotomos with phototherapy has been found to enhance its effectiveness.

Ginkgo Biloba in Vitiligo

Ginkgo biloba, a plant with ancient roots in Chinese medicine, has gained attention for its potential role in treating various conditions, including vitiligo, dementia, macular degeneration, anxiety, and cardiovascular disease.

It lowers the activity of certain enzymes that can cause oxidative damage and inflammation. These properties make Ginkgo biloba a promising therapeutic option for vitiligo. Additionally, Ginkgo Biloba's anxiolytic properties may help slow down the progression of vitiligo, as emotional anxiety has been found to worsen the condition. While most people tolerate Ginkgo biloba well, mild gastrointestinal disturbances are the most common side effect. Clinical trials have shown that Ginkgo biloba can be a viable alternative medicine for slowing down disease progression and improving repigmentation in vitiligo patients.

Khellin in Vitiligo

Khellin, derived from the Ammi visnaga plant, is a crystalline extract that has long been used in traditional medicine across the Mediterranean region. Currently, researchers are exploring the potential of orally administered activated khellin in stimulating melanocyte growth and melanin synthesis in laboratory cultures. Khellin can potentially enhance the effectiveness of vitiligo treatment when used in conjunction with UV therapy. Recent studies have shown promising results, indicating that a 4% topical khellin preparation, combined with an excimer laser, effectively reduces depigmented lesions compared to no treatment.

Phenylalanine in Vitiligo

Phenylalanine, an amino acid, has been proposed as a potential remedy for vitiligo, as it plays a vital role in regulating catecholamine levels, antibody synthesis, and, most importantly, melanin production. Phenylalanine forms tyrosine, which is essential for the process of melanogenesis. The neural hypothesis suggests that the development of vitiligo is linked to catecholamines. Phenylalanine can regulate the level of these catecholamines and help manage vitiligo. In a study, people with vitiligo took phenylalanine along with UV-A treatment. Nearly 95 percent of them showed some regrowth of pigmentation, and over 25 percent experienced significant repigmentation.

Black Cumin: Nigella sativa in Vitiligo

Nigella sativa, also known as black cumin, is a perennial plant used to treat various illnesses, especially dermatological conditions. Thymoquinone, a primary component of Nigella sativa, possesses multiple benefits, including anticancer, immunomodulating, and anti-inflammatory properties. Topical application of Nigella sativa oil has shown significant improvement in the Vitiligo Area Scoring Index score within four months, making it a potentially safe and effective supplement for conventional vitiligo therapy.

Green Tea: Catechins in Vitiligo

Green tea contains catechins, a type of polyphenolic molecule that acts as an antioxidant. Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), the most therapeutically significant constituent of green tea, has strong antioxidant activity and anti-inflammatory characteristics. In vitro studies have shown that EGCG can reduce oxidative stress in melanocytes and protect against depigmentation caused by certain factors.

While human trials are lacking, supplementation with EGCG extract may be a viable option for harnessing its antioxidant potential.

Piperine in Vitiligo

Piperine, the main alkaloid found in black pepper, has been shown to stimulate melanocyte replication and the development of melanocytic dendrites. In vitro studies have demonstrated that piperine enhances melanocyte proliferation and dendritic production in the absence of UV-A exposure. When combined with UV radiation (UVR), piperine promotes more pronounced pigmentation in mice compared to either treatment alone. To avoid photoisomerization of piperine, it is recommended to use piperine and UVR separately when treating vitiligo.

Turmeric: Curcumin in Vitiligo

Curcumin, the main polyphenol found in turmeric, possesses potent antioxidant activity and can influence the antioxidant system directly and indirectly. Studies have indicated that combining curcumin with narrowband UV-B (NB-UVB) therapy resulted in slightly better skin repigmentation than NB-UVB treatment alone.

Before you go...

If you want to learn more about vitiligo, you may want to refer to my article - Vitiligo: Understanding the Skin Disorder and Treatment Options

Please note that the supplements discussed were found to be effective under the research study conditions. Before starting any new supplementation, you must consult a doctor. These might cause more harm than good if not taken under medical supervision.


Please note that some of the rephrased text above aims to convey the same information as the original passage while avoiding plagiarism.


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