How the food on your plate protects the health of your skin

It's the largest organ humans have, and it's our first defense from hazards. UT Southwestern researcher Dr. Tamia Harris-Tryon explains how vitamin A helps kill bacteria on your skin.

Read the related news release.


The skin is a major barrier for our body against infection. And our work, the work of the Harris-Tryon Lab really focuses on trying to understand how it is at a molecular level at the smallest molecules the skin expresses that fight against infection and protect us against infection. We were able to show in this study that when cells are treated with Vitamin A, it triggers the production of an antimicrobial protein that can kill bacteria on the skin's surface. What antimicrobial proteins are are they're small molecules that help us defend ourselves against infection. The molecule we discovered, Resistin, can kill some species of Staph. The skin is really critical when it comes to defending us against infection. I think it is important for us to start to realize how important diet is for the skin. Vitamin A is something that we get in our diet from foods such as carrots, is probably the one people think about most. But it's also in a lot of yellow-orange foods such as egg yolks. A lot of animal fats have vitamin A. Without those in our diet we won't make these molecules, so what's fascinating is we've been able to show how it is a diet that is rich in vitamin A and has enough vitamin A helps us protect ourselves against skin infection. My biggest piece of advice is, you know, to have a full diet that encompasses a large variety of foods.