Sufferers of the contact dermatitis skin condition may be able to alleviate symptoms by eliminating foods such as tomatoes and citrus fruits from their diets, according to a study published in the September issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology (2001;pp. 377-381).

From Kentucky-based University of Louisville, Dr Joseph F. Fowler explained to Reuters Health that the condition, which causes inflamed and itchy skin, can be provoked by diet as well as by allowing the skin to come into contact with an allergen.

Working with university colleague Dr Tamara N. Salam, Fowler conducted a study into the effects of diet on a group of sufferers who have identified general food and fragrance allergies. Among these known allergies was balsam of Peru (BOP), a generic chemical found in many types of food and fragrances.

The 45 subjects were told to eliminate various skin care products and perfumes. If the symptoms were not visibly reduced, they were then asked to refrain from a variety of foods known to contain BOP-related chemicals, for exampled chocolate, citrus fruits, ice cream, ketchup, and tomatoes.

In the article, the scientists explain that after abstaining from all the foods for a period, the patients were encouraged to reintroduce the foods one at a time to establish which ones made a visible impact on the condition.

The scientists concluded that the “most commonly implicated foods” in the return of the dermatitis were tomatoes, citrus and spices. Furthermore, nearly 50% of the study’s participants were able to trace the causes for their symptoms to their diet.