WHAT CAUSES STRETCH MARKS?
- Stretch marks are a form of scarring seen on the skin that produces a color and texture change. While the look of these marks can diminish over time, the scars are permanent.
- Stretch marks are thought to occur when the skin stretches faster than the fibroblast cells (which make collagen) can produce collagen quickly enough. These changes can occur during puberty, pregnancy, or with certain medications or diseases. The skin loses the integrity of its elastin and collagen, which are both necessary to keep skin healthy.
- Previous reported studies have shown that 50-90% of pregnant women will develop stretch marks at some point during their pregnancy. While many articles have been written on stretch marks during pregnancy, the true cause and aggravating factors are still not well understood.
- Research has shown that genetics seem to play an important role in predicting who is likely to develop stretch marks but is not 100% reliable. Other studies appear uncertain as whether maternal weight gain, fetal birth weight, sex of the baby, or skin type can help the likelihood of stretch mark development. (1,2,3,4) However, there was a study that showed diminished serum vitamin C levels were associated with an increased risk of developing stretch marks. Exacerbating this vitamin C deficit, the developing fetus preferentially takes up what vitamin C is circulating much more efficiently than the mother’s skin.(7)
- Not surprising that studies show a decrease in vitamin C levels with each advancing trimester during pregnancy. What is not commonly known is that only 400 mg of vitamin C can be absorbed from the diet each day- the gut limits the amount that can taken in which is not affected by increasing intake with vitamin supplementation. (6) To compound the problem, there is now recent evidence that over a third of the population is genetically at risk for developing vitamin C deficiency due to the inability to efficiently hold on to body stores once it is absorbed.(8)
- So if vitamin C is vital to healthy skin during pregnancy but the mother is limited in the amount that can be absorbed, what can be done to prevent the development of stretch marks?! There is hope waiting in the next section!
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Findik RB, Hascelik NK, Akin KO, Unleuer AN, Karakaya J. Striae gravidarum, vitamin C and other related factors. Int J Vitam Nutr Res 2011;81:43-8
Levine M, Conry-Cantilena C, Wang Y, Welch RW, Washko PW, Dhariwal KR, Park JB, Lazarev A, Graumlich JF, King J, Cantilena LR. Vitamin C pharmacokinetics in healthy volunteers: evidence for a recommended dietary allowance. Proc Natl Acad Sci 1996;93:3704-3709
Hediger MA (May 2002). “New view at C”. Nat. Med. 8 2002;5: 445–6
Delanghe JR, et al. Genetic Aspects of Scurvy and the European Famine of 1845-1848. Nutrients 2013 5:3582-3588