The Effects of Dietary Macronutrient Balance on Skin Structure in Aging Male and Female Mice

PLoS One. 2016 Nov 10;11(11):e0166175. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0166175. eCollection 2016.


Nutrition influences skin structure; however, a systematic investigation into how energy and macronutrients (protein, carbohydrate and fat) affects the skin has yet to be conducted. We evaluated the associations between macronutrients, energy intake and skin structure in mice fed 25 experimental diets and a control diet for 15 months using the Geometric Framework, a novel method of nutritional analysis. Skin structure was associated with the ratio of dietary macronutrients eaten, not energy intake, and the nature of the effect differed between the sexes. In males, skin structure was primarily associated with protein intake, whereas in females carbohydrate intake was the primary correlate. In both sexes, the dermis and subcutaneous fat thicknesses were inversely proportional. Subcutaneous fat thickness varied positively with fat intake, due to enlarged adipocytes rather than increased adipocyte number. We therefore demonstrated clear interactions between skin structure and macronutrient intakes, with the associations being sex-specific and dependent on dietary macronutrient balance.

MeSH terms

  • Adipocytes / cytology
  • Adipocytes / drug effects
  • Age Factors
  • Aging*
  • Animal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Animals
  • Cell Count
  • Cell Size / drug effects
  • Dermis / anatomy & histology
  • Dermis / cytology
  • Dermis / drug effects
  • Diet*
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / administration & dosage
  • Dietary Fats / administration & dosage
  • Dietary Proteins / administration & dosage
  • Epidermal Cells
  • Epidermis / anatomy & histology
  • Epidermis / drug effects
  • Female
  • Male
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Sex Factors
  • Skin / anatomy & histology*
  • Skin / cytology
  • Skin / drug effects
  • Subcutaneous Fat / anatomy & histology
  • Subcutaneous Fat / cytology
  • Subcutaneous Fat / drug effects


  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Dietary Fats
  • Dietary Proteins

Grants and funding

Funding was obtained from the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC project grant 571328), the Ageing and Alzheimer’s Institute (AAAI) of Concord RG Hospital for research materials. SJS was supported by an Australian Research Council Laureate Fellowship. DR is an Adjunct Professor in the New Zealand Institute for Advanced Study, Massey University, Auckland. SMS-B is supported by a NHMRC Early Career Fellowship (GNT 1110098). KR is employed by EWOS Innovation. EWOS Innovation provided support in the form of salary for author KR, but did not have any additional role in the study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. The specific role of this author is articulated in the ‘author contributions’ section.