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The Link between Diet & Acne

How Your Diet Affects your Acne

Patients frequently ask me if their breakouts are related to food. My response is always

the same: dairy and refined sugar can be triggers for acne. Now we have new evidence

to support that conclusion.

For many years experts believed that there was no relationship between food and

pimples. But in 2002 a study was published which made dermatologists question that

belief. Over 1300 people from remote areas such as Papua New Guinea and Paraguay

were examined, and not one person was found to have acne. This led scientists to

wonder what it was about Western culture compared to life in remote corners of the

world that caused people to develop acne.

A new study, published in the January 13 online Journal of the Academy of Nutrition

and Dietetics confirms a higher incidence of acne in those who eat a lot of sugar and

drink a lot of milk compared to those who do not.

“Their study included 248 volunteers age 18 to 25 years old. The participants reported

on the severity of their acne, what they eat each day, and also which foods they thought

might exacerbate their acne.

Those patients also reported consuming more sugar, 199 g/day, compared to 56.4 g/

day for those without acne (p<0.001).

They drank more milk (0.7 vs 0.3 cups), and they ate more trans-fats (9.6 vs 2.4 g/day)

and more saturated fats (31 vs 15.6 g/day) (p<0.001).

Those with worse acne also reported eating less fish than those without acne: 0.2 vs 0.7

ounces (p<.002)”

Although studies such as this one do not prove a cause and effect relationship between

diet and acne, it seems reasonable to conclude that sugar, milk, and unhealthy fats are

best avoided when trying to prevent breakouts.

Acne is based on several factors, including genetics, hormones, oil production, and

hygiene, in addition to diet. It’s multiple things in combination that trigger acne, not

just one thing. For instance a 6 year old patient with a diet high in dairy and sugar who

never washes his face may never have a pimple, but when that same boy turns 14

and experiences a surge in hormones and oil production, acne lesions suddenly start

to appear. Likewise one 17 year old girl might eat sugar all day long and never get

a pimple, while her best friend, who has a family history of acne, gets a breakout just

looking at a chocolate bar.

The best advice I can offer in regard to an “acne diet” is to eat clean. Choose complex

carbohydrates with a lower glycemic index over foods made with a lot of refined

sugar. Choose healthy fats such as those found in avocado and olive oil over foods

containing saturated fats and trans-fat. Keep dairy intake to a minimum but look for

dairy alternatives so you don’t run low on calcium, vitamin D, and protein.

When dietary modifications and good hygiene aren’t enough, it’s time for a visit to the



*image courtesy of dermalinstitute.com


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