Acne & Diet- The Evidence Piles Up

eating_donutDiet has nothing to do with acne.

This statement is a popular myth that has been perpetuated for the past 50 years.  The truth is, diet and acne are more related than many people think.

However, more observation studies and clinically-based research shows that there is definitely a connection of diet to visible breakouts of acne. Three major conclusions can be made based on these studies.

  1. Consumption of milk products may invite more acne. A 2005 study of 47,000 teenagers showed acne was more prevalent amongst teens who drank more milk than their peers, and there was no difference between fat contents in relation to breakouts. The current hypothesis is that bio active molecules in milk protein increase oil production and inflammation in the skin, which leads to bigger pores and pimples.
  2. Less sugar means less pimples.  A 2007 study in the American Journal of clinical nutrition concluded that a low glycemic diet has a positive correlation in reducing acne.  In this study, the total number of active lesions decreased in groups that had low glycemic diets compared to control groups. Interestingly, patients who returned to a high glycemic diet experienced elevated insulin levels, and in turn stimulated oil production resulting in acne outbreaks again.
  3. Diets high in fruits and vegetables minimize the signs of acne. Studies of native communities that had diets rich in fruits vegetables and nuts reported nearly zero incidence of acne. When similar rural cultures were introduced to a Western diet, they suddenly experienced acne breakouts. This type of study suggested that acne cannot be solely attributed to genetics, but is likely as a result of environmental and dietary factors. consensus of scientific studies point to a plant-based diet as having a positive correlation with clear acne free skin. This makes sense in that plants are some of the strongest anti-inflammatory food sources.  Sadly, and unfortunately, Americans eat less than 2 servings of fruits and vegetables per day while the minimum daily recommended serving size of each is five.

I hope by highlighting the connection between acne and diet, those with breakout problems will consider altering their food choices to benefit their skin. Since acne is no longer just a teenage problem, even adults can benefit from dietary changes.

About Dr. John Burke

John Burke M.D. has practiced medicine for over 25 years, and is the founding partner of MidMaine Internal Medicine. He established Maine Laser Skin Care in 2004 after devoting years to learning the latest in laser and dermatologic technology. Dr. Burke has treated patients from all over the United States. He is one of Maine's busiest practitioners in laser treatments, and in the use of Botox for upper facial lines and excessive sweating.
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