Does Not Cause Acne
You may be asking
yourself why a dermatologist-reviewed site from the American Academy
of Dermatology (Academy) still says that diet does not
cause acne. After all, haven’t research studies found that certain
foods cause acne? If you have acne, you may even have noticed that
when you eat certain foods you break out. With all this evidence,
why does the Academy still say that food does not
What the Research Really Shows
While studies have been conducted, more research is needed to
conclude that what we eat can cause or prevent acne. What these
studies have found suggests that diet may play a role in acne. Here
is what the research has shown so far.
Milk and acne. Could drinking milk cause acne? One researcher
reports that between 75% and 90% of the milk and milk products
consumed in the United States come from pregnant cows. Could acne
develop because drinking milk exposes us to the hormones that cows
produce when they are pregnant? We know that hormones clearly play a
role in acne.
To answer these questions, researchers began by asking people to
recall what they ate. One such study asked 47,355 women to remember
what they ate in high school 9 years prior. Another study asked
teenage boys to recall what they ate and to determine the severity
of their acne.
After analyzing the foods eaten, researchers concluded that there
was one association. Sodas, chocolate, and even potato chips were
not associated with acne. Only drinking milk was.
These studies had limitations. Trying to accurately recall what you
ate years ago — or even days ago — can be difficult, so the
collected data cannot be considered entirely reliable. What the data
does show is that there may an association between drinking milk and
acne. An association means that more research is needed to prove
whether this is just an association or a cause.
It is possible that other causes were at work. These studies did not
account for known causes of acne, such as heredity. Acne is known to
run in families, and some of the women and teenage boys may have had
acne because they inherited genes for acne. The researchers
acknowledge the limitations of these studies and conclude that more
research is needed.
Western diet and acne. Some researchers hypothesize
(explanation that needs to be proven) that more than milk could be
causing acne. It could be our Western diet, a diet rich in refined
carbohydrates. A few studies have looked at this possibility. One
study observed that people in 2 non-westernized societies — Kitavan
Islanders (remote islands off the coast of Papua New Guinea) and the
Aché hunter-gathers of Paraguay — did not have acne. The researchers
attributed this to the people’s low-glycemic diet. A low-glycemic
diet consists of fresh fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins.
When people eat a low-glycemic diet, the body works more
efficiently. The body needs only produce relatively small amounts of
insulin to keep blood glucose levels (glucose gives us energy)
within the normal range. When the body works this way, the person is
said to be insulin sensitive. This means the body
requires relatively small amounts of insulin.
A high-glycemic diet can lead to insulin resistance,
which means the body needs to produce a lot more insulin to maintain
glucose levels. Insulin resistance can cause numerous health
problems including high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.
The researchers concluded that a Western diet, which often causes
insulin resistance, might also be fueling known causes of acne such
as the production of excess sebum (oily substance) and inflammation.
More research is needed to find out if a low-glycemic diet can
prevent acne and lead to clearer skin.
To find out, small studies have been conducted to look at the effect
of a low-glycemic diet on acne. These studies suggest that a low-glycemic
diet maybe helpful, but further research is needed to explain the
role that diet plays.
There are still many unanswered questions. One question researchers
must answer is why every obese person does not have long-term acne.
Individuals who are obese generally have had insulin resistance for
years. If insulin resistance leads to acne, then everyone living
with diabetes would be expected to have acne. Why is this not the
The diet-recall studies also did not show an association between
eating high-glycemic foods such as soda and chocolate and acne. Why
More Research Needed
While the research shows that there may be an association between
diet and acne, the researchers conclude that more evidence is needed
to prove this association. Until research proves that diet causes
acne, this site will continue to state what the research shows. To
date, the research does not prove that diet causes acne.
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content solely developed by the American Academy of Dermatology
Do you eat potato chips or
chocolate when you feel stress and then break out? It
may be the stress causing you to break out — not the
food. Stress increases the inflammation that leads to