Acne is a common skin condition that affects nearly many of the world’s population
Many factors contribute to the development of acne, including sebum and keratin production, acne-causing bacteria, hormones, blocked pores and inflammation
The link between diet and acne has been controversial, but recent research shows that diet can play a significant role in acne development
Let's review foods that can cause acne and discuss why the quality of your diet is important!
1. Refined Grains and Sugars
People with acne tend to consume more refined carbohydrates than people with little or no acne.
Foods rich in refined carbohydrates include:
Bread, crackers, cereal or desserts made with white flour
Pasta made with white flour
White rice and rice noodles
Sodas and other sugar-sweetened beverages
Sweeteners like cane sugar, maple syrup, honey or agave
One study found that people who frequently consumed added sugars had a 30% greater risk of developing acne, while those who regularly ate pastries and cakes had a 20% greater risk
This increased risk may be explained by the effects refined carbohydrates have on blood sugar and insulin levels.
Refined carbohydrates are absorbed quickly into the bloodstream, which rapidly raises blood sugar levels. When blood sugars rise, insulin levels also rise to help shuttle the blood sugars out of the bloodstream and into your cells.
However, high levels of insulin are not good for those with acne.
Insulin makes androgen hormones more active and increases insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). This contributes to acne development by making skin cells grow more quickly and by boosting sebum production
2. Dairy Products
Many studies have found a link between milk products and acne severity in teenagers
Two studies also found that young adults who regularly consumed milk or ice cream were four times more likely to suffer from acne
However, the studies conducted so far have not been high-quality.
The research to date has focused mainly on teenagers and young adults and has only shown a correlation between milk and acne, not a cause and effect relationship.
It is not yet clear how milk may contribute to the formation of acne, but there are several proposed theories out there.
3. Fast Food
One study of over 5,000 teenagers and young adults found that high-fat diets were associated with a 43% increased risk of developing acne. Regularly eating fast food increased the risk by 17%
A separate study of 2,300 men found that frequently eating burgers or sausages was linked to a 24% increased risk of developing acne It is unclear why eating fast food may increase the risk of developing acne, but some researchers propose that it may affect gene expression and alter hormone levels in a way that promotes acne development
However, it is important to note that most of the research on fast food and acne has used self-reported data. This type of research only shows patterns of dietary habits and acne risk and does not prove that fast food causes acne. Thus, more research is needed.
Regularly eating fast food has been correlated with an increased risk of developing acne, but it is not clear whether it causes acne.
4. Foods Rich in Omega-6 Fats
Diets containing large amounts of omega-6 fatty acids, like the typical Western diet, have been linked to increased levels of inflammation and acne
This may be because Western diets contain large amounts of corn and soy oils, which are rich in omega-6 fats, and few foods that contain omega-3 fats, like fish and walnuts
This imbalance of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids pushes the body into an inflammatory state, which may worsen acne severity
Conversely, supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids may reduce levels of inflammation and has been found to reduce acne severity .
Chocolate has been a suspected acne trigger since years ago-but so far, no consensus has been reached.
Several informal surveys have linked eating chocolate with an increased risk of developing acne, but this is not enough to prove that its a culprit.
A more recent study found that acne-prone males who consumed 25 grams of 99% dark chocolate daily had an increased number of acne lesions after just two weeks
Another study found that males who were given capsules of 100% cocoa powder daily had significantly more acne lesions after one week compared to those given a placebo. While recent research supports a link between chocolate consumption and acne, it remains unclear whether chocolate actually causes acne.
6. Whey Protein Powder
Whey protein is a popular dietary supplement .It is a rich source of the amino acids leucine and glutamine. These amino acids make skin cells grow and divide more quickly, which may contribute to the formation of acne
The amino acids in whey protein can also stimulate the body to produce higher levels of insulin, which has been linked to the development of acne. Several case studies have reported a link between whey protein consumption and acne in male athletes
7. Foods You’re Sensitive To
It has been proposed that acne is, at its root, an inflammatory disease.
This is supported by the fact that anti-inflammatory drugs, like corticosteroids, are effective treatments for severe acne and that people with acne have elevated levels of inflammatory molecules in their blood.
One way that food may contribute to inflammation is through food sensitivities, also known as delayed hypersensitivity reactions
Food sensitivities occur when your immune system mistakenly identifies food as a threat and launches an immune attack against it
This results in high levels of pro-inflammatory molecules circulating throughout the body, which may aggravate acne.
Since there are countless foods that your immune system could react to, the best way to figure out your unique triggers is by completing an elimination diet under the supervision of a registered dietitian or nutrition specialist.
Elimination diets work by temporarily restricting the number of foods in your diet in order to eliminate triggers and achieve symptom relief, then systematically adding foods back while tracking your symptoms and looking for patterns.
What to Eat Instead
While the foods discussed above may contribute to the development of acne, there are other foods and nutrients that may help keep your skin clear. These include:
Omega-3 fatty acids: Omega-3s are anti-inflammatory, and regular consumption has been linked to a reduced risk of developing acne
Probiotics: Probiotics promote a healthy gut and balanced microbiome, which is linked to reduced inflammation and a lower risk of acne development
Green tea: Green tea contains polyphenols that are associated with reduced inflammation and lowered sebum production. Green tea extracts have been found to reduce acne severity when applied to the skin
Turmeric: Turmeric contains the anti-inflammatory polyphenol curcumin, which can help regulate blood sugar, improve insulin sensitivity and inhibit the growth of acne-causing bacteria, which may reduce acne
Vitamins A, D, E and zinc: These nutrients play crucial roles in skin and immune health and may help prevent acne
Paleolithic-style diets: Paleo diets are rich in lean meats, fruits, vegetables and nuts and low in grains, dairy and legumes. They have been associated with lower blood sugar and insulin levels
Mediterranean-style diets: A Mediterranean diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grain, legumes, fish and olive oil and low in dairy and saturated fats. It has also been linked to reduced acne severity
To briefly summarize- Consuming a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, pro-biotics, green tea, fruits and vegetables may be protective against the development of acne. Vitamins A, D and E, as well as zinc, may also help prevent acne. Receiving monthly treatments to clear prevent majorly aids in clearing and preventing the acne development.