Research On The link between Diet & Acne

For years, the common belief was diet had absolutely no effect on acne. Turns out, it may have been wrong.

A study completed by the Australia's RMIT University and Royal Melbourne Hospital Department of Dermatology have discovered what is being hailed as a "solid link" between diet and acne development.

Associate Professor Neil Mann, from RMIT University's School of Applied Sciences, led the research team which spent more than two years studying metabolic changes in glucose and insulin levels due to diet and the resulting changes on the skin.

Researchers believe carbohydrates with a high glycemic index, which cause glucose and insulin levels to spike, may influence the development and severity of acne. Conversely, a diet high in protein and carbohydrates with a low glycemic index seemed to improve acne breakouts.

Professor Mann, along with Robyn Smith, PhD and Royal Melbourne Hospital, divided forty-three males, between the ages of 15 and 25, into two groups. One group was given foods with a low glycemic index, such as whole grain breads and pasta, legumes, as well as high protein foods. The second group was fed a more "typical" teenage diet consisting of white bread, potatoes, and sugary drinks and snacks.

The results, researchers say, were astounding. After 12 weeks, the boys in the high protein-low glycemic index group showed a fifty percent reduction of acne. The results seem to suggest a link between diet and acne development.

The results of the study were presented at the 15th Congress of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venerology, and have been published in the July 2007 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, and the August 2007 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Dr. Mann, along with the Australian College of Dermatologists, has published a booklet, "The Teenage Anti-acne Diet," based on his research.

What This Means to You
Dr. Mann's study is intriguing, as it challenges the long-held beliefs regarding diet and acne. Interesting as the results are, they are preliminary and more research needs to be done.

So, is diet alone going to clear your acne? Probably not. However, a healthy diet will certainly improve your overall health. Instead of highly processed foods, try incorporating more whole grains (such as whole wheat bread, wheat pastas, brown rice, oatmeal, etc.) into your diet, as well as plenty of fresh vegetables, fruit, and lean protein. Limit the amount of soda, sugary snacks, and other "junk foods" whenever possible. You have nothing to lose, and a healthy body to gain. And possibly clearer skin, too

*Foods to Avoid

  • Sugars: stay away from all refined sugars. This is the fastest way to send pimples to susceptible skin; it is not a myth! Sugar upsets the natural PH and bacterial balance in the gut which leads to many systemic disturbances starting with the skin.
  • Too much fruit. Too much citrus can also upset the PH balance in the intestines. This is likely to lead to an imbalance in the body which often impacts the skin. Most fruits are also really high in sugar, and while, clearly better for the body than un-natural sugars, can still have the same reaction when consumed in excess. It is especially good to avoid too many fruit juices which are more concentrated than the whole fruit.
  • Dairy. Caution with dairy products; if eaten it is best to stick with those with low-lactose and high natural acidophilus content (such as in some natural yogurts.) Some find that dairy can exacerbate acne; and many theories hold that acne can be linked to dairy allergies.
  • High fat foods. Fat is hard for the body to breakdown and this often shows up in the skin. Many fatty foods cause an excess of oil in the skin- this is especially true with heavily fried foods such as French fries. High fat animal meats can also be disruptive to the skin- it is best to avoid fatty red meats and stick with the leaner versions.
  • Wheat. Some find that acne can be triggered by wheat allergies. In general, Americans have a diet heavily weighted with wheat. Too much wheat can cause certain bacterial over-growth in the intestines leading to candidiasis.
  • Caffeine. Caffeine can be dehydrating and disruptive to the skin. Many find that when they refrain from drinking coffee regularly, their acne improves.
  • Alcohol. Alcohol acts as a sugar in the body and upsets the PH balance in the gut which then impacts the skin. If you are suffering from severe acne, you may want to try to give up all alcohol and caffeine for 3-4 weeks and see if you notice a difference.

*Foods to Eat

  • Leafy greens- broccoli, spinach(in moderation only), kale(not good for acne.. should review), chard, beet greens- as well as a broad range of other non-starchy vegetables.
  • Vegetables high in beta carotene- such as carrots
  • Whole grains: such as brown rice, whole wheat breads (caution with wheat- see below), quinoa, cornmeal, etc.
  • Low-fat proteins such as low mercury fishes, organic tofu, shellfish, lean chicken and meats, gamey meats
  • Fruits in moderation- minimizing highly citric fruits such as oranges: while nearly all fruit is great for the body given high content of vitamins such as C; it is important to resist the urge to over-do fruits. See below. Good fruits include papaya, mango, banana, plums, tangerines and others