Exploring the Relationship Between Diet and Acne

Exploring the Relationship Between Diet and Acne

Science still does not know whether diet and acne are related, but evidence is mounting that diet may affect acne. Based on what we are seeing in clinical research, it seems prudent to eat a relatively low-glycemic diet rich in colorful fruits and vegetables and omega-3 fats and to perhaps supplement with 30mg of zinc gluconate per day. However, due to our modern diets and Western style of living, achieving sustainable relief of acne from changes in diet alone remains an elusive goal.

The Dairy Dilemma: Debunking Myths and Examining Evidence

Dairy and Acne

Evidence is mounting that some types of dairy, particularly milk, may have a weak connection to acne. However, don't worry about having to eliminate all dairy products from your life. The evidence so far is contradictory, and more research is coming in all the time. At this point, the most you might want to do is consider drinking less milk. Cheese and yogurt show no connection to acne.


A group of researchers recently performed a thorough analysis of all studies published on dairy and acne so far, called a systematic review. They published their conclusions in the journal Nutrients in 2018.

Exploring the Role of Nutrients in Acne Development

Deeper Science: Milk & Hormones

Milk contains insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1), a hormone that helps the body build necessary tissues. Increased levels of IGF-1 result in increased skin oil production, which can contribute to acne. Milk also contains male hormone (androgen) precursors, which can stimulate sebum production and skin cell overgrowth. These factors may potentially lead to clogged pores and the development of acne lesions.

Milk & Iodine

At large doses, iodine can cause acneiform eruptions. Some scientists postulate that the iodine content of milk, due to the sterilization of cow teats with iodine solution prior to milking, may contribute to acne. However, more research is needed to establish a clear connection.

Unraveling the Role of Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load

Low-Glycemic Foods

Most studies show a potential link between consuming a high-glycemic load diet (high in processed foods and sugars) and acne. Adopting a low-glycemic load diet may help improve acne. However, the exact mechanism behind this relationship is still unclear. Further studies are required to determine whether a low-glycemic diet is superior to other types of diets for managing acne.

Deeper Science: Glycemic Diet & Hormones

Eating high glycemic foods can lead to chronically elevated insulin levels, which may impact hormone levels associated with acne. Increased insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) and androgen levels are thought to contribute to excess skin oil production and cell overgrowth, potentially leading to clogged pores and acne formation. The effects of a Western, high-glycemic diet on cell proteins, such as mTORC1 and Fox01, are also being investigated for their role in acne development.

The Impact of Caloric Intake on Acne Symptoms

Caloric Intake and Acne

Lowering caloric intake may improve acne symptoms, but it is unclear whether this effect is due to specific dietary content or simply overall calorie reduction. Better-designed studies are needed to determine the relationship between caloric intake, diet composition, and acne symptoms. Collaboration between dermatologists and registered dietitians is essential to conduct quality research in this area.

Can Increased Calories Cause Acne?

Higher caloric intake can raise male hormone (androgen) levels, leading to increased oil production and potential acne development. Additionally, high-calorie diets may disrupt insulin levels and increase inflammation, both of which can influence acne. However, more research is needed to establish a direct causal relationship.

Exploring the Chocolate-Acne Connection

The Chocolate Conundrum

While individual studies have shown a weak association between chocolate intake and acne, the evidence is limited. It is important to exercise moderation when consuming chocolate, as excessive consumption may potentially affect insulin levels and protein signaling, contributing to acne development. However, the evidence is insufficient to conclusively establish chocolate as a direct cause of acne.

Navigating the Role of Fats in Acne Development

Fats and Acne: The Debate

The impact of dietary fat intake on acne remains uncertain. Some studies suggest that people with acne consume more fatty foods, but these findings lack strong scientific support. The specific types of fats consumed, such as saturated or unsaturated fats, and their influence on sebum production and acne development require further investigation.

The Omega-3 Advantage

Incorporating omega-3 fats into the diet has shown potential benefits for overall health, including a possible positive impact on acne. Many individuals in modern societies consume an imbalance of omega-6 to omega-3 fats, with an excess of omega-6 fats. Rebalancing this ratio by increasing the intake of omega-3 fats from sources like fish, grass-fed meat, and seeds could help modulate inflammation in the body. Since acne is an inflammatory condition, this dietary shift may be beneficial in managing acne symptoms.

Taking a Holistic Approach to Acne Management

While diet plays a role in acne, it is important to recognize that achieving sustainable relief through diet alone remains challenging. Acne is a complex condition influenced by genetic, hormonal, and environmental factors. To effectively manage acne, it is crucial to adopt a holistic approach that includes proper skincare, stress reduction, and consultation with a healthcare professional. Dietary modifications should be considered as part of a comprehensive acne management plan rather than the sole solution.

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