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Can Foods We Eat Cause Acne?

Can Foods We Eat Cause Acne? Can Foods We Eat Cause Acne? Can Foods We Eat Cause Acne?


Acne may not be a dangerous condition, but it can certainly be embarrassing and uncomfortable. For years, a poor diet has been a common scapegoat for acne problems with little evidence backing up such claims from the scientific community. Recently, however, studies have begun linking acne to food allergies, hormones in dairy and insulin resistance from a diet heavy in refined sugar.

Symptoms and Causes of Acne

Acne usually occurs on the face, neck, back and shoulders and is characterized by raised bumps that may be red, tender or inflamed. When your skin overproduces oil, the excess combines with dead skin cells to plug up hair follicles on your skin. Add bacteria to the mix and the plugged follicle will become infected and will flare up to form a pimple. Hormones, heredity and certain medications can all contribute to acne.

Food Allergies

Contrary to what you might thing, eating greasy or oily foods doesn't directly cause excess oil secretion on the skin. Food allergies may contribute to the frequency and severity of acne. Dairy products, wheat and food preservatives are all common food allergies. Try eliminating one food, such as dairy, for a couple of weeks to see if it has any effect on your acne. If you suspect a food allergy is responsible for your condition, talk to your doctor about getting tested.


Rising levels of androgen hormones, such as testosterone, is thought to cause acne in teenagers during puberty. According to Dr. Mark Hyman, a physician specializing in functional medicine, milk and other dairy products are loaded with similar hormones and these hormones can trigger the overproduction of oil in your skin. Dairy products can also cause spikes in your body's insulin levels, and researchers at Colorado State believe insulin stimulates oil secretion in your skin cells.

Glycemic Index

Loren Cordain, professor of health and exercise science at Colorado State, led a team of researchers in a study comparing the diets of 1,300 Kitivan Islanders in Papua New Guinea and hunter-gatherers in Paraguay. The study found no cases of acne in any of the 1,300 research subjects compared to the over-40 percent rate of acne in adult populations of Westernized societies. Diets rich in low-glycemic foods such as fruits, vegetables, meats and fish can reduce testosterone levels in your blood serum while improving insulin metabolism. If spikes in androgen and insulin hormones increase oil secretion in the skin, then a diet full of sugary foods with a high glycemic index might be to blame.

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