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Is Acne Caused by Diet?

Is Acne Caused by Diet? Is Acne Caused by Diet? Is Acne Caused by Diet?


At any given time, between approximately 40 and 50 million Americans are living with acne, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. This skin condition is characterized by oily skin, pimples such as whiteheads and blackheads, cysts and scars. Your diet does not cause acne, but it may make it worse, which means that tweaking your diet may provide relief from breakouts or minimize their severity.

Causes of Acne

Acne results from clogged pores in your skin. When your skin produces too much oil, it can trap dead skin cells inside the pores. Bacteria that live on the skin known as Propionibacterium acnes, or P. acnes, also build up inside the blocked pores, which in turn inflames the pores and makes them red and swollen. These inflamed pores are better known as blemishes or pimples. Larger acne cysts or nodules develop when the inflammation travels deep into your skin.

Role of Diet

For years, dermatologists dismissed the idea that diet contributed to acne. However, according to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology, the discovery that some populations with particular diets do not suffer from acne has made some dermatologists rethink this idea. For instance, acne is extremely rare among tribes living in remote areas who do not consume sugar, wheat, beef or dairy. Some doctors now believe that carbohydrates and hormones in dairy products can trigger breakouts or make them more severe. Limiting these foods may improve your skin.

Benefits of a Low-Glycemic Diet

A low-glycemic, or low-GI, diet emphasizes foods rich in fiber such as fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains, and limits refined carbohydrates. This type of diet helps regulate levels of insulin, a hormone that is linked to acne. Researchers from Australia and Finland investigated the benefits of this diet on males between ages 15 and 25 who had acne in a study published in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" in July 2007. The diet improved the participants' insulin sensitivity, which means their bodies were better able to use insulin. It also reduced the number of acne lesions.

Evidence on the Link Between Dairy and Acne

In a study published in the "Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology" in 2005, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health reviewed data from the Nurses Health Study II. Results of questionnaires completed by 47,355 women about their high school diet revealed a positive link between acne and consumption of whole milk and skim milk. The researchers hypothesized that the presence of hormones and bioactive molecules in milk may contribute to acne.


As with other medical conditions such as allergies or arthritis, triggers for acne breakouts differ from person to person. For instance, while chocolate --- which contains milk --- may aggravate your acne, it may not be a factor for someone else. Keep a diary to track any link between the foods you eat and your acne. Also, it's best to consult a dermatologist for more advice on treating acne.

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