Acne Related to Diet
Acne, a skin condition that can affect teens and adults, can range from mild, with clogged pores and a few small inflamed bumps, to severe, with deep inflamed cysts that may lead to scarring, according to the Mayo Clinic. While inflammatory and hormonal factors contribute to acne, certain foods have been found to worsen acne, and adjusting your diet may improve your skin, according to Dr. Whitney P. Bowe, at the Department of Dermatology at State University of New York Downstate Medical Center, in Brooklyn, New York, and colleagues in a review published in July 2010 in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.
Dermatologists from the 1930s through the 1960s recommended eliminating fats, sweets and chocolate to patients suffering from acne, but after studies in the late '60s and early '70s came out breaking the diet-acne link, dietary change has not been a routine part of acne treatment for decades, according to Bowe and colleagues. Past studies refuting the diet-acne relationship had many flaws, however, and recent evidence shows that consuming foods such as dairy and certain carbohydrates may exacerbate acne.
Dairy and Acne
A study of teenage girls found that increased milk and other dairy food consumption, resulted in increased acne, according to Dr. Clement A. Adebamowo at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts, and colleagues in the February 2005 Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. Although it's unclear exactly what in dairy may aggravate acne--it may be the hormones present in milk, iodine in milk or milk's effect on insulin-like growth factor in the body--doctors may discuss a dairy-acne connection with their patients, according to Bowe's research.
High Glycemic Foods and Acne
Evidence that a high glycemic diet, which includes foods that raise blood glucose levels quickly, worsens acne is especially compelling, according to Bowe. Australian men ages 15 to 25 who followed a low-glycemic diet, which usually includes fresh fruits, vegetables and lean meats and excludes processed foods, saw a significant improvement in their acne severity, according to Bowe. More studies are warranted to further support the high-glycemic diet-acne connection.
Iodine and Other Food Substances
Iodine, found in kelp, has been implicated in causing an inflammatory type of acne. However, fish, also rich in iodine, has not been linked with acne, and it's speculated that seafood's omega-3 fatty acids may offset iodine's acne-causing effects, according to Bowe. Certain populations that consume hunter-gatherer type diets, which are rich in wild plants, game meat and fish and exclude processed foods, have no acne, and this may be partly due to the higher omega-3 fatty acid levels in these diets, which may help reduce inflammation, according to Bowe.
Acne has multiple causes, including underlying disease, so check with a health professional to rule out factors besides diet that may be contributing to your acne. If you are thinking of excluding dairy, you may have to take calcium and vitamin D supplements or increase other foods in your diet to meet your calcium and vitamin D needs. Alternatives to cow's milk include calcium and vitamin D fortified rice or almond milk, and food sources of calcium include dark leafy greens, such as spinach, and salmon, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements at the National Institutes of Health.
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