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The Worst Foods for Acne

The Worst Foods for Acne The Worst Foods for Acne


Up to 85 percent of teenagers and many adults suffer from acne. Whether the food you eat can worsen or trigger an acne outbreak is open to some debate. Dr. Robert Shmerling of Harvard Medical School reports for Aetna InteliHealth that there is no connection between diet and acne. However, one study suggests otherwise.

Cause of Acne

Shmerling indicates that hormones are more likely to blame for teenage acne than diet. Fluctuating hormones tend to produce more sebum in adolescents, a fatty substance that coats hair follicles. This can contribute to clogged pores. When bacteria become trapped behind the plug, inflammation and infection can occur. Sometimes the plug can rise up under the surface of your skin, resulting in a whitehead. If the plug remains open and the impaction darkens, a blackhead results. When pus accumulates to fight the infection, you get a pimple. Severely infected pores can become cysts and cause swelling. But according to Shmerling, no known food substance contributes to sebum production.

Connection to High Glycemic Foods

Research performed at the RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, indicates that even if foods don't worsen or cause acne, changing your diet might still help to clear up an outbreak. The study, reported in the "American Journal of Clinic Nutrition" in 2007, showed that subjects placed on a diet of 25 percent protein and 45 percent low-glycemic-index carbohydrates experienced a marked improvement in their acne condition after 12 weeks. The researchers theorized that because high-glycemic-index foods cause a spike in insulin production, there may be a link between insulin and acne.

Foods Blamed for Acne Flare-Ups

Shmerling indicates that some foods, such as junk food, have been linked to acne flare-ups simply because teenagers tend to eat them and teenagers also have a higher incidence of acne than adults. Other foods often blamed for acne include highly acidic foods, foods containing iodine and fatty foods, though no research supports this claim.


A link between the foods you eat and your acne might be highly individualized. Some foods may affect you and your own physiology, but not others. If you suspect this is the case, keep a food diary. Make note of what you eat daily in one column, and in another column, keep track of any outbreaks you experience. If you regularly find that fare-ups occur within a day or so after you've eaten a particular type of food, avoid that food for a while to determine if eliminating it from your diet might help.

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