A recent scientific study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology shows compelling evidence that diet does affect acne in susceptible individuals. This contradicts the conventional wisdom promoted by most dermatologists, who have long claimed there was no causal link between dietary choices and acne; the new evidence collected by these Australian researchers may turn that conventional wisdom on its head. We also could be very close to finding a specific acne diet that could help reduce or cure this problem for many individuals.
The study split fifty-four male acne sufferers into two groups. The control group continued their normal diet, while the test subjects consumed a restricted diet of fish, raw vegetables and fruits, lean meats and whole grains. The difference at the end of three months was striking; the test group showed significantly fewer outbreaks and other symptoms of acne than the group who continued eating a high-sugar, refined flour diet.
Why do dermatologists still insist that there’s no link between acne and diet? Two studies performed almost forty years ago may hold the key to answering that question. These studies, based largely on anecdotal evidence and generally regarded as lacking in scientific rigor, have formed the basis for this denial despite a wealth of counterevidence in the intervening years.
It is true that no evidence exists for a causal link between any specific food item and acne outbreaks. Chocolate, long regarded as a likely culprit, has been cleared by multiple scientific studies from any relationship between its consumption and acne. No particular food item causes acne in and of itself; these are myths, based on anecdotal evidence and unsupported by scientific research.
Did Rural Populations Around the World Reveal the Best Acne Diet?
But researchers have long been puzzled by the lack of acne symptoms in many areas of the world, even among teenagers, usually the hardest hit by these hormonal outbreaks. The Archives of Dermatology published the results of a study that examined two rural populations, one in New Guinea and one in Paraguay, in search of a link between diet and acne; the study was hindered, however, because there were absolutely no cases of acne in the teenage population, which limited the useful comparisons within the group the researchers examined. Another interesting study compared the incidence of acne between rural Japanese teenagers and those in urban areas of Japan; the contrast was striking. Teenagers from rural areas showed few or no outbreaks; urban youth presented more numerous and more serious cases of acne. While no direct conclusions were reached, the implications were clear; something in the “Westernized” lifestyles of urban youth was increasing the likelihood of acne outbreaks.
The Link Between Diet and Acne
To understand how diet can affect or exacerbate acne, it’s important to understand exactly what causes acne. Most acne outbreaks are caused, at least in part, by hormonal changes in the body. These changes are most drastic during puberty, and as a result acne outbreaks are usually most severe during this time period. Hormonal levels are affected by a wide variety of factors including mood, general stress levels, physical changes, and insulin levels in the blood. While some of these contributing factors are outside normal control, insulin levels are directly affected by diet, and can swing widely depending on the amount of simple carbohydrates consumed.
Choosing the Right Foods for an Acne Free Diet
These changes in the level of insulin have been linked to increased instances of acne breakouts. High-glycemic diets, or diets rich in sugar and white flour, cause frequent insulin “spikes”, or sudden upswings in the amount of insulin released into the bloodstream. This can cause serious hormonal imbalances which are believed to be a direct or contributory cause of acne flare-ups. Young people in Westernized countries are fed a constant diet of simple carbohydrates like sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and processed white flour; this high-glycemic diet results in a greater risk of acne and more severe flare-ups overall.
To combat these insulin spikes, researchers recommend a return to the “hunter-gatherer” diet of our ancient forefathers. Whole grains, increased consumption of raw fruits and vegetables, and choosing fish and lean poultry over fattier cuts of beef and pork can go a long way toward a healthier, acne-free complexion. Some studies recommend limiting dairy products, but to date no conclusive evidence has shown a link between dairy and acne.
By restricting one’s diet to more healthful, less processed foods, and especially avoiding high-glycemic items like sugars and processed flours, most acne sufferers can see a reduction in the number and the severity of flare-ups. In some cases, acne can even be eliminated completely. The evidence is in: diet does play a role in acne breakouts. The right acne diet can produce near-miraculous results for acne sufferers, whatever their age.