Like so many people, I struggled with acne as a young adult. I felt as though I tried every product on the market, but nothing seemed to work. In adulthood, I learned that the causes of acne weren't what I thought they were. I was basically fighting a battle without even knowing my true opponent.
The truth is, there are many causes of acne, but diet can play a major role. I knew this on some level, but I was surprised to learn that chocolate is not a culprit. In fact, a 2009 article published in the International Journal of Dermatology pointed out that there is no conclusive link between chocolate and acne. Phew — let's all breathe a sigh of relief before we delve in to what really may be causing those blemishes.
That same article suggested that the typical American diet may very well be causing acne in many people. Foods that have a high-glycemic index, such as refined flours and sugars, and that have a lot of omega-6 fatty acids, such as vegetable oils, meat and eggs, are linked to increased incidence of acne.
Foods that have a high-glycemic index digest quickly and release a burst of glucose (sugar) into the blood. Researchers believe that elevated blood glucose levels may increase production of oil (sebum), and raise the levels of hormones such as testosterone, which can contribute to acne.
Foods that contain omega-6 fatty acids, known precursors to inflammation, have also been associated with acne. These fatty acids are distinct from omega-3 fatty acids, high levels of which have been shown to reduce the risk of acne by lowering sebum production.
Milk may also be prompting those pimples, according to a 2005 article published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. Researchers evaluated data from more than 47,000 women and found a link between acne and increased milk consumption. The authors wrote that they this may be because of the hormones or other molecules that are found in milk.
So, now that we know what may be causing the acne, there are a few things we can do about it:
- Replace white bread and pasta with whole grain versions, which have a lower glycemic index.
- Reduce your overall intake of processed foods. Processed foods often contain a lot of vegetable oil and omega-6 fatty acids.
- Eat more omega-3-rich foods, such as sardines, flax seeds and walnuts. If that's not an option, consider an omega-3 supplement.
- Reduce your dairy consumption. Consider trying some milk replacements, such as almond or rice milk, and avoid cheese.
Healthy Bites appears on MyHealthNewsDaily on Wednesdays. Deborah Herlax Enos is a certified nutritionist and a health coach and weight loss expert in the Seattle area with more than 20 years of experience. Read more tips on her blog, Health in a Hurry!
Maria is our expert for medicine, fitness and general health. Her contributions are particularly convincing through completeness, accuracy and her own personal experience. Maria also writes for other health magazines, which has enabled her to build up her expert status.