Food & acne-is there a connection?
Some myths and wrongly held beliefs about acne
1.What is acne and who gets it?
We have all heard that chocolate, burgers, fries and many other (delicious) foods can cause acne.
We have also heard that it is all a myth. Many dermatologists will tell you there is no link between food and acne. They dismiss the idea because so much research is inconclusive.
“For years, the relationship between diet and acne has been controversial,” says New York City dermatologist Dr. Francesca Fusco. “But there is no doubt in my mind that there is a connection between what we eat and the condition of our skin; it is just very challenging to prove.”
Many of the older studies were flawed in that they didn’t include enough subjects or control groups. Another problem is that it’s so hard to isolate the individual factors that could cause breakouts. But the latest research suggests the food/acne relationship is not a myth.
2. The acne food pyramid
“A diet with a high glycemic index – basically, processed foods like bread and refined grains that are quickly broken down into sugar – can have a terrible effect on skin,” says Fusco. The theory is that refined carbs cause your insulin levels to spike, which in turn leads to increased sebum production and clogged pores.
Unsurprisingly, Fusco recommends eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein – and steer clear of processed foods and sweets.
“Aside from ‘McDonald’s acne,’ which is common with people who operate fryers, it’s not the fat in fast food that seems to cause breakouts; it’s the processed carbs,” says Omaha dermatologist Dr. Joel Schlessinger. “Pizza, burgers, chocolate and all the other old-wives tale culprits do seem to have a negative effect on skin – and science is finally catching up.”
A 2005 article in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology examined the diets of 47,355 women and found a strong connection between milk and milk product (like cream cheese, sherbet, instant breakfast drinks and cottage cheese) intake and breakouts. Another study, of 4,273 teenaged boys also found an association between milk and acne flare-ups.
So what’s the link?
Researchers aren’t sure why, but skim milk seems to be more inflammatory, and they have a couple of theories why. Whole and partial fat milk have higher levels of estrogen, which can reduce acne, and may offset the other hormones. Or, the way skim milk is processed could make the hormones more available so that they have a stronger effect. At this point, milk does seem to aggravate acne, but the reason is still unclear.
Further evidence that life isn’t fair: A new study found a preliminary link between chocolate and acne. Ten men aged 18-35 with mild acne were told to snack on 12 ounces of unsweetened, 100% cacao chocolate at once, then eat normally for the next week. On day four, the average number of acne lesions had shot up from 2.7 to 13.4. On day seven, it was 18.2.
Researchers also found that the more chocolate each subject ate, the more pimples he developed. But don’t quit that dark chocolate habit just yet. So if you don’t currently have acne, keep munching on 72% dark chocolate – it lowers blood pressure.
HOW TO MAKE A PIMPLE IN 3 EASY STEPS
STEP 1: Set the stage for inflammation in your body
The types of fats and carbohydrates we eat play a major role in regulating the healthy balance between inflammation and healing. In people with acne, systems are tilted too far in the direction of inflammation.
STEP 2: Block your pores with skin cells
The foods we eat affect the hormones that regulate skin cell behavior. In people with acne, skin cells are out of control–they build up around pores, stick together, and clog pore openings, trapping otherwise harmless bacteria inside.
STEP 3. Crank up sebum productionSebum is the oily/waxy substance that healthy pores make to soften and waterproof the skin. However, people with acne have too much of a good thing. Excess sebum causes the skin to become too oily. Sebum can also get trapped inside clogged pores, where it becomes food for the bacteria imprisoned underneath the skin.
Some myths and wrongly held beliefs about acne
• Acne is not caused by poor hygiene. In fact, excessive washing may make it worse.
• Stress does not cause acne.
• Acne is not just a simple skin infection. The cause is a complex interaction of changing hormones, sebum, overgrowth of normally harmless germs (bacteria), inflammation, etc (described above). You cannot catch acne - it is not passed on through touching (contagious).
• Acne cannot be cured by drinking lots of water.
• There is no evidence to say that sunbathing or sunbeds will help to clear acne.
Some people believe that acne cannot be helped by medical treatment. This is not true. Treatments usually work well if used correctly.