Is There A Link Between Nutrition & Acne?

Monday, 08. June 2020

Is There A Link Between Nutrition & Acne?

Is there a link between the food we consume and acne breakouts? Even though the connection between the two was dismissed for years, current research shows that the link does exist. Let's take a closer look.

What causes acne?

Most of us face acne from our late teens to our early 20's. Some people experience stubborn breakouts whereas others only develop acne in their late 20's or even early 30's. The reason for this is still unknown. Dermatologists are of the opinion that several factors play a role in the onset of acne, such as our genes, hormones, weight, inflammation, and emotional stress. The British Association for Dermatologists believes that the oil-producing glands in people with acne are particularly sensitive to otherwise normal levels of important hormones. As a result, these glands produce more oil. In addition, the skin cells that outline the pores do not flake away properly which in turn leads to clogged pores. The combination of clogged and oily pores promotes an increase in acne-causing bacteria that thrive in human skin.

Acne caused by nutrition - From the historic perspective

As early as the late 1800s and early 1900s, scientists speculated that there might be a link between acne formation and eating habits. The culprits were identified as being processed food, bananas, nuts, chocolate, sugar, cheese, and alcohol. However, during the 1960s, two very well-known studies found no association between acne and nutrition. As a result, the textbooks were revised and dermatologists felt as though the talk about a link between nutrition and acne was unscientific. However, it is now known that these two large-scale studies contained some flaws that lead to incorrect conclusions. This lead to 40 years in which no research was done regarding this topic. A possible link between eating habits and acne has only recently been brought back into focus.

Recent research

The link between nutrient and acne resurfaced in 2002 when scientists reported virtually non-existent in non-Western societies. The researchers concluded from their observations that these large differences relating to acne between Western and non-Western societies cannot be attributed to genes alone. There had to be other environmental factors at play - nutrition perhaps?

The non-Western societies that were studied consumed mainly plant-based, unprocessed food with a low glycemic load. (You can view the study here).

If diet plays a role in the onset of acne, it is likely due to the ability of certain foods to promote complex processes that cause acne. The most valid assumptions so far regarding acne and diet concern dairy products and the respective glycemic load.