Is there a link between diet & acne?

Hi guys,

I thought I would write a little about the relationship between diet & skin health as it’s something I’m really interested about learning. All the information provided is from credible evidence based research sources, so I promise it’s the most up to date information. My own experience with my skin involves having quite bad skin, including moderate hormonal acne until my early twenties, which at the same time is when I changed my diet. I would be so conscious of it & wear so much make up etc to try and cover it up so i have first hand experience at how it can make you feel & how hard it is to control.

My skin is now relatively clear and the best its ever been in my life. I only get the odd hormonal or stress related breakout now but lots of other factors occurred around the time my skin started to clear that could have contributed to this outcome, including alterations in hormone production. So hence the reason I wanted to research a little further about the evidence out there between skin & diet.

Before the 1960s certain foods were thought to exacerbate acne. Two research studies then came to light which at that time provided evidence that diet & acne association was a ‘myth’. Advice was therefore no longer given in routine practice for the management of acne through diet. The problem with this is the two studies in question were majorly flawed, with many limitations effecting the relation of these studies to the rest of the population.

Despite this, the link between diet and acne has only again come into question in the past decade, with limited evidence again emerging for the link between what you eat & your skin. There a very limited randomised controlled trials in the area, which are considered the ‘gold standard’ in research. This means that even though links are being found, it is not enough to generalise these findings to the rest of the public and more research is needed as to the effects of diet upon skin.

Even though there is limited, if none at all, strong research studies surrounding the area, evidence is emerging between high GI diets and the occurrence of acne. The GI (glycemic index) of foods relates to how quickly the body uptakes glucose and has a direct effect on insulin productivity. Foods which are of a high GI include simple sugars, such as sweet treats with added sugar and refined carbohydrates.

Dairy is also weakly associated with acne. This is thought to be due to the hormones present, especially in skimmed milk, which can influence sebum production and the clogging of pores. It is however hard to state that these influences are entirely due to dietary changes, for example women have changes in the hormones of their monthly cycle and may also be taking the contraceptive pill which can influence outcomes. Other factors need to be taken into account which include genetics and environment.

An association has been observed at a population level with people consuming a ‘non-westernised’ diet having lower rates of acne, if none at all. However, many factors could influence this such as climate and genetics. Dietary factors such as omega 3 intake, antioxidants, zinc, vitamin A and fibre are all stated to have a possible influence on acne, however little evidence is currently available.

Recent studies have found that a diet resembling low GI food intake of certain populations significantly reduced acne lesions and hormonal aspects of acne. These ‘non-westernised’ diets included foods such as fruits, wholegrains, meats, veggies and fish. To summarise the evidence may be emerging but larger scale studies are needed to prove this link within all areas of dietary practice.

Hope you find this information interesting, esp if you struggle with similar problems yourself. If there are any other areas you are interested in between nutrition, exercise & health give me a comment as I’m going to do more evidence based posts like this in the near future alongside my recipes!



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