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The relationship between nutrition and acne

Written by: Editors

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The relationship between diet and acne is a complex topic. There seems to be an impact of specific foods on skin health, but the impacts can vary from one individual to another. Before considering changing your diet, it's crucial to know that this should always be done under the guidance of an expert, such as a dietician. These professionals can create a customised diet that takes into account your individual needs, health goals and any allergies you have or may be unaware of. Recent research indicates that specific dietary choices can either reduce acne or exacerbate it. Below we pick apart the latest scientific insights and the potential connection between diet and acne.

What causes acne?

Let's start with the facts from recent research into the nature of acne, also known as acne vulgaris. Risk factors for acne include:

  • Genetics
  • Hormonal changes
  • Infections
  • Environmental influences

The role of nutrition as an integral component in the management of acne has been discussed for decades, and recent studies shed light on some fascinating insights.

Does sugar affect your skin?

Recent research on the glycemic index (GI) of foods points to sugar as a major potential culprit in acne. A four-week study showed a worsening of acne, especially in male subjects, after ingesting dark chocolate. Further studies suggest that a low-glycemic index (low-GI) diet may be beneficial for people with acne. Reducing sugar consumption and opting for whole grain products, vegetables and fruits also seems beneficial for reducing acne severity.

Studies confirm that foods with a high glycemic index can trigger acne by causing rapid increases in blood sugar levels. Avoiding high-GI foods and opting for low-GI foods, such as whole grain products, could help control acne.

In addition, studies show that low-glycemic diets are associated with smaller sebaceous glands, reduced inflammation and decreases in pro-inflammatory interleukin-8 (which can contribute to inflammation). These positive effects may help to reduce the severity of acne and the production of sebum.

Dairy and protein

Lately, acne research has focused on dairy, in particular the protein in dairy. Some studies suggest that certain proteins in dairy may contribute to the development of acne. A closer look at not only fat content, but also at dairy protein may also be warranted. Alternatives such as almond or oat drink are being considered. However, studies on the relationship between dairy and acne produce mixed results.

Here are some reasons why dairy may cause or exacerbate acne:

Which foods should you avoid?

Which foods are a healthy option?

Research shows that eating a diet with omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish and healthy oils, may be beneficial for people with acne. Supplementing your diet with foods such as salmon and olive oil can benefit the skin.

Probiotics: a new start?

Recent studies are examining the effects of probiotics on acne, and while the results are promising, more research is needed to confirm these findings.

Research focus

Research data on the relationship between diet and acne are still evolving as this is a complex and sometimes controversial field.

  • The problem lies with the diversity in individual responses: people differ significantly in genetics, lifestyle, diet and hormonal profiles. What works for one person may not work for another, making it difficult to draw general conclusions.
  • When reviewing research studies, we must consider methodological limitations, such as small sample sizes, short research periods, self-report of dietary intake, and variability in study designs. These limitations may affect the reliability of the findings.
  • Awareness of publication bias: studies with positive results are more likely to be published, resulting in a distorted picture of the available data.
  • In the absence of a universal approach to diet and acne, it is crucial to critically assess scientific evidence.

Advice from health specialists, such as dermatologists or dieticians, is recommended for the individual assessment of needs and responses.

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