Photo of a stack of donuts
Put that donut down! Scientists find sugary foods and dairy are an important cause of acne

Sugary foods and milk CAN make acne worse

22 February, 2013

Natural Health News — There is increasing evidence that diet, in particular consumption of high glycaemic load foods and dairy, can trigger acne and that nutrition therapy can play an important role in acne treatment.

In a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics US researchers conducted a literature review to evaluate evidence for the diet-acne connection during three distinctive time periods: early history, the rise of the diet-acne myth, and recent research.

Culling information from 50 years of published research between 1960 and 2012 the investigators concluded that a high glycaemic index/glycaemic load diet and frequent dairy consumption are the leading factors in establishing the link between diet and acne.

According to the researchers, high GI diets cause peaks in blood sugar and hormonal fluctuations and, in the US where growth hormones are permitted in dairy production milk may also trigger outbreaks due to these hormones.

The diet link goes back a long way

Since the late 1800s, say the researchers, studies have linked diet to acne, identifying chocolate, sugar, and fat as particular culprits.

But beginning in the 1960s, studies disassociated diet from the development of acne.

“This change occurred largely because of the results of two important research studies that are repeatedly cited in the literature and popular culture as evidence to refute the association between diet and acne,” comments lead researcher Jennifer Burris, MS, RD, of the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, New York University.

“More recently, dermatologists and registered dietitians have revisited the diet-acne relationship and become increasingly interested in the role of medical nutritional therapy in acne treatment.” she adds.

Burris and colleagues note that although research results from studies conducted over the last 10 years do not demonstrate that diet causes acne, they do suggest it may influence or aggravate it.

Wanted – effective dietary treatment

Millions of people – mostly teenagers, but increasingly adults, and most often in the developed world – are affected by acne. The spots spots that develop on the face, neck, chest and back are unsightly and can often be painful.

Acne also influences quality of life, including social withdrawal, anxiety, and depression, making treatment essential.

The study team recommends that dermatologists and registered dietitians work collaboratively develop, amongst other things, effective dietary interventions for acne treatment

Says Burris: “The medical community should not dismiss the possibility of diet therapy as an adjunct treatment for acne. At this time, the best approach is to address each acne patient individually, carefully considering the possibility of dietary counselling.”