THE spartan shops
FOOD & NUTRITION BLOG
I’ve known very few people in my life who have never had problems with acne, in one form or another. In fact, I could probably count them on my fingers. Getting acne when you’re a teenager or even into your young adult years is almost like a rite of passage. The majority of people get it, they grow out of it as hormones begin to balance out, and they may or may not come out unscarred. Although for most people, acne will tend to flare up less as they grow older, for some, it is a condition that follows them into adulthood causing feelings of depression, loss of self-esteem, and even suicidal tendencies. Over the years, the question about whether or not diet plays any role in the development or possible treatment of acne has been debated with no satisfying conclusion. But in recent years, there is new evidence surfacing about diet’s role in acne therapy that may be the key to shutting down those unsightly pimples.
But first, let’s take a step back. What exactly is acne and how does it form? According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), acne occurs when our oil glands clog up, due to excess sebum (oil) production, with dead skin cells. Bacteria that lives on our skin, called p. acnes, get into those clogged glands and have a grand old time multiplying and causing our skin to get swollen and inflamed. The severity of acne is highly dependent on many factors including but not limited to genetics, stress, sleep, hydration, and possibly, diet.
Recent evidence could be pointing out some of the culprits that might aggravate acne prone skin: dairy and high glycemic load/index foods. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 2013 literature review on acne and the role of medical nutrition therapy, acne may be exacerbated by eating high amounts of dairy products and foods high in glycemic load. Various changes in binding proteins, receptors, and hormones can simultaneously increase insulin (a hormone released in your body to lower blood glucose) production and thereby increase cellular growth and sebum (oil) production that may promote acne development.
Examples of foods high in glycemic load include highly processed carbohydrates (think pretzels, white bread, snack chips, breakfast cereals etc), sugar sweetened beverages (think soda, sports drinks, iced tea and lemonade), dessert foods (think cakes, pies, cookies etc), and processed fruit products (think fruit leathers, dried fruit etc). All of these types of foods cause spikes in insulin which research suggests will increase acne production. It is important to remember that strict avoidance of these foods is not necessarily the answer to solving your acne- some healthy foods like certain fruits and vegetables have a higher glycemic load than other junk food. That doesn’t mean you should avoid eating fruits and vegetables! All glycemic load and glycemic index means is how much it affects your blood glucose- the higher the glycemic load or index, the more it will affect your blood glucose and insulin levels.
Despite the current findings, there is no direct linkage between diet and acne. Current research only suggests that diet may influence acne production. However, eating a healthy diet always has benefits beyond just caring for your skin. Like I said in a previous post, your body will respond to what you put in it. If you take care of your body, your body will reflect your care. If you neglect and abuse your body, then you will reap what you sow (for lack of better phrasing).
If you have been having trouble with your acne and you are not responding well to medication, it may be worth it to consult a dietitian to review your diet and see if removing or adding certain foods to your diet could clear up your skin. Who knows? Perhaps food is the only medicine you need!
1. List of Low and High Glycemic Foods LINK HERE
2. The AAD page on Acne LINK HERE
3. AND Paper on Acne: The Role of Medical Nutrition Therapy
[you can read this through SJSU library!!] LINK HERE
Image Sources (from top to bottom)
1. Women with acne LINK
2. Acne diagram LINK
3. Low Glycemic vs High Glycemic Foods LINK