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For more than 50 years many dermatologists have been denying the link between diet and acne. They insist on prescribing gut-destroying antibiotics, pharmaceuticals, and birth control pills with real long-term adverse side effects. They laugh at the notion that diet has anything to do with this teenage nightmare.
But a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reveals increasing evidence of the connection between what you eat and how healthy your skin is. Researchers have concluded that diet and acne are in fact connected, and the biggest culprits are a high glycemic load diet and dairy products. Nutrition is finally being recognized as an important player in acne treatment.
But some bad science in the 1960s claimed that diet had no effect on the development of acne. Ever since then dermatologists have been relying on two discredited studies to continue their emphasis on drug therapies and to ignore dietary influences.
In a 1969 study, researchers fed 65 teens and young adults either a chocolate bar or a placebo bar (with no chocolate liquids) for one month. They concluded that there was no difference between the two groups.[i] Only later did other scientists point out that the placebo, which was intended to be a healthy control, actually was loaded with artificial trans fats.
Then, in a 1971 study, 27 medical students with acne ate consumed chocolate, peanuts, milk or cola for just one week. The researcher concluded there were no effects on skin condition from eating the food.[ii] The study is now recognized as poorly designed and too small to have any scientific relevance.
Nevertheless, the two studies have been cited repeatedly as gospel not only for the proposition that chocolate has no effect on acne, but that food in general has no effect.
Recently some integrative dermatologists and dietitians have been revisiting the link between diet and acne, and the role nutrition can play in treatment.
Researchers from New York University's Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health, completed a literature review to evaluate evidence for the diet-acne connection.
They concluded that a high glycemic index/glycemic load diet and frequent dairy consumption are the leading factors in establishing the link between diet and acne.
Although the research from studies over the last 10 years did not demonstrate that diet causes acne, the researchers found that it may influence or aggravate it. They urged the medical community to adopt diet therapy as an adjunct treatment for acne. They also urged doctors to consider the possibility of dietary counseling in their treatment plans.
For more information on the link between diet and acne, read The Clear Skin Diet: How to Defeat Acne and Enjoy Healthy Skin.
[i] Fulton JE, Jr., Plewig G, Kligman AM. Effect of Chocolate on Acne Vulgaris. JAMA. 1969;210(11):2071-2074. https://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=350738
[ii] Anderson, Foods as the cause of acne. Am Fam Physician 1971, 3(3): 102-3.