Link Between Diet and Acne

Acne was commonly associated with an unhealthy diet just several decades ago. In particular, greasy foods, such as French fries and chocolate were thought to fund acne, and this theory was made popular by the fact that teens tend to eat junk food a lot, and it is teens that tend to have acne.

A 2007 report indicated that the link between diet and acne was very weak and dietary restrictions or limits were not crucial. However, a few studies continued to explore the possible association and revived the idea that diet does influence acne.

And in 2013, evolving evidence prompted dermatologists to reexamine the possibility that certain foods can worsen or trigger acne.

It is estimated that nearly 17 million people in the United States, suffer from adult acne, and there is simply too much disagreement surrounding whether certain foods cause acne.

Diet and Adult Acne

It is no surprise that food could play a role in acne; however, there still isn’t much convincing evidence in this aspect.

However, some group of experts believed that the following are top foods that cause acne:

  • Sweets, sodas and other sugary foods
  • Soy and soy milk
  • Milk, cheese, and other dairy products
  • White foods like bread, rice.
  • Drinks with a lot of caffeine
  • coffee, energy drinks
  • Chocolate
  • High FODMAP foods
  • Onions, and
  • wheat

On the other hand, Foods for Anti-Acne Diet Include:

  • Green tea
  • Salmon and fatty fish
  • Organ meats
  • Low-fat cuts of meats
  • Leafy, green vegetables
  • Starchy and root vegetables like sweet potatoes, carrots,
  • Brown rice
  • Eggs, especially omega-3 enriched eggs

Acne and the Dairy Link

One of the primary foods blamed for acne condition is a dairy product like milk.  Milk products are known to contain many hormones and bio-active molecules secreted by the cow, and no matter how organic milk may be, cows that are fed organic grass and no hormones or antibiotics still contains hormones and bioactive molecules in their milk.

Clinical trials have led people to believe that milk indeed can lead to acne flare-ups. In some parts of the world, milk was found to contain iodine as well, and people who drank such milk were tested to have acneiform eruptions.

High-Glycemic Index Foods

Carbohydrates are given a glycemic-index (GI) rating based on how quickly they raise blood sugar levels. The higher the ranking, the quicker blood sugar levels pitch.

Blood sugar levels have the ability to affect hormone production, and foods that have a high GI rating can disrupt hormonal balance. Such foods include white bread, white potatoes, chips, and sugary foods. On the other hand, foods with a low GI rating include multi-grain bread, peanuts, vegetables, and beans.

Eating a diet that contains low-glycemic foods might help to decrease acne, as this type of diet lowers insulin-like-growth factor IGF-1, which has previously been shown to be a factor in acne outbreak.

In 2008, a study found that in some cultures, where people naturally consumed a low-glycemic diet like fish, there was a lower prevalence of acne, and this observation led scientists to further explore the connection between diet and acne.


The role of diet in triggering or worsening acne is still not established, but a report on acne indicated that more research is needed before drawing any conclusions. Nonetheless, if you have acne, it might help to pay attention to the foods you regularly eat, because, if making some changes to your diet can reduce your acne, then, it is worth considering.

There are some factors that may trigger acne that you can’t control, such as genetics and hormonal changes, but as for your diet, you can discuss with a nutritionist or dietician to create an overall plan that incorporates your risk factors.

You can choose low-glycemic foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains instead of sugary drinks and foods made with white flour, and white potatoes. While some evidence points to a connection, between milk and acne, you should also remember that milk is an important source of calcium that kids and teens still need.


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