What factors about diet may make acne worse?
What do we know so far? Acne is most probably just part & parcel of getting older and part of the transition from childhood to adulthood (when the body is flooded with hormones). It’s also largely genetic and if your parents or other family members have had acne then you too are likely to have acne (to some degree). Aside from that, we don’t ‘know’ too much else.
The observation that diets lower in glycaemic load or dairy products has a beneficial effect on the prevalence of acne does not mean a bad diet *causes* acne, as the lack of acne may very well be the result of other lifestyle factors e.g. sunlight, low stress levels, other foods eaten or not eaten perhaps. I don’t know. Lastly, where acne and diet is concerned it’s seems possible that dietary factors – most probably, but not necessarily, high intakes of high glycaemic carbohydrates and dairy – lead to a local environment that can induce acne, or exacerbate symptoms in someone who is susceptible to acne.
Acne and diet
So, some effective food swaps to lower the glycaemic load of the diet that may help reduce acne and/or promote health in other ways, which may indirectly lead to less acne:
Shop-bought cereal; packet sweets, milk chocolate, table sugar, baked goods & pastries, bread, sugar-containing beverages, flour
Potato, rice (brown, wild, white), beans, peas, berries, nuts, grain (buckwheat, bulgar, quinoa), fruit
(*acne may improve if weight loss occurs, which would be likely given the food swaps above. Again, this isn’t to say only overweight people get acne*)
And, some effective food swaps to remove (or certainly lower) dairy consumption:
Switch: Cow’s milk for soy, almond or rice milk; natural yoghurt for greek yoghurt (still might not be sufficient) or soya yoghurt; whey protein for pea, soy, or rice protein; cheese for soya cheese
The potential link between acne and diet: a low-glycaemic load diet and/or a diet low in dairy will reduce free IGF-1 activity, which will likely lead to a reduction in follicular growth, an increase in IGFBP-1/3, and a reduction in androgens. These changes would seem beneficial in reducing the likelihood of acne. In addition, Cow’s milk also contains active IGF-1 and IGF-2, so limiting it’s consumption will reduce levels directly.
Take home: if you suffer from acne, then it may be worth trialing a low/no dairy, low GI diet for 4-6 weeks, and see if symptoms improve. This may not work, and medical treatment may be a better option. However, where possible, lifestyle and dietary modification is always a reasonable option, and one that may pay dividends.