It’s a fact that approximately 1 in 10 of the words population suffers from some form of acne. It can be caused by a number of factors: hormonal fluctuations, inflammation, bacteria, clogged pores and believe it or not, the foods that we eat.
You Are What You Eat – Foods That Can Cause Acne Breakouts
The link between acne breakouts and our diet has been a controversial subject but scientific research (1) has determined a definite link between the foods that we eat and acne breakouts.
This article looks at 7 particular food stuffs that have been shown to aggravate acne breakouts and also demonstrates just how important the role that diet plays when you are trying to get clearer skin.
1.Refined Sugars And Grains
It’s been recognised that people who suffer with acne tend to on average consume more refined carbohydrates than those with no acne.
Refined carbohydrates include foods like, white bread, crackers, cereals, white pasta, rice and noodles.
Natural sweeteners such as honey, agave, cane sugars and maple, along with sodas and sugar rich drinks are also root causes of those unsightly pimples and spots.
A clinical study (2) discovered that those who eat foods high in add sugars had a 30% higher risk of developing acne.
Those who regularly eat cakes and pastries for instance were some 20% more at risk.
This increased risk is due to the way that refined sugars react with our blood sugar and insulin levels.
When absorbed into the bloodstream they cause our blood sugar levels to rise, as a direct result our insulin levels also increase to try and remove the sugars from our blood, pushing them into our cells.
The issue is that elevated insulin levels are not good for anybody who has acne. Insulin increases the activity of androgen hormones and directly increases the hormone IGF-1 ( Insulin like growth factor 1). (3)
This aggravates acne breakouts by effectively boosting skin activity, encouraging excess sebum oil to be produced. This can collect in and get trapped in the pores alongside dead skin cells and can often become inflamed and infected.
Foods that are low glycemic (4) ( in other words, those that do not increase blood sugar levels) have been linked to a reduction in acne symptoms.
Foods high in refined carbohydrates will boost blood sugar levels, raise insulin production and could cause acne breakouts
2. Dairy Products
Numerous studies have determined a direct link between milk based products and severe acne breakouts in teenagers (5). They found that younger adults who eat milk or ice cream on a regular basis were more likely to develop acne (6)
The focus so far on these studies has not yet looked at the actual cause and effect of dairy products, just that one does cause the other.
The actual way that milk and associated foods can cause acne is not yet full understood, but there are some possible explanations.
Milk has been shown to increase insulin production which can worsen acne breakouts (7). Cows milk also contains amino acids that stimulate production of IGF-1 by the liver – this hormone has also been linked to the appearance of acne.
The actual reason why it occurs is subject to continued research, but it is recognised that dairy products can make acne worse
3. Fast Foods
A diet high in calories, fat and refined carbohydrates is strongly associated with acne breakouts. Fast foods including fried chicken, burgers, hot dogs, fries as well as milkshakes and sodas may well increase the risk of acne.
In China a study (8) involving 5000 teenagers saw that a diet that included mainly fast food increased the risk of developing acne by up to 43%.
A similar study held in Turkey saw that eating burgers and sausages regularly increased the risk of an acne breakout by 24%.
The reason for this is not yet clear, but researchers (9) believe that a diet packed with fast foods alters gene expression and changes our hormone levels in such a way that acne is made worse.
Eating fast food regularly has been linked with increased acne breakouts, it does need further research, but it’s pretty apparent that anybody who lives on takeaway food is more at risk of having a severe breakout.
4. Omega-6 Fat Rich Foods
Diets that are high in Omega-6 fatty acids are linked to severe acne breakouts (10) this is particularly prevalent in those who eat a western type diet.
This could be because these types of diets usually contain large amounts of corn and soy oils.
On the flip side, Omega-3 rich foods like fish and certain nuts can redress the balance.
An excess of these fatty acids can cause an imbalance that cause an inflammatory state in the body which is linked to acne breakouts.
Supplementing with Omega-3 fatty acids has also been used to reduce inflammation so its use could have an acne suppressing effect. (11)
Diets that are high in fatty acids such as Omega-6 and those low in Omega-3 can cause inflammation, can possibly make acne worse
We are sorry to say, but chocolate has been linked to acne for many decades, but in truth, no real consensus has been reached. (12)
There have been number of studies looking into this fact, and some surveys have linked eating chocolate with increased acne breakouts.
One study looked a group of adults who eat 25 grams of 99% pure dark chocolate daily for 2 weeks saw a noticeable increase in acne lesions.
These findings were echoed in another double blind study where a group of adults were given an unspecified amount of 100% cocoa powder daily. They too reported an increase in acne lesions when compared to a placebo group (13).
It’s not known just why chocolate could make acne worse, but one study did show that eating chocolate caused a change in the response of the immune system to the acne causing bacteria.
Research shows a defined link between eating chocolate and the development of acne, but the actual reasons why is still undetermined.
6. Whey Protein Powder
Popular with athletes and bodybuilders. This is sourced from milk, and is a powerful source of certain amino acids including leucine and glutamine. (14)
They help the skin cells to grow more quickly and divide faster.
This can stimulate the production of higher levels of insulin which has been directly linked to increased acne breakouts
There have been a number of studies carried out on male athletes that showed a direct link between whey protein consumption and increase acne breakouts.
Similar studies have shown comparable results (15) (16)
There is limited data that suggest that taking Whey Protein Powder may cause an increase in acne breakouts, but more in-depth research is needed
Foods That Cause Reactions/Allergies
Many of us have allergies to certain foods and those that do not ‘agree’ with us for one reason or another.
Eating these can cause our body to become inflamed in response to these triggers.
With acne being an inflammatory condition, it is thought that anti inflammatory drugs such as corticosteroids can be an effective treatment for acne.
Foods sensitivity occurs when our body reacts against a foodstuff after mistaking it for a threat and launches an immunity attack against it.
This causes high levels of pro-inflammatory molecules to circulate in our blood stream, which can aggravate acne and trigger breakouts
It’s worth taking the effort to try an identify any foods that could cause any reactions or sensitivity.
Try stopping any foods that you might think are causing your problems (17) and then slowly add them back into your diet one at a time to see what and if any reactions occur.
A good idea is to keep a food log, this will give you the chance to highlight any foods or food groups that can cause you problems and make your acne worse.
Foods that cause any sensitivity or reactions can increase the bodies inflammatory responses which can lead to acne breakouts.