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Acne linked to high-sugar, high-dairy diet

Teresa Tanoos's picture
Does eating a sugary diet with a lot of dairy cause acne?

A new study reports that if you’re a young adult with moderate to severe acne, you may want to cut back on eating sugary foods and dairy products.

The study’s findings, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, showed that young adults with acne reported eating foods that had a higher glycemic index, including foods and drinks containing more sugar and dairy than their counterparts without acne.

Although the results of the study still need to be confirmed by trials using controls to account for other factors that may be contributing to acne, the initial results indicate that it may be prudent for dermatologists to recommend to acne patients that, in addition to prescribed acne treatments, they may want to reduce their consumption of sugar and dairy foods.

One of the researchers involved in the study suggested that doctors should assess each acne patient as an individual, asking them questions about their usual diet and daily food intake.

The researcher, Jennifer Burns from New York University, told Reuters Health that it’s important for dermatologists and dieticians to work together in a collaborative effort to provide acne patients with “the ultimate patient care.”

She said that, if appropriate, it would be acceptable to suggest that the patient try a low-sugar diet that also removes dairy products in order to see if that helps improve their acne.

The study involved 248 young adults aged 18 to 25 who had various stages of acne. The participants were asked to rate the severity of their acne. They were also asked to report the kinds of foods they ate each day, and whether they thought such foods could be contributing to their acne.

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Among the participants, those who reported having moderate to severe acne also reported consuming foods that had a higher glycemic index (GI), which is a measure of how quickly blood sugar levels rise after eating a particular type of food.

On average, such participants had a GI of 51.8, compared with 49.6 for those who reported having mild acne. The mean GI of those without acne was 48.9.

The patients who had severe acne with a higher GI also reported a higher sugar intake, consuming an average of 199 g per day, compared with an approximate 56.4 g per day for those without acne.

They also drank more milk and consumed more saturated and trans fats. In addition, the young adults with severe acne reported eating less fish than those without acne.

As for fruit and vegetable consumption, the findings showed no differences between participants with acne and those without.

Meanwhile, Burris admits that more research is needed because the study was not entirely clear as to whether diet can actually cause or otherwise affect the severity of acne.

Although she says that the number of research studies on diet and acne have risen during the last decade, she pointed out that many issues still exist in this latest study, which makes it hard to pinpoint specific diet guidelines for patients with acne.

SOURCE: Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Relationships of Self-Reported Dietary Factors and Perceived Acne Severity in a Cohort of New York Young Adults,
Jennifer Burris, MS, RD, CSSD, et al. Published January 13, 2014.