This is a question I frequently hear from patients and their families. Frequently, parents tell their children to avoid greasy foods and chocolate. If fact when acne patients were surveyed, one out of three patients felt their diet caused them to break out. The answer is unfortunately not very simple. Two recent studies implicated high glycemic (sugar) load diets and milk as contributors to acne. When you eat sweet foods, insulin levels increase. Insulin can stimulate production of insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1), a chemical that has been shown to promote acne. In women ages 20 to 25 years, blood levels of IGF-1 were increased in those with acne. It’s not that simple though, as IGF-1 is part of a very complex system in our body that regulates hormonal production. The answers are still not known.
Here are some key points to keep in mind –
1. There is a genetic component to acne. Regardless of what we do, some people will have a more severe and extensive disease which requires more aggressive treatment.
2. Acne is caused by many different factors besides hormonal changes. Focusing on just one issue frequently won’t get acne under good control.
3. If you feel that certain foods make you break out and you’ve tested this several times, then avoid them until more information is available.
4. Eat a well balanced diet with lots of fruit and vegetables.
The jury is still out and we have a long way to go before we can recommend diet changes in people with acne. Be aware that a few small studies frequently don’t tell the whole story.