Acne and diet

Posted on January 3rd, by staff in Diet, Skincare. No Comments

Acne and diet

Cameron DiazCameron Diaz recently opened up about her struggle with adult acne in her new health-focused book, The Body Book. The 41-year-old actress says it wasn’t until she began eating healthier throughout her thirties, ditching her junkfood addiction, that her pimples started to clear up. The connection between acne and diet has been long debated but a new study is beefing up the case for food. Nutritionist Allison Tannis reports.  

Sadly, acne is not just a problem we encounter during our high school years. In fact, acne is more prominent in adults than you may have thought. According to a study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, over 70% of participants over 20 years of age reported having acne. And, the British Journal of Dermatology reported that the average age of patients in acne clinics has increased from twenty years of age, to twenty-six from 1984 to 1994.

Recent research suggests acne may be caused by a poor diet. A very large study called the Nurses Health Study II evaluated the diets and related diseases of close to fifty thousand women. Many things were evaluated in the data from this study. One of the conclusions was that acne is associated with milk consumption. Women who suffered from severe acne were more likely to consume more milk. But, for many people, milk and milk products are their main dietary source of calcium, which is needed for bone health. Should we be avoiding milk in our diets, or is there more to this diet-acne interaction?

Researchers have discovered mounting evidence that there is a link between elevated levels of three proteins in the body during puberty (insulin, insulin-like growth factor and growth hormone) and the development of acne. Insulin and insulin-like growth factor cause sebaceous cells to produce oil and cause skin cells to multiply. More oil and skin cells can increase the risk of developing acne.

Interestingly, insulin and insulin-like growth factor also increase in the body when you eat foods with a high glycemic index (cause a drastic increase in blood sugar levels).

With research suggesting that high glycemic foods may be linked to acne, it’s worth reconsidering what you’re putting in your mouth. Foods with a high glycemic index are foods that quickly cause your blood sugar to rise. High glycemic index foods include processed foods, foods low in fiber, sugary treats, white bread and sweet drinks. Bite back against acne by eating healthy foods that are lower on the glycemic index.

Eat Less:

Processed foods (cereals, crackers, cookies, snack bars)

Baked goods (cookies, cinnamon rolls, brownies)

Sugary drinks (soda pop, juice, Gatorade, hot chocolate, specialty coffees, chocolate milk)

Sugar (honey, molasses, corn syrup)

White starches (white bread, rice, pasta)

Specific fruits (such as bananas, grapes, melons)

Specific vegetables (such as corn, carrots, beets)

Eat More:

Whole grains (pumpernickel, stone ground whole wheat bread)

Legumes (chickpeas, lentils)


Pitted and citrus fruits





To get to the root cause of your acne, work with both a dermatologist and a nutritionist to develop a comprehensive evidence-based management plan.


About the Expert Allison Tannis, BSc MSc RHN wrote Feed Your Skin, Starve Your Wrinkles. She is a nutritional scientist and registered holistic nutritionist based in Halifax, NS.


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