Chocolates, fatty foods, refined sugars and starches have all been wrongfully accused for being acne-causing agents. Although there is still a lot of controversy, it is now generally believed that the diet plays a much smaller part in the aggravation of this common skin disease than was previously believed.
Hormonal changes, including the changes that occur at the onset of puberty, are mostly responsible. The hormone, testosterone, enlarges and influences the sebaceous gland in such a way that the skin flares up due to an overproduction of oil and the accumulation of bacteria. This reaction is exacerbated by stress, stages of the menstrual cycle and the composition of the affected tissues in the acne sufferer.
So what are the nutrition myths associated with acne? And are there any diet solutions?
There is no evidence whatsoever that chocolate causes acne. Studies conducted by researchers from the US University of Pennsylvania and the US Naval Academy confirmed this by showing that the ingestion of large amounts of chocolate didn’t have an effect on acne.
Certain studies have, however, linked substances in chocolate to rosacea, or adult type acne. But the exact causes of this skin problem remain uncertain.
No research has proven that fatty foods are linked to acne. But if you find that these foods aggravate your acne problem, it might be a good idea to cut them out of your diet.
A recent study, conducted by the US Colorado State University, indicated that refined carbohydrates and highly processed foods, like white bread, pizza, cake and pastries, cause a series of reactions in the body that increases the production of acne-causing bacteria.
The researchers found that these foods cause the body to produce high levels of insulin, which in turn leads to an excess of the male hormones responsible for acne in the body. However, these results need to be verified.
Fruit and veggies
A balanced diet, rich in fruit and veggies, is recommended to acne sufferers, as this will promote the general well-being of the individual. It is also important to note that the body’s natural antioxidant supply is depleted as it fights against the bacteria associated with acne. These stores need to be replenished by including fresh fruit and vegetables in the diet on a daily basis.
Vitamin A is an important nutrient in the treatment of acne. This vitamin actually reduces the production of sebum, the fatty substance found in the body’s pores, that causes the flare-ups.
But too much vitamin A can be toxic to the body. To prevent the absorption of excessive amounts of vitamin A, the acne sufferer should also include food sources rich in vitamin E. This nutrient helps to regulate the vitamin A levels in the body.
Important food sources of vitamin A include dairy products, green, yellow and orange vegetables and deep yellow and orange fruit. These should be combined with vitamin E rich foods, like poultry, seafood, seeds and nuts, on a daily basis.
What to do
Diet changes alone aren’t a solution for acne, but consuming a variety of foods in moderate amounts is always a good idea. And, in combination with the appropriate therapy, this might even signal the end of acne problems.
Revision date: July 6, 2011
Last revised: by Janet A. Staessen, MD, PhD