Acne is a common skin condition that affects nearly 10% of the world’s population.
Many factors contribute to the development of acne, including sebum and keratin production, acne-causing bacteria, hormones, blocked pores and inflammation.
The link between diet and acne has been controversial, but recent research shows that diet can play a significant role in acne development.
Today’s article will review foods that can cause acne and how quality foods is important to your health.
1. Fast Food
Acne is strongly associated with eating a Western-style diet rich in calories, fat and refined carbohydrates.
Fast food items, such as burgers, nuggets, hot dogs, french fries, sodas and milkshakes, are mainstays of a typical Western diet and may increase acne risk.
One study of over 5,000 Chinese teenagers and young adults found that high-fat diets were associated with a 43% increased risk of developing acne. Regularly eating fast food increased the risk by 17%.
A separate study of 2,300 Turkish men found that frequently eating burgers or sausages was linked to a 24% increased risk of developing acne.
It is unclear why eating fast food may increase the risk of developing acne, but some researchers propose that it may affect gene expression and alter hormone levels in a way that promotes acne development.
However, it is important to note that most of the research on fast food and acne has used self-reported data. This type of research only shows patterns of dietary habits and acne risk and does not prove that fast food causes acne. Thus, more research is needed.
Chocolate has been a suspected acne trigger since the 1920s, but so far, no consensus has been reached.
Several informal surveys have linked eating chocolate with an increased risk of developing acne, but this is not enough to prove that chocolate causes acne.
A more recent study found that acne-prone males who consumed 25 grams of 99% dark chocolate daily had an increased number of acne lesions after just two weeks.
Another study found that males who were given capsules of 100% cocoa powder daily had significantly more acne lesions after one week compared to those given a placebo.
Exactly why chocolate might increase acne is unclear, although one study found that eating chocolate increased the reactivity of the immune system to acne-causing bacteria, which may help explain these findings.
While recent research supports a link between chocolate consumption and acne, it remains unclear whether chocolate actually causes acne.
3. Foods You’re Sensitive To
It has been proposed that acne is, at its root, an inflammatory disease.
This is supported by the fact that anti-inflammatory drugs, like corticosteroids, are effective treatments for severe acne and that people with acne have elevated levels of inflammatory molecules in their blood.
One way that food may contribute to inflammation is through food sensitivities, also known as delayed hypersensitivity reactions.
Food sensitivities occur when your immune system mistakenly identifies food as a threat and launches an immune attack against it.
This results in high levels of pro-inflammatory molecules circulating throughout the body, which may aggravate acne.
Since there are countless foods that your immune system could react to, the best way to figure out your unique triggers is by completing an elimination diet under the supervision of a registered dietitian or nutrition specialist.
Elimination diets work by temporarily restricting the number of foods in your diet in order to eliminate triggers and achieve symptom relief, then systematically adding foods back while tracking your symptoms and looking for patterns.
Food sensitivity testing, such as Mediator Release Testing (MRT), can help determine which foods lead to immune-related inflammation and provide a clearer starting point for your elimination diet.
While there appears to be a link between inflammation and acne, no studies have directly investigated the specific role of food sensitivities in its development.
This remains a promising area of research to help better understand how food, the immune system and inflammation affect acne development.
- WHAT TO EAT INSTEAD
- Omega-3 fatty acids: Omega-3s are anti-inflammatory, and regular consumption has been linked to a reduced risk of developing acne.
- Probiotics: Probiotics promote a healthy gut and balanced microbiome, which is linked to reduced inflammation and a lower risk of acne development.
- Green tea: Green tea contains polyphenols that are associated with reduced inflammation and lowered sebum production. Green tea extracts have been found to reduce acne severity when applied to the skin.