Milk and sugary foods DO increase the risk of acne, say researchers who looked at 50 years of research
Review of 50 years of clinical studies indicates there IS a link between diet and acne after allHigh GI diets are one culprit, as they cause peaks in blood sugar and hormonal fluctuationsSkimmed milk in particular may also trigger outbreaks due to hormones used in processing it, say experts

Rachel Reilly


04:11 GMT, 20 February 2013



08:59 GMT, 20 February 2013

It's been a subject of debate for decades, but it seems diet really does have an impact on a person's complexion.

A landmark overview of research carried out over the past 50 years has found that eating foods with a high glycaemic index (GI) and drinking milk not only aggravated acne but in some cases triggered it, too.

Millions of teenagers – and increasingly adults – are affected by the often painful skin condition which causes the skin to develop unsightly spots on the face, neck, chest and back.

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Acne is caused by a combination of the skin producing too much sebum and a build-up of dead skin cells which clogs the pores and leads to a localised infection or spot.

It is thought that excess sebum production is caused by hormonal fluctuations, which explains why around 80 per cent of teenagers experience bouts of acne throughout adolescence.

While there is no danger from the spots themselves, severe acne can scar as well as lead to anxiety, low self-esteem and depression.

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Since the late 19th century, research has linked diet to acne, with chocolate, sugar and fat singled out as the main culprits.

But studies carried out from the 1960s onwards have disassociated diet from the development of the condition.

Dr Jennifer Burris from the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, New York University, said: 'This change (in attitude) occurred largely because of the two important studies that are repeatedly cited in the literature and popular culture as evidence to refute the association between diet and acne.

'More recently, dermatologists and
registered dieticians have revisited the diet-acne relationship and
become increasingly interested in the role of medical nutritional
therapy in acne treatment.'

Eating high GI foods – foods that are absorbed into the bloodstream quickly – is thought to have a direct effect on the severity of acne because of the hormonal fluctuations that are triggered.


Only carbohydrates have a GI rating.

Because low GI foods take longer for the body to break down they help you feel fuller for longer too.

High GI foods include sugary fizzy drinks, cakes, pastries, chocolate, white bread and potatoes.

Low GI foods include fruit and vegetables, wholegrain options such as brown pasta, basmati rice, cous cous and pulses.

Not overcooking your pasta and vegetables helps lower the GI.

High GI foods cause a spike in hormone levels including insulin which is thought to instigate sebum production.

An 2007 Australian study showed that
young males who were put on a strict low GI diet noticed a significant
improvement in the severity of their acne.

Milk is thought to affect acne because of the hormones it contains. A 2007 study carried out by Harvard
School of Public Health found that there was a clear link between those who drank milk regularly and suffered with acne.

Interestingly, those who drank skimmed milk suffered with the worst breakouts, with a 44 per cent increase in the likelihood of developing blemishes. It is thought that processing the milk increases the levels of hormones in the drink.

The authors of the latest overview – published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics – say that
dermatologists and dieticians should work together to design and conduct
quality research to help the millions of acne sufferers.

'This research is necessary to fully understand the underlying
mechanisms linking diet and acne,' added Dr

'The medical community should not dismiss the possibility of
diet therapy as an adjunct treatment for acne. At this time, the best
approach is to address each acne patient individually, carefully
considering the possibility of dietary counselling.'