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Which foods might cause acne and what to add to your daily menu instead

Among numerous other factors, certain foods can cause acne in the majority of people who are prone to it. This skin condition can also be caused by the production of sebum and keratin, as well as because of bacteria, hormones, clogged pores and inflammation. The link between diet and acne has been controversial. However, recent research has shown that the consumption of specific foods may play a significant role. Read on to learn more and protect yourself by changing your diet .

How some foods could cause acne

what unhealthy foods cause acne in young people

This article goes over 5 foods that can cause acne and explains why the quality of your diet is important. Namely, acne is a skin problem that can cause various types of bumps to form on the surface of the skin. These bumps can form anywhere on the body, but are most common on the face, neck, back, and shoulders. Acne is often triggered by hormonal changes in the body, so it occurs most often in children and teenagers who have grown up during puberty.

risk factors for skin diseases in teenagers

One thing that can affect your skin is also diet. Certain foods raise blood sugar faster than others. When blood sugar levels rise quickly , this causes the body to release insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). This hormone controls the effects of growth. Excess IGF-1 in the blood can cause the sebaceous glands to produce more sebum, which increases the risk of acne and inflammation. So here are some of the main culprits of this skin condition when it comes to food.

Refined grains and sugar

refined grains and sugar as risky foods acne risk

People with acne tend to consume more refined carbohydrates. Foods rich in refined carbohydrates include bread, crackers, cereals or desserts made from white flour. They also include pasta made from white flour, white rice and rice noodles, sodas and other beverages with sweeteners or added sugars such as cane sugar, maple syrup, honey or agave syrup. Such increased risk can be explained by the effects of refined carbohydrates on blood sugar and insulin levels. Refined carbohydrates are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, which causes blood sugar levels to rise rapidly. When blood glucose rises, insulin levels also rise to move blood glucose out of the bloodstream and into the cells. However, high insulin levels are not good for people with acne.

breakfast cereals and fast foods as part of an unhealthy diet


As mentioned above, insulin makes growth hormones more active and increases insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). This contributes to the development of acne by making skin cells grow faster and boosting sebum production. On the other hand, diets and foods with a low glycemic index , which do not dramatically increase blood sugar or insulin levels, are associated with reduced severity of skin disease. While research on this topic is promising, more is needed to better understand how refined carbohydrates contribute to acne.

How dairy products as a food could cause acne

western diet and breakfast with dairy products linked to skin problems

Many studies have found a link between dairy products and the severity of acne in teens. Two of them also found that young adults who regularly consumed milk or ice cream were four times more likely to suffer from acne. However, the studies conducted so far have not been of high quality. In addition, researchers so far have focused mainly on teenagers and young adults. They have only been able to demonstrate a correlation between milk and acne, and not a cause-and-effect relationship. It is therefore not yet clear how milk may contribute to the formation of acne, but there are several proposed theories.

daily consumption of milk associated with skin health risks


Milk may increase insulin levels, independent of its effects on blood sugar, which may exacerbate the severity of acne. Cow’s milk also contains amino acids that stimulate the liver to produce more IGF-1, which has been linked to the development of acne. Although there is speculation as to why drinking milk as a food might exacerbate acne, it is unclear whether dairy products play a direct role. Further research is needed to determine if there is a specific amount or type of dairy products that may exacerbate acne.

Frequent consumption of fast food as a possible cause.

consume chips and sweets in moderation

Acne is strongly associated with 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 the risk for this skin condition. Some researchers suggest that fast foods may affect gene expression and alter hormone levels to promote the development of acne. However, it is important to note that most research on this is based on self-reported data. This type of research only shows patterns of dietary habits and does not prove that such foods cause acne. Therefore, more research is needed in this case as well.

Diet rich in omega-6 fatty acids

oil derived from corn rich in omega 6 fatty acids unhealthy effect

Diets that contain large amounts of omega-6 fatty acids, such as the typical Western diet, have been associated with increased levels of inflammation and acne. This may be because Western diets contain large amounts of corn and soybean oil, which are rich in omega-6 fatty acids. Yet there are few foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish and walnuts. This imbalance of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids puts the body in an inflammatory state that can worsen the severity of acne. Conversely, omega-3 fatty acid supplementation can reduce inflammation. Accordingly, it has been found to reduce the severity of the skin condition. Although the links between omega-6 fatty acids and acne are promising, there are no randomized controlled trials on this topic, and more research is needed.

Here’s why chocolate and foods like it could cause acne

how chocolate, a popular food, can cause acne at a young age

Chocolate has also been a suspected trigger of acne since the 1920s, but no consensus has yet been reached. Several informal surveys have linked chocolate consumption to an increased risk of developing the skin problem. However, this is not enough to prove that chocolate causes acne. A recent study found that acne-prone men who consumed 25 grams of 99% dark chocolate daily had an increased number of lesions after only two weeks. Exactly why chocolate, as a popular food, might cause acne is unclear. Researchers found that eating chocolate increased the reactivity of the immune system to causative bacteria. This could explain such results. While recent research supports a link between chocolate consumption and acne, it remains unclear whether chocolate actually causes acne.

Here’s how certain foods can counteract acne

omega 3 fatty acids from avocado healthy for facial skin

While the foods discussed above may contribute to the development of acne, there are other foods and nutrients that help keep skin clean. Such would be omega-3 fatty acids, which are anti-inflammatory. Probiotics also promote a healthy gut and balanced microbiome, which in turn is linked to reduced inflammation and acne in the body. Furthermore, green tea contains polyphenols that cause reduced sebum production. Green tea extracts have been found to reduce the severity of acne when applied to the skin. Turmeric also contains the anti-inflammatory polyphenol curcumin, which can help regulate blood sugar, improve insulin sensitivity and inhibit the growth of acne-causing bacteria.

flaxseed rich in healthy nutrients and omega 3 fatty acids

Vitamins A, D, E and zinc are nutrients that play a crucial role in the health of the skin and the immune system. In addition, foods enriched with them can help prevent acne. In this regard, paleo diets are rich in lean meats, fruits, vegetables and nuts and low in grains, dairy products and legumes. They have been associated with lower blood sugar and insulin levels. A Mediterranean diet is also recommended for acne because it is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, fish and olive oil. Mediterranean diets have accordingly also been associated with reduced acne severity.