Do you remember the days when you were a teenager and you (or some of your friends) had problems with acne? It’s not pleasant to have these ugly whiteheads or blackheads all over your face. (85% of teenagers deal with acne at some point). You may also remember them using all sorts of creams and potions to get rid of these unsightly pimples to no avail. Unfortunately for some, this problem continues into adulthood.
What causes these outbreaks anyway? It seems that certain bacteria on our skin produce irritating fatty acids (from fats in our skin) causing an inflammatory reaction that results in those unsightly pimples. (Don’t be concerned if you didn’t follow that.) We have oil glands (sebaceous glands) where hair grows, which produce a natural cream (called sebum) just for our hair and skin. That sounds wonderful!… and it is… it keeps our hair soft, it prevents water loss from our body and keeps water from getting inside our body. It also protects us from infection. Wow!
They used to tell us that chocolate and greasy pizzas were the problem. There was also the idea that acne is genetic but studies of twins have found that environmental factors – such as diet – may be involved. You have probably noticed that eating a low fat diet has made your skin and hair less oily. Hmmm…
A scientific review co-authored by two doctors from PCRM (Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine) found that the typical Western diet (especially dairy products) may be associated with acne. They reviewed 21 observational studies and 6 clinical trials that looked at the relationship between diet and acne. They discovered that dairy products and foods such as sugar and white bread were the foods clearly linked to acne in these studies. Whether it was whole milk or skim milk made no difference and some authors said it was the hormones in milk and not the fat that made the difference.
To know if diet were the reason for acne we would need to see the absence of the disease in populations where the diet is considerably different from ours. But… those studies are limited. However, surveys in Kenya and Zambia show less acne in these populations than among their counterparts in the United States. Also, when these people move from their villages to the cities and adopt a higher fat diet, acne becomes a problem. Now that’s interesting.
So… are the greasy pizzas and fried foods part of the problem? How about the chocolate? Remember… it is usually linked with milk and sugar. So… you can decide about those things for yourself… and as always it is your decision to…