In this post I want to take a look at what food groups are better avoided in relation to acne, as well as those valuable to our overall skin health. We’ve already touched upon this subject in my absolute best beauty tips-part 1 - on antioxidants.
There are a number of dermatologist nowadays that are recommending not only topical products, but also diet related changes to their patients as solutions to their skin- problems. One of the better-known dermatologists practicing by this principle is Dr. Nicholas Perricone. Over the last few years, Perricone has popped up everywhere. He's made his pitch on Oprah, Today, 20/20, and many other shows. He's had several specials on PBS. He has endorsements from celebrities like Courtney Cox, who calls herself a "huge fan."
His basic idea is that chronic inflammation is at the cause of wrinkles, acne, and other skin conditions as well as many other medical problems. He claims that chronic inflammation, the “the silent killer” as he calls it, is regulated by the foods we eat. He says that bad food choices are "directly responsible for wrinkles, degenerative diseases, and accelerated aging."
The ‘Perricone perscription’ involves avoidance of foods with a high glycemic index (foods rapidly increasing blood sugar levels), such as sugars, flour, rice, pasta, breads, and fruit juices. He recommends eating a diet rich in wild salmon (due to high levels of hormones, antibiotics, and heavy metals in the farmed salmon), dark greens, berries, green tea and plenty of fresh spring water.
Dr. Perricone’s message is an increasingly popular one, as diet has become not only the route to our diseases but also a possible cure from them, as well as a great help in keeping our bodies feeling and looking young and healthy.
Diet and Acne:
It is known that the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in a typical Western diet can be 10:1–20:1,versus a 3:1–2:1 in a non-Western diet.
These findings were the basis for population-studies that revealed that non-Western diets correlated with the absence of acne.Several studies have suggested that inflammation increases with the increase of the omega-6/omega-3 ratio.The Omega-6 fatty acids are thought to induce more pro-inflammatory mediators and have been associated with the development of inflammatory acne. On the other hand, intake of high levels of omega-3 fatty acids is associated with decreases in inflammatory factors.In addition there are studies that demonstrate that increasing the intake of omega-3 fatty acids through a diet rich in fish and seafood results in lower rates of inflammatory disease.There are also studies claiming that sebum (fat/oil produced by the skin) production is increased by the consumption of dietary fat or carbohydrate,and that variation in carbohydrates could also affect sebum composition.
Great sources for omega 3 are: Wild salmon, sardines, flaxseeds, and walnuts. Organic milk and dairy has been shown to contain less omega- 6 than non-organic dairy, so switching to an organic dairy brand might be another way to help reverse your omega3/omega 6 ratio.
A diet high in sugars/ carbohydrates has also been related to increased occurrence of acne. The mediator responsible for this is insulin; a hormone elevated in reaction to higher blood sugar levels.
The studies of Smith et al. show a therapeutic effect of dietary intervention on acne. After 12 weeks, the low glycemic load diet was shown to significantly reduce lesion counts and improve insulin sensitivity when compared with a high glycemic load diet.
High insulin levels are also associated to higher numbers of P. Acnes (the causative bacteria in development of acne). High insulin levels are also associated to higher androgen levels (sex-hormone levels) which are associated to induced sebum production, and increased number of acne lesions.
I had hormonal acne myself a few years back, and decided to try the the diet given by Dr. Colbert in his book: The High School Reunion Diet (that name does not get any better second time I write it..).
Dr. Colbert's diet recommendations are more or less identical to those suggested by Dr. Perricone, including a high intake of greens, antioxidant containing berries, teas, salmon, and lean meats, not forgetting the restriction- or more like prohibition of fast carbohydrates and sugars such as those found in breads, pasta, and processed foods. After 4 weeks on the diet I was feeling great, and looking great too! My acne breakouts were kept at bay, as long as I stuck to the diet, I even noticed a reduction in fine lines on my forehead! Most probably due to the increased consumption of antioxidants. Now, whenever I have a moment of cake love, I know I'll be seeing the result of my weakness as soon as the next day with minimum one pimple popping up at my jawline.
Diet is truly a powerful weapon, which can be used both for you, or against you depending on how you decide to approach it. I will continue my research in this field, but have already seen the changes possible first hand.
Start implementing some changes to your own diet, give it a try for a few weeks, and really stick to it! I'm sure you'll be amazed by what you'll see in the mirror after :)
Clinical and Histological Effect of a Low Glycaemic Load Diet in Treatment of Acne Vulgaris in Korean Patients: A Randomized, Controlled Trial
Hyuck Hoon Kwon1,2, Ji Young Yoon2, Jong Soo Hong1, JaeYoon Jung1,2, Mi Sun Park3 and Dae Hun Suh1,2
Acta Derm Venereol 2012; 92: 241–246
Pathways to inflammation: acne pathophysiology
European Journal of Dermatology. Volume 21, Number 3, 323-33, May-June 2011, Review article
Glycemic Index, Glycemic Load: New Evidence for a Link with Acne
- Bruno Berra, PhD and
- Angela Maria Rizzo, PhD
J Am Coll Nutr August 2009 vol. 28 no. 4 Supplement 1 450S-454S
The relationship of diet and acne
A review- Apostolos Pappas
Dermatoendocrinol. 2009 Sep-Oct; 1(5): 262–267.