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Nutrition 101

Acne and Diet: Do Certain Foods Encourage Break-outs?

Acne and Diet: Do Certain Foods Encourage Break-outs?

Dietetic Intern Johanna Hughes assesses if avoiding certain foods can lead to clearer skin.

While the old wives’ tale of “eating greasy foods and sweets gives you pimples” has long been disproven, new research is shedding light on potential associations between different foods and acne. The focus is now on dairy products and high glycemic index foods as potential promoters of “breaking out.” Foods with a high glycemic can cause a spike in blood sugar, followed by a crash. Examples of these foods include:

  • Flour (especially refined)
  • Cereals
  • Bread
  • Pasta
  • Many dessert items (i.e. cakes, cookies, etc.)
  • Sugary beverages
  • Candy


Following the consumption of these foods usually results in a surge of insulin, which triggers an endocrine response that can lead to cellular inflammation, oil gland activity and increases in pore-clogging cells.

Consumption of dairy is thought to boost oil gland activity by releasing hormones into the blood stream. Dairy cows are milked throughout their pregnancy -- as a result, the milk they produce contains higher levels of hormones. These hormones then find their way into the human diet and potentially instigate breakouts.

While the evidence is still highly debatable and controversial, there have been some very well documented incidences and testimonies of people who have ceased or reduced their intake of dairy and/or high glycemic foods and had fewer breakouts. An American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study found that those on a low glycemic diet -- with more whole grains, legumes and vegetables, along with fewer refined grains and sugars – were less likely to experience flare-ups. These people also tended to eat smaller meals more frequently, contributing to stable blood sugar levels.

Research has also shown that omega-3 fatty acids might reduce acne by controlling the production of sebum, which causes inflammatory acne. Similarly, some scientists say that eating a colorful range of fruits and vegetables on a daily basis provide you with the essential antioxidants to combat the oxidative damage that make you prone to blemishes. This is an ongoing topic of research and there are no absolute conclusions at this point. However, eating a diet high in fruits, vegetables and omega-3 fatty acids certainly isn’t going to hurt!


Find out which fats and oils you should be keeping in your pantry.


Do you have any diet tips for clearer skin? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

nutrition advice, nutrition facts, acne, glycemic index

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