Eat Right to Improve Acne

Healthnotes Newswire (September 13, 2007)—Most people are aware that dietary changes can improve conditions such as heart disease or diabetes, but emerging evidence suggests that our diet may also influence the health of our skin. A new study suggests that eating a diet higher in low-glycemic-index foods and protein may reduce acne symptoms.

“Glycemic index” is a term used to describe the effects of carbohydrates on blood sugar and insulin levels. Low-glycemic-index foods raise blood sugar and insulin levels more slowly than high-glycemic-index foods. They also tend to be higher in nutrients than high-glycemic-index foods. Studies have shown that a diet that emphasizes low-glycemic-index foods can improve conditions such as heart disease, high cholesterol, and diabetes. “Glycemic load” is similar to glycemic index but also takes into account the amount of carbohydrate present in the food.

The effects of a low-glycemic-index diet on acne is interesting to researchers because there is evidence that a decrease in insulin levels in the body may also reduce acne symptoms. To investigate this association, the authors of a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology randomly assigned 43 men with acne to a diet higher in protein and low-glycemic-load foods (the treatment group) or to a typical Western diet that contains more foods with a high glycemic load (the control group).

The participants were 15-to-25-year-old young men who had mild to moderate acne and used a daily skin cleanser. The men in the treatment group were instructed to eat foods higher in protein such as fish, poultry, or lean meat and to focus on low-glycemic-index carbohydrates such as whole grain bread and fruits.

Results of the study showed that, after 12 weeks, acne lesions had decreased more in the treatment group compared with the control group. The treatment group also lost weight and showed an improved change in hormonal markers of acne.

Dr. Neil Mann, author of the study and professor of Human Nutrition at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, commented that improvement of patients’ acne could occur if doctors or dietitians encouraged their patients to remove refined grains and sugary foods from their diet. “We advise eating more natural foods (all low-glycemic-index in nature) such as lots of vegetables and fruits (not potatoes), whole grains not refined grains, basmati rice if rice eaters, moderate pasta intake (most are medium-glycemic-index), lean meat, fish, and low-fat diary foods.”

The authors comment that their study is among the first to show a positive effect of dietary changes in acne treatment but caution that their findings are preliminary. They also state that they cannot rule out that the weight loss may have contributed to the improvements in the treatment group’s skin, so further studies are needed to understand the role of diet and weight loss in acne treatment.

(J Am Acad Dermatol 2007;57:247–56)

Jane Hart, MD, board-certified in internal medicine, serves in a variety of professional roles including consultant, journalist, and educator. Dr. Hart, a Clinical Instructor at Case Medical School in Cleveland, Ohio, writes extensively about health and wellness and a variety of other topics for nationally recognized organizations, Web sites, and print publications. Sought out for her expertise in the areas of integrative and preventive medicine, she is frequently quoted by national and local media. Dr. Hart is a professional lecturer for healthcare professionals, consumers, and youth and is a regular corporate speaker.

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