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Diet Makes a Difference for Clear Skin

Eating patterns without processed foods seem to promote clear skin better than a typical American diet.

What does it take to have clear skin? Dermatologists have long blamed acne on hormones or stress. Those factors may certainly be responsible for pimples in some cases. However, scientists are beginning to look at the difference diet can make.

Giving Up Soft Drinks to Get Clear Skin: 

Q. I believe that one cause of acne seems to be drinking cola soft drinks or chocolate milk. After I advised some adult family members to stop drinking colas, their acne problems cleared up.

Later, one family member started drinking them again, and the acne problem returned. Do you know about a relationship between these drinks and acne problems?

What the Scientists Say:

A. A study from France (JAMA Dermatology, June 10, 2020) suggests that adults who eat a Western-style diet with sugary beverages, milk and fatty foods are more prone to acne.  This research involved more than 24,000 volunteers who filled out online questionnaires.

The scientists concluded:

“In this study, consumption of milk, sugary beverages, and fatty and sugary products appeared to be associated with current acne in adults.”

These findings are consistent with other studies showing that foods that raise blood sugar rapidly (high glycemic load) are linked to skin blemishes. The investigators suggest that this raises blood levels of insulin and other growth factors. With evidence like this, dermatologists are beginning to accept the idea that diet matters for clear skin. 

The authors of a review recommended: 

“dermatologists should encourage their acne patients to minimize their intake of high glycemic index foods.” (Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, April 2014)

Learn More:

To learn more about the connection between acne and diet as well as treatments for this common skin condition, you may want to consult our eGuide to Acne Solutions. We have written elsewhere on the benefits of avoiding dairy products to achieve clear skin. 

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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  • Penso L et al, "Association between adult acne and dietary behaviors: Findings from the NutriNet-Santé prospective cohort study." JAMA Dermatology, June 10, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2020.1602
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