Do Certain Foods Cause Acne? What is The Link Between Diet and Acne?

does milk cause acne-does chocolate cause acneIt is estimated that nearly 17 million people in the United States, teens and adults, suffer from adult acne. The question is not whether certain foods cause acne- there is simply too much controversy surrounding this topic. The question first and foremost is whether there is indeed a link between one’s diet and acne and whether changing these food habits can actually also change one’s skin. In this guide, we will see which foods have been blamed for causing adult acne and if indeed they play a role in acne.

Food and acne: Does diet play a role in causing adult acne?

Hippocrates, who existed 2000 years ago, once said:“Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food”.Based on this, it is no surprise that food could indeed play a role in acne. Majority of adult acne sufferers therefore get into a guilt mode by asking their doctor: “Was this caused by something I ate?” Today, however, there still isn’t much convincing evidence in this aspect: most dermatologists have been unable to say for sure that certain foods do cause acne.

Acne and the dairy link

One of the primary foods blamed for this inflammatory skin condition is dairy- milk and milk products are known to contain many hormones secreted by the cow. No matter how organic milk may be (based on manufacturing companies claims that their cows are fed organic grass and no hormones or antibiotics), the milk still contains hormones and bioactive molecules. Isn’t it also rather surprising that human beings are the only species growing up on milk produced by another species?All these factors (along with clinical trials conducted on patients in 1949-50) led people to believe that milk indeed led to acne flare-ups. Another study recently revealed that patients asked to keep an acne journal saw their condition worsen after eating cheese, milk, yogurt, ice cream etc. Also, in some parts of the world, milk was found to contain iodine as well. This varied based on geographical locations and people who drank such milk were tested to have acneiform eruptions.

So does milk cause acne? Again due to lack of conclusive evidence, most dermatologists would tell you that the link between acne pathogenesis and dietary dairy is still unproven.

Chocolate and fatty foods: Do these cause adult acne?

Teenagers often believe that they have acne prone skin due to frequent indulgences in junk food, sugary items etc. Doctors are again divided on this. Some experts do suggest that dietary fat content does have a direct relation on insulin resistance but again due to lack of scientific evaluation this is not been proven. Secondly, some doctors believe that carbohydrate rich food items have high Glycemic indexes which in turn affect insulin (causing hyperinsulinemia) which in turn affects the endocrine function of the body. Hormones secreted by the endocrine gland have a definite impact on acne.

Similarly, foods high in fats are considered to increase sebum production which in turn triggers acne. Some studies on animals also showed increased sebum production after being fed a high fat and high carb diet. However, these may not be applicable to humans and most experts believe retesting under controlled environment may be required.


Despite the popular belief that many foods cause acne, dermatologists do not think so. This is despite numerous studies, since most believe them to be of unsatisfactory quality or having being performed under unfavorable conditions.Hopefully, more research will be conducted soon to answer acne sufferer’s questions whether it is indeed nutrition or lack of it that has caused their acne.

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