Acne is a skin condition that can cause several types of bumps to form on the surface of the skin. Acne occurs when the skin’s pores clog up with dead skin cells, excess oil, and, sometimes, bacteria.
Acne is often triggered by hormonal changes in the body, making it especially common during puberty for oil glands to produce excess oil, resulting in acne.
Diet can also affect our skin via affects on our blood sugar. Certain foods can increase blood sugar more quickly than others.
When blood sugar levels rise quickly, it causes the body to release insulin-like growth 1(IGF-1), a hormone that manages the effects of growth. Having excess IGF-1 in your blood can cause oil glands to produce more sebum, increasing your risk of acne and inflammation.
So, which foods can trigger spikes in blood sugar?
Foods that have been found to stimulate the production of hormones that can cause excess oil to be created and secreted by oil glands include:
- High-glycaemic carbohydrates (such as white bread, pasta, white rice etc.)
- Saturated fats
- Tran-saturated fats
A popular opinion is that chocolate worsens acne, but there isn’t enough high-quality research to date to confirm this.
Eating low-glycaemic foods made of complex carbohydrates may help reduce risk of developing acne and reduce inflammation. Complex carbohydrates can be found in whole grains, legumes and unprocessed fruits and vegetables.
Studies have suggested that low-glycemic diets, or diets that are low in simple sugars, can prevent and improve acne. Researchers in a 2012 study for clinical and histological effect of a low glycemic diet for treatment of acne found that following a low-glycemic diet for 10 weeks can lead to significant improvements of the skin.
Studies have also suggested that eating foods rich in zinc can be beneficial for our skin. Zinc is a dietary mineral important for skin development as well as regulating metabolism and hormone levels. Foods that contain zinc include pumpkin seeds, cashews, beef, turkey, quinoa, lentils, and seafood.
Low levels of vitamins A and E have also been linked to severe cases of acne. You should always speak to your doctor first before taking vitamin A supplements as Vitamin A toxicity can cause damage to major organs.
It is important to note that everyone’s hormones react differently. Although studies suggest certain foods can help improve acne and general skin health, there is no definitive “food cure”. Before modifying your diet, talk to your doctor to make sure any changes will not harm your health.