Diet and acne study finds 3 risk factors


By Michael Woodhead

26 Jun 2020

Consumption of milk, sugary drinks, and fatty and sugary products appears to be associated with acne in adults, a study has found.

French researchers used questionnaire surveys of diet and acne in an ongoing observational cohort of 24 452 adults to looks for associations between food types and presence of current acne.

After adjusting for factors such as smoking, age and BMI they found that a ‘western diet’ rich in animal products and fatty and sugary foods was significantly associated with acne.

And when they looked at specific components of the diet they found that chocolate, milk and sugary beverages were significant risk factors for the presence of acne.

Conversely, they found that a healthy diet pattern that included more fruit, vegetables and fish was associated with a lower risk of acne, according to the findings published in JAMA Dermatology.

The study found that 39% of the cohort had a history of acne, 7% had current acne, and of these two groups a third (32%) believed that diet was a factor in their acne.

People with current acne consumed significantly more milk (Odd Ratio 1.28), sugary beverages (OR, 2.19), milk chocolate (OR, 1.28), snacks and fast foods (OR, 3.83), and fatty and sugary products (OR, 4.35).

Acne was also associated with eating less meat (OR, 0.39), fish (OR, 0.17), vegetables (OR, 0.71), fruit (OR, 0.71) and dark chocolate (OR, 0.90).

After adjusting for other factors, the three independent risk factors for acne were drinking milk (adjusted OR, 1.76) sugary beverages (aOR 2.29), and consuming a meal of fatty and sugary products (aOR, 8.38)

A similar pattern of associations was seen in analysis of a subgroup of 18 327 women in the study population.

The study authors said the results confirmed those of other observational studies showing an association between acne, high glycemic-load foods and milk consumption.

Both of these dietary components were thought to increase insulin and insulin like-growth factor 1 (IGF-1) levels, which could induce lipogenesis and proliferation of both keratinocytes and sebocytes, they noted.

In addition, IGF-1 may stimulate the production of androgens, which are associated with the production of sebum and thus the development of acne

An accompanying commentary cautioned that the effect sizes for dietary components were modest, and there have been only small randomised prospective trials showing that dietary interventions such as a low glycemic-load have a significant effect on the incidence of acne.

Avoiding dairy products may reduce consumption of calcium and vitamin D, they warned.

“Nevertheless, given the potential overall health benefits of a healthy or low glycemic-load diet, and two small trials supporting its effectiveness in acne, a low glycemic-load diet is a reasonable recommendation for patients looking for dietary modifications that may improve their acne,” the authors suggested.

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