High Glycemic Diet Exacerbates Acne

Written by on November 18, 2010 in Acne Treatments, Can Diet cure your rosacea? with 3 Comments

This may come as no surprise to many, but there continues to be a strong link between diets that place a high glycemic load on the body and acne.

Diet and acne, Bowe WP, Joshi SS, Shalita AR. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2010 Jul;63(1):124-41.

Historically, the relationship between diet and acne has been highly controversial. Before the 1960s, certain foods were thought to exacerbate acne. However, subsequent studies dispelled these alleged associations as myth for almost half a century. Several studies during the last decade have prompted dermatologists to revisit the potential link between diet and acne. This article critically reviews the literature and discusses how dermatologists might address diet when counseling patients with acne. Dermatologists can no longer dismiss the association between diet and acne. Compelling evidence exists that high glycemic load diets may exacerbate acne. Dairy ingestion appears to be weakly associated with acne, and the roles of omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, zinc, vitamin A, and dietary fiber remain to be elucidated. This study was limited by the lack of randomized controlled trials in the literature. We hope that this review will encourage others to explore the effects of diet on acne.

Dr Brian De’Ambrosis, a Brisbane dermatologist and member of All About Acne (a Galderma site) said diets with a high glycaemic load – the typical western diet of processed and refined foods – may exacerbate acne through an effect on sex hormones, metabolic hormones or both.

“Many health professionals treating acne already recommend a low glycaemic load diet that is rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, lean meats and seafood,” he added.  “This is particularly useful for some groups of people, such as women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), but medical treatment remains a core component of effective acne treatment.”

When I was a teenager and suffering from teenage acne there was a body of thought that diet played no part in acne. The popular line of thought was that you could eat as many Mars Bars and drink as much Coke as you wanted and your skin wouldn’t show it.

That thinking has changed and as rosacea sufferers we may do well to take notice of what it means for us.

What is Glycemic Load?

We all know that the Glycemic Index is a measure of the effects of carbohydrates on blood sugar levels. The research that developed this index was developed in the 1980s to find which foods were best for sufferers of diabetes.

High GI foods release glucose into the blood stream quickly, and low GI foods result in the glucose being available more slowly.

The Glycemic Load  combines the GI with the carbohydrate portion size to give a measure of the relative amount of glucose released after you ingest a particular food.

So the takeaway from the GL vs. GI comparison is that it is the total and rate of glucose release that is important in this acne research.

Good News

I read this as good news for those who want to continue to eat carbohydrates but also want to investigate whether diet related hormone changes can improve their acne or rosacea.

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About the Author: David Pascoe started the Rosacea Support Group in October 1998. .

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3 Reader Comments

  1. Trudie says:

    this is interesting as I was doing a high protein low carb diet over Oct/Nov my rosacea improved alot to the point I though I was growing out of it but being vegetarian the diet was very limited so didn’t stick to it for long instead I’ve changed to a wheat free diet and the rosacea has come back somewhat but I don’t know if this is diectly linked to it or not as I wasn’t eating as much of a high protein , so now I’m going back to my protein shakes etc and generally eating high protein to see if this can improve it again as I’m quite happy just doing wheat free as it means I can eat rice/quinoa/wheat free bread etc. I used to be vegan for 5yrs so I didn’t eat dairy products in that time – it never made any impact in that time so the bit about dairy definitely isn’t a factor for me.

  2. Rose says:

    I discovered years ago that eating simple carbs aggravated my rosacea — causing pustules, swelling, pain and sometimes even itchy hive-like bumps. I’ve read that high glycemic simple carbs are vaso-dilators (i.e., cause blood vessels to expand). So, when I learned that rosacea is actually a blood vessel disorder in which blood vessels expand, become weak, and leak fluid into the skin cells, it made sense that simple carbs would be a problem.

    I’ve been on a strict no-sugar, no-flour, no simple carbs diet for years. Even that is no cure, but it sure helps.

  3. Trudie says:

    I rarely eat simple carbs – I’m a big complex carb fan e.g wholegrain rice/pasta/bread so I don’t think it’s the simple v’s complex carbs for me it’s definitely the high protein I’ve been back on this for maybe a week and already the rosacea is improving as well as my general skin tone,I’m quite excited about this! it’ll be interesting to see where I’m at with it after say 6mths and if it’ll go away as much as it did when I cut out the carbs altogether – where as now I eat them but only wheat free ones and in smaller quantities. It should also be noted I was always very conscious to eat whole good quality proteins so it wasn’t that I was just not eating protein or the right kind before but I wasn’t eating as much and now include the protein shakes. I guess I used to eat maybe 30-60gms a day of protein – now I eat 70-100gms, all good quality and little saturated fat.

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