The last few days I have spent going through all clinical studies/trials regarding acne and Omega-3 fats, iodine, antioxidants, chocolate, calorie intake, fatty/oily food, digestion, and zinc. Adding to this what I have learned regarding dairy and glycemic load, I’m sorry to say that nothing stands out for me as a smoking gun when it comes to diet and acne. We simply don’t have enough research yet, and nothing feels super compelling to me at this point. However, at least researchers are looking into how diet may affect acne, so hopefully by the next time I review the literature, the evidence available to the scientific community will start taking shape. In the meantime, based on digesting everything the research community has to offer regarding diet and acne, here is what I am personally going to do as far as diet goes:

1.  Keep taking fish oil and eating wild delicious sushi :)  I take 4 fish oil pills per day to make up for my Western-style diet, which like almost everyone living in modern society, is overly rich in Omega-6 fats from vegetable oils, grains, etc. There is enough evidence to persuade me of the overall health benefits of Omega-3s and I feel good taking fish oil regardless of whether or not it may be helping with my skin. Also, when I go out to eat, I specifically ask whether the fish or sushi on the menu is wild. Farm raised seafood is far inferior in Omega-3s and other nutrition than wild seafood.

2.  Keep taking a zinc supplement. Having dived deeper into the role of zinc, I am still convinced that it is likely an important nutrient when it comes to combating inflammation and keeping bacteria in check. I’ll keep taking my 30mg per day.

3.  Not worry about iodine, chocolate, fatty/oily food. I’ll keep eating seaweed salad and seafood (contain iodine).  There exists no evidence showing that the amounts of iodine consumed in these foods is in any way detrimental for acne. Based on the available evidence, I’ll also continue eating a little dark chocolate every day without worrying about how my skin will react. I will also keep eating the occasional naughty greasy meal without fear.

4.  Try to be generally healthy. Antioxidants are important calming agents in the body, and eating antioxidant-rich colorful fruits and vegetables is fun and tasty anyway. When it comes to glycemic load, whether or not scientists know if it will help with acne yet, I’ll try to keep my meals balanced with carbs, fat, and protein to keep my energy and mood level and avoid crashes.

A full update to the diet and acne page of acne.org is on its way with much more information on each of the above mentioned topics. In the meantime, when you look at the evidence at hand, eating healthy and in moderation will suffice as a general wrap up for what we know regarding diet and acne at this point. Not exactly a Eureka moment.

13 Responses to “Diet and Acne: Wrapping it up”

  • Jesse

    Thanks, Dan for checking this whole issue out. It’s too bad there isn’t more verified research on it. All the drug companies have their “wonder drug” that will cure acne, and my guess is that therefore, they don’t have any incentive to fund acne and diet studies. And besides, it takes a lot of commitment to cut out food (good food ;) ) out of one’s diet.

    Awesome work! Keep it up!

    BTW. I look forward to hearing about your research on acne scaring.

  • Now Stop Acne

    I know that there isn’t enough literature, but I’m a pretty firm believer that what you eat can affect your skin anyway. This is a good list, some I’ve not seen before. And I’d like to reiterate that we should all eat fruit and vegetables!!

  • Ray Crowe

    Great artlcle! I can imagine the omega 3s in fish would help out with most people’s acne. There’s little direct evidence regarding the effect diet has on acne, possibly because there’s no money to be made by the medical community if it were proven that certain food can trigger acne in certain people, particularly foods that cause hormonal imbalances like sugary edibles. Not everyone who eats a lot of sugar will have acne – some people’s bodies dispose of the excess sugar and toxins through other means. But for those of who have suffered with severe acne that didn’t respond to topical or oral meds, I believe the best solution is to keep a close check of everything you put into your body and determine what foods are giving YOU the most trouble. I’ve written about my own experience with cystic acne and how I was finally able to control it through juice fasting, raw vegan diet and natural healing and detoxification techniques.

  • stephanie

    Thanks for sharing this acne tips. Having an acne is a tough one, it can cause depression and worse others cannot work or go out anymore. Good thing there are many treatment in acne.

  • BPlover

    I say depend on BP to keep you clear. Period.

    Life has enough stressors than to obsess over dairy, glycemic load, and all idiotic versions of the paleo diet out there.

    BP reigns!

  • Austin mom

    Hello all,
    I’ve recently been suffering from the acne on the chin and lower jawline which appears more like a rash. It was almost like my skin could not do it’s job and no matter what i did to treat it topically, it did not work (tea tree oil various gentle soaps, moisturizers…alkaline testing, increased water intake…you know the routine). So i’m excited to report that i have simply started taking high doses of raw vitamin c, drastically reduced refined flours and simple sugars (sugar feeds infection) and increased my intake of meats, eggs and protein. I had read an article last week that suggested we need to eat foods that will contain the building blocks of tissue for cell regeneration and healing (meats, eggs, fish). Makes perfect sense! I also take a raw multivitamin each day. My skin has changed drastically in just three days. I was desperate to find a holistic solution! I already knew that food can heal our bodies, but this was particularly exciting because i know this will help so many. If you suffer from acne, consider an internal solution and a holistic approach before you let some doctor put drugs into you body or put chemicals on your skin. Chances are, if you show disease externally, then that could mean there’s turmoil on in your insides too. In my experience acne is most definitely a sign of inflammation and an imbalance in the body. When i began eating less sugar and pure foods, my join pain and inflammation stopped. I feel as good as i did in my twenties. There is a great movie called ‘food matters’ that i watched on netflix a year ago, and it goes into great detail about food and disease prevention. Pure foods (organic meats, fruits, veggies, dairy) are more expensive, but what is the cost later when we suffer from disease because our food was contaminated? I am a homemaker (37) with two kids (17 & 10) and people tell me how healthy i look…i contribute this to my healthy eating (except recently when i was slightly low on protein intake) and vitamin c. Vitamin c one of the most important supplements we need, aside from vitamin d. I am living proof. Change you food = change your life (and have healthy skin!). I truly understand the misery of acne. For those of us who deal with acne, it’s always encouraging to hear success stories. I pray this info helps you! ;o>

  • Hanna

    Just my thoughts in iodine,

    I come from a Korean heritage, and it is traditional in Korea for new mothers to eat lots and lots of seaweed soup after giving birth. And I’m not talking about tiny amounts of seaweed in seaweed salad, sushi, etc.
    I’m talkin BIG BATCHES of seaweed soup with every meal for at least a couple of months. I have NEVER heard of this causing acne in any women in Korea, even though this tradition has been practiced for hundreds of years. I think it’s safe to say that by the amount that Americans are consuming (which is far less compared to Koreans/Japanese, etc), it should not cause any problems. I myself eat seaweed soup pretty frequently, and I don’t think it affects my skin condition at all.

  • Darren

    Excellent tips! For many years I suffered from acne .I visited a few different dermatologists and was prescribed a number of different medications. However, when I was 25 I had some weight issues that forced a change in diet. I had to eliminate fried foods and added a whole bunch of green veggies. I was amazed at how quickly I was able to loose weight but also how much my skin was doing. It wasn’t long until I was able to stop going to the dermatologist and my complexion improved. Diet is so much a part of many of our ills and acne is just one of them.

    Thanks,

  • Melissa

    There may not be a ton of hard research yet, but there is a definite link between diet and acne. All I know is when I changed my diet, my acne got better. When I cheat on my diet, I break out. That’s all the evidence I need. So I’ll keep doing what I’m doing.

  • kirsti

    I have battled acne for years and I recently cut dairy out of my diet. After a month my acne is gone! Give it a try. I had cyctic acne that took weeks or months to heal. I tried laser therapy, antibiotics (oral and topical), and proactive. Someone told me to try before starting accutane and to my shock it has worked for me. Worth a shot…

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