Does Diet Really Affect Acne?

H. R. Ferdowsian, MD, MPH; S. Levin, MS, RD


Skin Therapy Letter. 2010;15(3):1-2. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Acne vulgaris has anecdotally been attributed to diet by individuals affected by this skin condition. In a 2009 systematic literature review of 21 observational studies and 6 clinical trials, the association between acne and diet was evaluated. Observational studies, including 2 large controlled prospective trials, reported that cow's milk intake increased acne prevalence and severity. Furthermore, prospective studies, including randomized controlled trials, demonstrated a positive association between a high-glycemic-load diet, hormonal mediators, and acne risk. Based on these findings, there exists convincing data supporting the role of dairy products and high-glycemic-index foods in influencing hormonal and inflammatory factors, which can increase acne prevalence and severity. Studies have been inconclusive regarding the association between acne and other foods.


More than 17 million Americans suffer from acne vulgaris.[1] Approximately 80–90% of all adolescents experience some degree of acne.[2] Adults are also affected. Acne has been associated with other clinically relevant issues, including depression.3 While studies have demonstrated patients' perceptions about a link between diet and acne,[3–7] reviews published in or prior to 2005 have not shown a conclusive correlation.[8–10] In addition, methodological issues have limited conclusions that could be drawn from the literature before 2005. A 2009 review evaluated the published literature on the association between diet and acne risk and severity. Authors showed that dairy products and high-glycemic-index foods increased the risk for acne, whereas the studies did not conclusively demonstrate an association between acne and other foods, such as chocolate or salt.[11]


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