Milk, Sodas, Sugary, and Fatty Foods Tied to Adult Acne

By Lisa Rappaport

July 13, 2020

(Reuters Health) - Fatty and sugary foods, sugar-sweetened beverages, and milk consumption are all associated with an increased risk of adult acne, a recent study suggests.

Researchers examined data on 24,542 participants in the NutriNet-Sante study, an ongoing web-based observational study tracking dietary behavior and a variety of health outcomes in France. Overall, 11,324 participants (46%) reported on questionnaires that they had current or previous adult acne.

Compared to adults in the study who didn't report any current or past acne, those with current acne consumed more milk (adjusted odds ratio for current acne per glass of milk 1.12); sugary beverages (aOR per glass 1.18); and fatty and sugary products (aOR per portion 1.54). These results were adjusted for total calorie intake, sex, age, smoking, physical activity, BMI, educational level, as well as history of cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or depressive symptoms.

"We confirmed in our study that participants with acne consumed significantly more milk, sugary beverages, milk chocolate, snacks and fast foods and less fish, vegetables and fruit even after adjusting on other confounding factors such as smoking or diabetes," said study co-author Dr. Khaled Ezzedine of the department of dermatology at Mondor Hospital in Paris.

"Thus, besides classical acne treatment, clinicians may have nutritional and dietary recommendations aiming to reduce the consumption of food associated with acne, especially milk and sugar, for controlling acne flares," Dr. Ezzedine said by email.

One limitation of the study is that current acne was self-diagnosed, and the severity of acne was not evaluated, the study team notes in JAMA Dermatology. Seventy-five percent of the participants were women, and the researchers lacked data on polycystic ovary syndrome, a condition that can cause acne in adult women.

In addition, participants with past acne might have reported current dietary habits that don't reflect the way that they were eating when they experienced acne, the study team writes.

"Future clinical trials in which patients are randomized to different dietary approaches are needed to develop a better understanding of how diet is related to acne," said Dr. John Barbieri, author of an editorial accompanying the study and a research fellow at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

"At this point, I do not think we have enough high-quality evidence from clinical trials to make strong recommendations about the role of dietary changes as a treatment strategy for acne," Dr. Barbieri said by email.

However, the overall health benefits of a low glycemic index diet might mean this is worth considering for people with adult acne who consume a lot of sugary foods or drinks.

"A low glycemic load diet is a reasonable suggestion for patients looking for a dietary change that may improve their acne," Dr. Barbieri said.

SOURCE: and JAMA Dermatology, online June 10, 2020.