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Pimples still rearing their ugly heads? The fault might lie in your diet, according to a new study in the March 2013 issue of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Combing through 50 years of literature that investigated the diet-acne connection, a team of nutritionists and dermatologists from New York University and New York Medical College analyzed data for a number of study characteristics, including reference, design, participants, intervention method, primary outcome, results and conclusions, covariate considerations, and limitations. Their conclusion? Frequent consumption of high-glycemic-index foods (white bread, pasta, rice, glucose drinks) and dairy may not necessarily cause acne, but they will almost certainly influence or aggravate it.
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YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT
The paper marks a 360-degree turn prevailing notions about nutritional triggers on skin. Although research has linked diet to acne as early as the late 1800s—chocolate, sugar, and fat were identified as the chief culprits— studies began disassociating the two from the 1960s onwards.
Although research has linked diet to acne as early as the late 1800s, studies began disassociating the two from the 1960s.
“This change occurred largely because of the results of two important research studies that are repeatedly cited in the literature and popular culture as evidence to refute the association between diet and acne,” says Jennifer Burris, a researcher at the department of nutrition, food science, and public health at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. “More recently, dermatologists and registered dietitians have revisited the diet-acne relationship and become increasingly interested in the role of medical nutritional therapy in acne treatment.”
Burris, together with her colleagues Kathleen Woolf and William Rietkerk, recommend that dermatologists and registered dietitians work collaboratively to design and conduct quality research to determine the proposed underlying mechanisms linking diet to acne, as well as developing potential dietary interventions for the skin condition’s treatment.
“The medical community should not dismiss the possibility of diet therapy as an adjunct treatment for acne,” she says. “At this time, the best approach is to address each acne patient individually, carefully considering the possibility of dietary counseling.”