Nutrition & acne - is there a relationship?


Acne is not caused by certain foods', according to the website of the Dutch College of General Practitioners (NHG). However, research seems to prove the opposite...

Evidence of the relationship between diet & pimples

The American dr. Loren Cordain of the Colorado State University and his research team concluded from a study in the early 2000s that 'acne vulgaris - or pimples - is a disease of Western civilization.

Cordain is an authority when it comes to research into the genetic backgrounds of our diet and metabolism. In early 2000, he and a research team visited two population groups in Papua New Guinea (Kitavan Island) and Paraguay. In both groups, no one had pimples, not even the young people between 15 and 25 years old. While in the Western world 79-95 percent of young people between 15-25 years old suffer from acne. And 40-54 percent of those over the age of 25.

The Papua New Guinea group mainly ate fresh fruit, fish, tubers and coconut. And few grain products or processed sugars. The Paraguay group has a lot of cassava root, peanuts, corn and rice. Only eight percent of their diet consisted of Western foods such as pasta, sugar and bread.

According to Cordain and his team, the differences between the Papuans and Paraguays and the Western population cannot only be explained by genetic factors, but nutrition also plays an important role. Especially carbohydrates with a high Glycemic Index (indicates how and how quickly a food contributes to a rise in the sugar level in your blood). Examples include refined or highly processed foods such as sugars, flour, cornstarch, white rice, white bread and potatoes.

Even more proof

Further research showed that residents of more modernized islands in the South Pacific (where Papua New Guinea is also located) also suffer from acne, in contrast to the traditionally living Papuans on the island of Kitavan.

Research from Harvard University from 2005 already indicates the relationship between the use of dairy products and acne .

Glycemic index

Various tables circulate online with the GI values ​​of various foods. For example on the site of the diabetes fund (food with a high glycemic index also promotes diabetes). You will also find a list in the book 'Eat yourself slim and happy' by Amber Albarada.

However, there is growing evidence that the glycemic response to foods varies from person to person. Because it depends on all kinds of variables such as the individual digestion rate. Where eating pace, preparation of the meal, amount of fat in a dish, insulin sensitivity affect. So we differ from each other in the way we process (fast) carbohydrates.

Valuable nutrition tips from the doctor

Fortunately, there are also doctors who do recognize the relationship between diet and acne. The American doctor Mark Hyman gives on his website 8 nutritional tips that can help to overcome acne.

  1. Do not use dairy products. Milk is for calves.
  2. Eat foods with a low glycemic index. So avoid products with refined sugars, high-calorie drinks and (white) flour as much as possible.
  3. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables that are rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. Make sure you get five to nine servings of colorful fruits and vegetables every day.
  4. Include more healthy, anti-inflammatory fats; omega -3 (fish oil) and anti-inflammatory omega-6 (evening primrose oil) - Note from Jeanine: in our diet we generally consume far too much omega 6 and too little omega 3). Adequate amounts can only be achieved with supplements.
  5. Start eating foods that can have a positive impact on acne (high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory). Such as fish oil, turmeric, ginger, green tea, nuts, dark purple and red fruits such as berries, vegetables with dark green leaves and eggs with omega-3.
  6. Take nutritional supplements that fight acne. People with acne appear to have low antioxidant values. Hyman recommends, among other things, extra zinc, vitamin A (not the animal version if you are pregnant, beta-carotene is fine, it contains provitamin A that your body converts into vitamin A as needed) and vitamin E.
  7. Try probiotics. They help improve your intestinal flora and thus fight inflammation in the gut that is related to ache.
  8. Avoid foods you are sensitive to. Food allergies are a common cause of acne. Think of gluten, milk and yeast. These can cause skin problems in people with a 'leaky gut' - the rubbing of gluten against your intestinal wall can cause holes in your intestine. Which causes your intestinal food to 'leak'. This can cause chronic inflammation. Which demand a lot from your immune system.

Note: Dutch GPs receive virtually no education in nutrition in relation to health during their training. You can therefore not blame them for the fact that their knowledge is limited. Fortunately, more and more doctors are doing additional training in the field of nutrition and health on their own initiative.

Sources: Text from article by medical journalist Toine de Graaf in trade magazine Esthe - February 2018; PubMed; LaVieSage.