A new study has confirmed the important role that diet plays in acne. The link has been a topic of discussion since it was first noted that acne is rare in non-westernized populations such as the Inuit and tribal populations. Genetics alone does not account for this difference. Environmental factors such as diet have therefore long been suspected.
The study investigated the effect of a Low Glycemic Load diet on participants with acne. Glycemic Load is way of measuring the effect of a food on blood sugar levels.
The Western diet, based around processed foods and refined carbohydrates, has a tendency to stimulate insulin as well as a hormone called insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1). These substances trigger off a sequence of hormonal changes, resulting in increased sebum production and changes in skin cell growth.
Participants were divided into two groups. The Low Glycemic Load (LGL) group were instructed to substitute high GI foods with lower GI foods such as barley, wholegrain bread, beans, fruits, vegetables and fish. The control group received no information on Glycemic index, and were instructed to continue their regular diet based on carbohydrate-rich foods.
After 10 weeks of following the programme, those in the LGL group showed decreased inflammation, and a decreased number of both inflammatory and non-inflammatory lesions. Sebaceous glands were also reduced in size. The authors concluded “these results show that a reduction in glycemic load can result in a reduction in the level of acne lesions.”
For those who are interested in trying a low GL diet, some simple rules can help get you started:
- Include plenty of low GL fruit and veg with every meal. Try broccoli, asparagus, spinach, tomatoes, yellow and red peppers, berries and cherries.
- Add a protein rich food – such as fish, chicken, tofu or eggs – to each main meal
- Use pulses such as beans and lentils, rather than pasta or rice, to accompany your meal
- Eliminate highly refined High GI foods, such as sweets, crisps, and foods containing white flour and sugar
- Nutrients such as cinnamon and chromium, such as those in Patrick Holford’s Cinnachrome, can provide additional blood sugar support
All in all, this is great news for all who suffer with acne. It represents a way to take control over a condition that is all too often difficult to treat with prescription drugs and over-the-counter lotions and potions.
Written by Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC
(1.) Kwon HH, et al. Preview of article: Clinical and Histological Effect of a Low Glycaemic Load Diet in Treatment of Acne Vulgaris in Korean Patients: A Randomized, Controlled Trial Acta Dermato-Venereologica 2012. DOI: 10.2340/00015555-1346
(2.) Image courtesy of Vikor Habbick