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Sugar and other high GL foods can cause acne

Saturday, 16 April 2016  |  Editor

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A review of studies on acne and diet over the last 40 years has revealed a connection between acne and diets with a high glycaemic load (GL).

High glycaemic load foods are those which trigger a sugar rush, which stimulates insulin activity in the blood. Insulin helps the body to balance blood sugar levels, but also increases sebum production in the skin. A 2007 Australian study succeeded in reducing the severity of acne breakouts in young men on a strict low GL diet.

Medium to high glycaemic load foods unfortunately include many that feature highly in the average teenager’s diet, such as:

  • Sugar – including sweets, chocolate, milk shakes, biscuits, cakes, ice cream, takeaway foods and much more
  • White bread/ pasta/ rice / couscous
  • Pizza, macaroni cheese
  • Crisps, potatoes, chips
  • Cornflakes, rice cakes, cereals with added sugar (check the labels!)

A high sugar diet may also contribute to bacterial imbalance in your skin and mucous membranes. This correlates with new research that has discovered a difference in the kinds of bacteria found in skin with and without acne.

Peer pressure, increasing energy demands and poor absorption and metabolism of foods may all contribute to a teenager’s high GL diet. So many adolescents will need support in switching to a lower GI and more alkalizing diet, incorporating good quality proteins with a high intake of vegetables, lower levels of carbohydrates and plenty of water.

The review also considered whether dairy intake is an additional factor, as many have reported that drinking milk both triggers and exacerbates their acne. The research team concluded that this possibility warrants more research as no randomized controlled trials have been undertaken so far. 

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