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7 Diet Tips for Acne-Free Skin

Acne diet

Many dermatologists still claim that diet and acne vulgaris are not linked, but this claim is supported by only two studies published about forty years ago, both of which were poorly designed. In contrast, a large body of evidence now suggests that diet and acne are strongly linked. The role diet plays in the pathogenesis of acne vulgaris is well illustrated by the fact that a majority of adolescents in Western countries suffer from acne whereas the incidence of acne is rare in populations that follow a traditional, more natural diet. Once these teenagers move to the West and adopt a Western diet, also acne symptoms tend to develop.

The purpose of this article is to teach you how a specific anti-acne diet can help you prevent and heal acne vulgaris, that common skin condition characterized by pesky pimples or zits that tend to flare up just before a big meeting or event! So here it is: our best diet tips for preventing acne flare-ups and maintaining flawless, acne-free skin in the long term:

#1: Limit Omega-6 Fatty acids, Favor Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-6 fatty acids are considered essential fatty acids (EFAs), and a certain amount is necessary to the human body. However, excessive amounts of these fats can be harmful to people suffering from acne. Excess omega-6 fatty acids can increase inflammation associated with acne-prone skin by producing substances like inflammatory prostaglandins.

Omega-3 fatty acids, on the other hand, have anti-inflammatory effects. Population studies indicate that communities on a traditional diet high in omega-3 fatty acids have low rates of acne. Furthermore, one study with 1,000 teenage subjects found that the primary signs of acne – including comedones, papules, pustules, acne cysts, and excess sebum production – were much lower in the subjects consuming the most fish and seafood, the best dietary sources of omega-3 fatty acids.

Many experts believe that our ancestors consumed omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in roughly equal amounts. Today, most modern diets in Western countries contain too much of the potentially inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids and not enough anti-inflammatory omega-3 acids. Simply consuming less refined vegetable oils like corn oil and safflower oil that are high in omega-6 fatty acids and consuming more fats high in omega-3 fatty acids can help with acne.

#2: Follow Low Glycemic Diet with Sufficient Amounts of Protein

Another great diet tip for acne sufferers is to follow a low glycemic diet. Carbs that have a high Glycemic Index (GI) rating are quickly broken down by the body and cause a rapid, large rise in blood glucose levels, which in turn generally triggers the pancreas to release large amounts of insulin. In contrast, low-GI carbs, which take much longer to digest, cause only a small, slow rise in the blood glucose and insulin levels (dairy products are an exception; see discussion below). Insulin is necessary for the body to be able to use glucose for energy, but excess insulin in the bloodstream can lead to a sharp increase in circulating androgen and insulin-like growth factor, which are associated with acne.

In one study, young men with mild to moderate acne were instructed to follow either a typical teen diet high in high GI foods or a low glycemic, high protein diet. Acne of the participants on the higher protein, low glycemic diet improved by more than 50% during the twelve-week trial. Most non-starchy vegetables, legumes and fruit have a low GI rating while most refined carbohydrate-rich foods and potatoes are rated high on the Glycemic Index.

#3: Ensure Sufficient Intake of Vitamin A and Vitamin E

Research suggests that a decrease in vitamin A (retinol) and vitamin E levels is strongly associated with an increase in the severity of acne. The beneficial effects of these two vitamins on acne are believed to result from their ability to affect the inflammatory aspects of acne. Vitamin A is also believed to control sebum production that makes skin oily.

Nuts, seeds and avocadoes provide a source of vitamin E (note, however, that nuts and seeds may cause acne breakouts in some people). Food sources of vitamin A include liver and fatty fish, while most dark green leafy vegetables (such as broccoli) and deep yellow or orange vegetables and fruits are rich in beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A. Be sure to consume both vitamin A rich foods and pro-vitamin A rich foods: a group of scientists from England's Newcastle University found that nearly half of British women could have a genetic variation that prevents their bodies from effectively converting beta-carotene into real vitamin A. For details, check out the article Half of British Women May Have Genetic Vitamin A Deficiency.

#4: Watch out for Dairy Products

Research strongly suggests that a high consumption of dairy products can induce or aggravate acne in some people. The impact of dairy on acne is believed to result from the hormones contained in milk. To produce maximum milk yields, cows are artificially re-inseminated almost immediately after giving birth. Although the calf is soon taken away, the cow continues to produce milk, while being pregnant with a new calf. As a result, the cow is simultaneously producing hormones that are meant to help her calf grow and hormones that are required to aid its pregnancy. The hormones contained in the milk of a pregnant cow may break into androgens, which can contribute to the severity of acne flare-ups. Furthermore, contrary to other low GI foods, dairy products seem to elicit a high insulin response, similar to white bread.

#5: Be Sure to Consume Enough Chromium Rich Foods

Regular consumption of chromium containing foods may prevent pimples and acne due to chromium's ability to stabilize blood sugar levels. Excessive sugar in blood stimulates the sebaceous glands to produce more sebum.

Mild deficiencies in chromium are fairly common in Western countries, where consumption of processed foods are common, as processing significantly decrease the chromium content of foods. Also physically active people, people who drink lots of coffee or tea, and people who consume high amounts of sugar have an elevated risk of being deficient in chromium.

Good dietary sources of chromium include romaine lettuce, onions, tomatoes, whole grains, and potatoes. To get the most health benefits from these foods, combine them with foods high in vitamin C which increases the absorption of chromium.

#6: Include Zinc-Rich Foods in Your Anti-Acne Diet

Foods that contain zinc are among the best foods for getting rid of acne, and incorporating these foods into your daily diet is inarguably one of the best diet tips for acne-free skin. Research suggests that the mineral zinc may alleviate acne symptoms, especially if a deficiency of this important mineral is present. Some researchers have found that zinc supplementation could be as effective for acne as traditional antibiotics. The acne fighting properties of zinc are believed to result from its ability to reduce inflammation and to kill bacteria associated with acne. Furthermore, zinc plays a role in protein synthesis and in collagen formation, both of which are necessary for maintaining healthy skin. Zinc has also been shown to be able to significantly reduce sebum production on the surface of the skin. Furthermore, zinc is also necessary for converting beta-carotene to vitamin A. Good sources of zinc include seafood – oysters being a particularly rich source – and oats.

#7: Watch Out for Excessive Amounts of Iodine

High amounts of iodine in the diet can cause irritation in the pores and cause acne flare-ups in some people. Iodine is an essential trace mineral, but the body needs it only in small quantities. Therefore, it is not uncommon for people to consume too much iodine. For example, just two to three cups of milk contain the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of iodine for adults (approximately 150 mcg). The iodine content of some fast foods exceeds the recommended daily intake by as much as ten times. In addition to milk and certain fast foods, significant dietary sources of iodine include sea vegetables (such as kelp), eggs, and strawberries.

More on Acne and Diet

This article on acne-fighting diet tips is the first one in a series of articles on acne and diet. To learn more about how eating certain foods can help prevent acne, continue to the next article 10+ Foods That Help You Get Rid of Acne. If you're interested in recipes that help prevent acne, be also sure to check out our collection of Anti-Acne Recipes.

If you are looking for a solid offline resource to support you on your journey to acne-free skin, you might want to check out The Clear Skin Prescription by bestselling author and acclaimed celebrity dermatologist Nicholas Perricone, M.D. In this compelling book, Dr Perricone dispels common medical myths about acne and explains how specific dietary habits, supplements, and topical applications can be used successfully to treat acne. The book features great before-and-after photos, interesting scientific research, and plenty of clear skin promoting recipes to try your hand at! If you live in the US or UK, check out the offer and reader reviews for this terrific book by clicking here.