Acne, breakouts, pimples - we used to think it was a problem for teenagers...
Why on earth is our generation still battling acne at an age when our mothers were checking their mirrors for crows feet around the eyes and debating which skin creams would reduce wrinkling? According to scientists around 50% of adults aged 25 years and over suffer from acne! Thirty-something women, forty-something men, all with acne. It seems acne knows no bounds when it comes to age.
A disfiguring skin disease, acne vulgaris can cause permanent scarring. So treating it promptly is a good idea. For a long time it's been said that there is no link between diet and acne. Medical practitioners instead handed out prescriptions for topical and oral medications. But, a handful of specialists in the dermatology field are starting to rock the boat and question whether diet may indeed be a partial cause of acne.
Can A Bad Diet Cause Acne?
Around 70 years ago scientists thought acne was caused by problems with carbohydrate metabolism - as acne patients almost always had impaired glucose tolerance. Fast forward to the 1960s and 70s and all that changed. A handful of poorly constructed scientific trials reported that diet had no effect on acne. The results of those flawed studies are still referred to by a number of authorities as 'evidence' that diet does not cause acne. Since then, scientists have discovered more about how different levels of hormones and impaired glucose metabolism could result in acne and how diet can impact hormone and glucose levels. Consideration is again being given to a potential relationship between diet and acne.
In 2007 a group of Australian researchers published the results of a 12 week trial investigating the effect of diet on acne in a group of male patients aged 15-25 years. The young men were assigned randomly to a low glycaemic load diet which contained low glycaemic index (GI) carbohydrates and lean protein-derived foods; or a standard western diet with a higher glycaemic load. At the end of the 12 week trial the group of young men on the low glycaemic load diet had loss weight, less acne and improved insulin sensitivity. The low glycaemic load diet improved blood glucose levels, glucose metabolism, and levels of sex hormones potentially involved in acne development.
Acne And A Low Glycaemic Load Diet
The Australian researchers couldn't definitively state that the low glycaemic load diet caused the improvement in the acne (it could have been the weight loss), but it certainly looks promising. Following up on these findings the Australian researchers, based at the RMIT University in Melbourne, have further investigated the links between diet and hormonal markers of acne. The published results from this pilot study showed that a low glycaemic load diet may result in positive changes to levels of sex hormones and insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I); hormones that have been implicated as aggravating factors in acne development. Together this adds more weight to the view that diet does indeed play a role in the development of acne - but more research is needed before a definitive statement can be made.
How To Eat A Low GI Diet
In the meantime many of us continue to struggle with unwanted breakouts - so what can we do? You have nothing to lose and potentially a lot to gain by modifying your diet to see if this improves the severity, duration or frequency of your breakouts. Try including these foods in your diet:
- Low GI breakfast cereals - try rolled oats, muesli or other low GI breakfast cereals (check the boxes in the supermarket for GI ratings)
- Grainy breads - full of seeds and grains, for breakfast, lunch or a snack
- Beans, chickpeas, lentils - baked beans is a good example, try other tinned varieties of beans and chickpeas too, tinned varieties can easily be added to a salad, casserole, curry or chilli dish with no precooking
- Fruits and vegetables - aim for at least five or more servings a day, the more the better, whether fresh, frozen or tinned - the aim is to just eat more
- Lean red meat and skinless poultry - or a healthy vegetarian alternative like eggs or soy foods such as tofu
- Fish - aim for 1-2 servings of fish a week, sound too hard? Remember tinned salmon and tuna are easy options - toss them through some pasta, have them on toast or just serve with a leafy green salad for lunch, much easier!
- Nuts - almonds, Brazil nuts, walnuts, just a small handful though as these are high in fat
- Milk, yoghurt, cheese - choose low-fat varieties
A healthy plate for main meals consists of 1/2 plate of fruit and vegetables, 1/4 plate of lean protein and 1/4 plate of low-GI carbs such as brown rice, pasta, noodles, bread or beans. If you choose from the above food groups for your meals and portion it out according to the 'healthy plate' ethos you'll be well on the way to a lower GI diet and a healthier body.
Following these guidelines will help to improve your all round health and energy levels and may also improve your skin. Bear in mind that it takes around 30 days for our skin cells to renew; so any changes won't happen overnight.
Nutritionist Jennifer Bowden regularly shares stories about her healthy eating dilemmas in her blog. Read Jennifer's blog on how to fail the right way... The Secret of Failing At Healthy Eating. For more great information on Low GI eating get yourself one of these great books by author Dr Jennie Brand-Miller, from the University of Sydney...
Last Updated: 27 October 2008
The material provided by Thinking Nutrition Ltd on this website is for information purposes only. It is not a substitute for appropriate health advice from a qualified medical practitioner.