In addition to mental stress and unsound skin hygiene, poor dietary habits are associated with acne, a team of researchers reports. In particular, sweets and acne seem to go hand in hand.
Acne is a common skin condition which affects most people at some point in their life. It commonly manifests through spots and oily skin, but it can also cause pustules and severe pain. Although acne cannot be cured, it can be controlled with treatment, and it can be influenced by lifestyle.
Acne is estimated to affect one in 10 people globally, making it the eighth-most prevalent disease worldwide. It is particularly prevalent in teenagers and young adults, with some estimates reporting that it affects up to 40% of adult females. While it is not the most harmful of conditions, it can cause significant long-term discomfort, and its high prevalence makes it important to study.
The good news is that even without medical treatment, simple lifestyle changes can reduce acne incidence. A study presented at the 28th Congress of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology in Madrid analyzed the exposure of different worsening factors to see which exacerbates acne the most. The study followed over 6,700 participants in six countries from North America, South America, and Europe. According to researchers, this is the first study of its type.
The results showed that the most significant dietary association was dairy consumption: 48.2% of individuals with acne consumed dairy products on a daily basis, compared to 38.8% who didn’t. Sweets such as pastries and chocolate also had a similar prevalence (37% vs 27.8%). Soda juices (35.6% vs 31%) were also significant factors. All in all, it seems that there is a significant association between sweets and acne.
Researchers also report an unexpected association: 11.9% of acne sufferers consume anabolic steroids, vs just 3.2% without acne. Consumers of whey proteins also have a higher incidence of acne (11% vs 7%). Exposure to pollution and stress were also more frequently observed in participants with acne compared to control participants. Professor Brigitte Dréno, lead author and an associate of Vichy Laboratories comments:
“Acne is one of the most common reasons why people with skin issues contact a dermatologist. Its severity and response to treatment may be influenced by internal and external factors, which we call the exposome. For the first time, this study allows us to identify the most important exposome factors relating to acne from patient questioning prior to any treatment prescription.”
This is still a preliminary study and was not yet published in a peer-reviewed journal, and the study analyzed association without discussing causality — but the findings are still significant. Several previous studies have signaled a connection between sugar and acne. Sugar itself does not cause acne, but it can trigger hormonal fluctuations inside the body. Furthermore, sugar’s oxidative properties can provoke acne breakouts and can cause the body’s insulin levels to spike, which triggers a burst of inflammation throughout the body.