DETROIT – Do certain foods make your skin break out?
Most teenagers and many adults have acne and will go to great lengths to avoid breakouts.
For decades, doctors have told patients that what they eat does not have an impact on acne, but Dr. Frank McGeorge says that's not the case.
"I clearly remember being taught in medical school that there was no link between diet and acne," McGeorge said. "But I also remember my teenage self avoiding certain foods, like chocolate and ice cream, because they seemed to make my acne worse. And it turns out, now well over 30 years later, teenage me was right."
Dr. Linda Stein Gold, a dermatologist at Henry Ford Hospital, helped write the book on acne.
"I was fortunate enough to actually be involved in the writing of the guidelines," Stein Gold said.
The American Academy of Dermatology has new guidelines on managing acne. Stein Gold said for years, doctors were misled by earlier research on foods and acne.
"There were some studies that were done that actually failed to show an association," Stein Gold said.
It was enough to change a whole mindset in the dermatological community and they basically decided diet does not influence acne.
But more current research has put a new light on this ages-old problem.
This is a hot topic because every patient that comes in wants to know if something they're eating contributes to acne.
One of the most convincing associations is with sugary foods, like white bread, doughnuts and muffins. These foods have what is known as a high glycemic index, which causes the sugar in the blood to go up quickly and trigger a cascade of events that increases hormones and increases sebum. All this together causes acne to flair up.
What about dairy products?
"We do see some association between milk products and acne," Stein Gold said.
But it's not all milk.
"When we take a look at milk, what we find is there's a difference between whole fat milk and skim milk, and it appears that skim milk actually has a higher association of the development of acne than whole fat milk," Stein Gold said.
And what about the eternal favorite, chocolate?
"Chocolate is interesting," she said. "First of all, we know there's a lot of sugar potentially in the chocolate products that are made so that, in itself, can increase the glycemic index."
However, even beyond chocolate products quickly raising your blood sugar or even the dairy component, when cocoa was tested alone, a slight associated with binging on chocolate and a subsequent acne breakout was found.
Greasy foods are often blamed for acne, but oily foods do not cause oily skin.
"As a physician, I would probably tell you to avoid those foods to begin with because of other issues," she said. "But there hasn't been an exact association between the greasy foods and acne."
Stein Gold recommends eating a low glycemic load diet, meaning more whole grains, brown foods, and healthy fruits and vegetables.
As far as beneficial foods, there's currently research into the potential benefits of antioxidants, zinc, probiotics, and fish oil, but none of it is conclusive enough to make a clear recommendation yet.