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When I was a teenager, where acne was concerned I was convinced there was a conspiracy between doctors and parents. It seemed like everything we kids enjoyed eating would cause my face to explode. Greasy foods were taboo, and everything delicious was greasy: burgers, pizza, fries. Sugar? I don’t recommend it, but I lived on the stuff, especially soft drinks and chocolate.
Then I went to medical school and learned the truth. It had all been folklore. Dermatologists had done numerous studies and simply could find no connection between diet and acne. “All those years of deprivation trying to clear up my skin,” I sighed to myself.
Now, decades later, diet and acne are linked once again. And who are the culprits?
1. Milk (surprise!). In a study that followed more than 6,000 teenage girls, their food diaries, and their faces, it turned out that girls who drank two or more glasses of milk every day were 20% more likely to have problems with acne. And the cause? It’s not the fat in milk (skim milk had same effect as whole milk), but rather the hormones in the cow. Did you know that 80% to 90% of milk reaching the market comes from pregnant cows whose endocrine systems are literally gushing hormones? On top of that, farmers inject their own gumbo of pharmaceuticals to stimulate the cows’ mammary glands to boost production.
Here’s a sampling of the hormones, either injected or added to feed, each of which is known to stimulate hair growth and oily skin activity: progesterone, dihydro-testosterone, prolactin, insulin, insulin-like growth factor releasing hormone, and growth hormone. Yum!
2. Sugar (no surprise). Teenagers and twenty-somethings who eat lots of sugar and high glycemic foods–the white, refined foods such as white-flour breads, pasta, pastry, cakes, snacks, and cookies–have a far greater risk of acne than those rare birds who eat a lot of high-fiber, low-glycemic foods, including fresh fruit, veggies, and whole grains.
As you probably know, high-glycemic foods quickly turn to sugar in your bloodstream, demanding your body produce insulin to process all that sugar by moving it out of your bloodstream and into cells. Low glycemic foods are taken up slowly and provide long-lasting energy.
Now go explain low-glycemic foods to your teenager. Prepare for the smirk.
David Edelberg, MD