Approximately 50 million Americans suffer from  acne vulgaris, the most common form of the skin condition, and they spend more than $1.2 billion each year on acne treatments.

Contrary to popular belief, acne is not caused by the foods we eat. In fact, numerous studies have failed to find a causal link between diet and acne.

Emerging research, however, suggests there may be a link between a low-glycemic diet and a decrease in acne severity. The study, which appeared in the July issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, examined whether male acne patients ages 15 to 25 who followed a low-glycemic diet (25% of energy from protein and 45% from low-glycemic-index carbohydrates) had a reduction in acne lesions, compared with a control group that consumed a carbohydrate-rich diet.

“The study found that at 12 weeks, acne lesions had decreased more in the young men in the low-glycemic group than their counterparts in the control group, whose diet had no consideration for the glycemic index,” says dermatologist Susan C. Taylor, MD, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University in New York City and a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia. “This suggests that there could be a relationship between limiting carbohydrate-rich foods in acne patients’ diets and an improvement in their acne, but more studies need to be done to confirm this finding before we consider any future dietary modifications for our patients.”

On the other hand, some acne patients have noticed that certain foods worsen their symptoms—particularly chocolate, greasy foods, soft drinks, peanuts or foods high in fat.

“Patients who notice a cause-effect relationship between eating certain foods and acne flare-ups should avoid those foods,” Dr. Taylor says. “However, following a strict diet will not clear acne either. The best advice is to eat a well-balanced diet and follow the treatment plan recommended by your dermatologist.”

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