A recently published study shows that even eating moderate amounts of high-quality dark chocolate can cause acne.
The study, published in the International Journal of Dermatology in December 2015, asked 25 acne-prone men to eat 25g (0.9 ounces) of high-quality dark chocolate every day for 4 weeks.
This graph shows the number of both inflammatory and non-inflammatory pimples throughout the study period.
Source: Vongraviopap, S. & Asawanonda, P. Dark chocolate exacerbates acne. Int. J. Dermatol. (2015). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26711092
The graph speaks for itself. The number of both inflammatory and non-inflammatory pimples doubled in 2 weeks.
The researchers say they used dark chocolate from Lindt that contains 99% cocoa, which, I presume, makes it 99% Cocoa EXCELLENCE Bar. Here’s the nutrition facts label.
The amount of sugar on the 25g daily dose used in the study is negligible, less than 1g.
There has been a handful of other studies on chocolate and acne.
- In 2011 Block et al. asked 10 men to eat as much chocolate on a single sitting as they wanted and measured the number of pimples after 4 and 7 days. The average number of pimples shot up from 2.7 before the study to 18.2 on the 7th day.
- In 2014, the same research group gave 14 men capsules filled with either pure cocoa. Again, the number of pimples shot up from 3.9 before the study to 10 at the day 7.
- On the other hand, in a 2014 study 3 groups of 20 people were given either white chocolate, dark chocolate or nothing. The groups consumed 100g of chocolate a day for 30 days. The number of pimples increased by roughly 20% in the group consuming white chocolate with no change in the other groups.
Overall these studies suggest that even the supposedly healthy dark chocolate can cause acne.
Why chocolate causes acne?
Nobody knows for sure why cocoa causes acne. In an earlier post, I talked about a study that shows eating chocolate primes the immune system to have a stronger reaction against P. Acnes bacteria (the bacterium associated with acne).
In this study, the researchers asked people to eat 50g of chocolate for 4 days. The researchers then drew blood from the participants and exposed it to P. Acnes bacteria. They showed that 4 days after eating chocolate the immune system released far more inflammatory cytokines in response to the bacteria.
In English, this means that exposure to the bacteria caused more inflammation, which can trigger acne.
This latest study adds to the growing body of scientific evidence suggesting that chocolate can cause acne. This applies even to high-quality dark chocolates that have little to no sugar.
As always with acne, different individuals react to different substances. These results do not mean chocolate would cause acne for everybody. But this does mean you should put chocolate on your suspected foods list and keep an eye on how it affects your skin.