New Study Shows Even Dark Chocolate Causes Acne

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.

effect-dark-chocolate-pimples

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.

99-Cocoa-EXCELLENCE-Bar_nutr_450x_391872

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).
dark-chocolate-cause-acne-quote

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.

Conclusion

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.

 

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9 thoughts on “New Study Shows Even Dark Chocolate Causes Acne

  1. Thanks for keeping the well done work, Since, I’m male and have some issues with all kinds of acne I would keep chocolate some weeks away, the difficult is there is so many acne prone foods, and it’s kind of difficult to see results, because there is too many factors to deal with, but little by little my skin is going better every week, thanks a lot for… everything peace 😀

    • Glad to hear you are slowly making progress. Agree that it’s not easy with so many possibilities and factors to deal with. My theory of acne types makes the job a bit easier as you can eliminate many of the potential factors based on the type of acne you have.

  2. This is bad news for me, as I love the stuff and have dark chocolate 4-5 times per day! I can’t imagine going without. But I’m going to try cutting it out for a fortnight at some point to see if it makes a difference. At the minute, I have no idea on what type my acne is, nor the cause.

    Have any studies been carried out on coffee? I’ve had the feeling that drinking coffee tends to make my skin worse, but I’ve seen no proof nor can I say for sure in my case.

    Having to give up both coffee and dark chocolate would be a scenario straight from my nightmares though 😉

  3. That’s so sad 🙁 but seems to be true in my experience. I really like the dark Lindt chocolate but it does give me pimples. My only hope now is that scientists discover that it doesn’t cause acne in women in certain phases of their cycle… OK, who am I fooling. Having a great skin is worth not having chocolate.

  4. Haha. What a turnaround from the wisdom that “chocolate doesn’t cause acne”. I bet some of those dudes are eating their words now, huh?

    • Well.. the studies that ‘proved’ chocolate doesn’t cause acne were poorly done to begin with. But for some reason, they were enough to establish the dogma that diet has no effect on acne.

  5. you do good work! Your one of them most informative blogger for acne who uses science to back up his reasoning which is why I love your articles. As oppose to reading typical pseudoscience, and there rant on removing “toxins”.

    Now I’m relativity clear, but I notice any time I incorporate anything sugary or sweet I will break out 8.5/10 even if its raisins or dates. I eat as much fruits and vegetables as I can, my main meals consist of red/brown rice and I know in large amounts these can contribute to acne.

    Sigh, yeah my acne is heavily dependent on what I eat in terms of its severity. Its so frustrating, especially trying to find a diet to stick too.

  6. Hi Seppo,
    What component of chocolate causes most problems? Is it cocoa powder or cocoa butter? Both present in dark chocolate, powder in much more products…

    Another thing, on one of medical sites (classic medicine stuff, not holistic or natural) I’ve read advice to stop eating chocolate and drinking coffee before liver blood tests, cause they are narrowing bile ducts thus can alter the results. It’s a huge deal for me with my fat rich diet – not because testing but everyday life. Is it true?

    My personal experience with chocolate/skin is much like with coffee… inconclusional to say the least. I seem to react the most to milk chocolate, and much less to either dark or white one, which makes no sence. But I always consume milk chocolate with caffee with milk, white one with green tea and dark with green tea with milk. Other thing – skin problems after chocolate or diary happen to me only after period of overeating them. There is no reaction if I’m really moderate. Another – brands, they use different components, sugar level, trace amounts of gluten, soy, nuts etc, may be trace or huge. I feel the difference, cause some brands cause me stomach pain, to rule that out I eat one brand only. Just writing to show small things can make a difference and why self observation is so hard!

    • I think it’s the cocoa itself. I mean, sugar and dairy are also linked to acne, but there’s reason to believe that cocoa itself is also problematic. If I recall correctly, in one study giving participants capsules filled with pure cocoa was enough to cause acne in quite a few of them.

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