Study: Beat Hormonal Acne With Big Breakfast And Small Dinner

Recently published study shows over 50% of women with adult acne have hormonal abnormalities. Brazilian researchers measured androgen (male sex hormone) levels of 835 over 15-year old women with acne. They found that 54.56% had hyperandrogenism (higher than normal androgen level). The hormones most commonly elevated were dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS) and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA).

OK, it’s not exactly big news that adult acne is hormonal. For 20 years studies have shown a connection between androgen hormones and acne. That study just served as a handy prelude to the real reason for this post: to remind you that there’s a lot more you can do about hormonal acne than you may realize.

It’s insulin, dummy

Little bit of theory before we get to the meat of the post. While acne is usually linked to androgen hormones, you should focus your efforts on insulin. Insulin is the cornerstone hormone in acne. Not only it stimulates sebum production on your skin directly, but high insulin level also sets off a cascading hormonal reaction that increases DHEA secretion. As if that weren’t bad enough, high insulin level also makes your skin more sensitive to the now more abundant androgens.

That’s why reducing insulin is the key (well, one of the keys) to beating hormonal acne. A study from last year shows a simple way to do this.

Eat big breakfast and small dinner

Another very recent study shows that timing your meals properly can have a big impact on hormone levels. Israeli researchers divided 60 lean women with PCOS (a condition with high androgens and insulin levels) into two groups: breakfast and dinner. For the next 90 days the two groups were asked to have their meals as follows:

  • Breakfast group: 980 kcal breakfast, 640 kcal lunch and 190 kcal dinner
  • Dinner group: 190 kcal breakfast, 640 kcal lunch and 980 kcal dinner

So there was no difference in the overall caloric intake between the groups. The results were pretty impressive. After 90 days, the breakfast group had:

  • 50% lower insulin level
  • 7% lower blood sugar level
  • 50% lower free (read: bioactive) testosterone level
  • 105% higher sex hormone binding globulin level (SHBG binds to androgens and make them non-bioactive)

Pretty impressive, considering that the dinner group showed no changes.

Another study, this time putting overweight women on weight loss diet, showed similar results. The group that had a big breakfast and a small dinner had much lower blood sugar and insulin level than the group that had a small breakfast and a big dinner.

Explanation

Why does this happen? I can’t say for sure, but from reading other studies it seems circadian rhythms affect insulin sensitivity. A 2012 study showed that insulin sensitivity was about 40% higher after breakfast than after lunch or dinner, with no difference between the latter two meals. Other studies have shown blood sugar and insulin levels are higher after meals eaten later the day. People working on night-shifts also have higher risk of metabolic syndrome and other blood sugar-related problems.

So it looks like there is some truth to the saying that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

Conclusion

The clear take-way from these studies is to eat most of your calories early in the day and only take light meals in the evening.

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About Me

Hi, I am Acne Einstein(a.k.a. Seppo Puusa). I'm a bit of a science nerd who is also passionate about health. I enjoy digging through medical journals for acne treatment gems I can share here. You can read more about my journey through acne and how I eventually ended up creating this.

18 thoughts on “Study: Beat Hormonal Acne With Big Breakfast And Small Dinner

    • Did you mean EstroBlock? I couldn’t find anything searching for Stroblock.

      The website of EstroBlock is full of hype, but that’s to be expected of a sales website. I glanced over the journal references section and it’s full of inconclusive preliminary studies that say nothing of using the product in humans. That’s also fairly typical with supplement websites. They list everything but the kitchen sink knowing that most of their visitors don’t understand the nuances of scientific research. It’s a very dishonest approach.

      That said, there could be something to DIM and indole-3-carbinol (I3C) supplementation. I found at least one human study that shows DIM and I3C affect estrogen metabolism. Whether that has any implications beyond thyroid cancer prevention, I can’t say. The whole ‘estrogen dominance’ blabber many natural acne blogs spout seems utter nonsense to me. It seems to be yet another condition that the alt-med community invented to create need for their products and services. I couldn’t find any published research on that.

  1. Hey!

    I have been wondering about Estroblock myself..I too have not found any serious research regarding this supplement and that is why I am so hesitant taking it. However, the ingredients look all natural to me (DIM and I3C). On the other hand, it is a bit odd that major supplement stores do not sell it..

    • So EstroBlock is just a DIM & I3C supplement. You should probably avoid the EstroBlock brand. It seems highly overpriced and you can find much cheaper DIM supplements. There’s no reason to supplement with I3C since it’s just converted to DIM in the colon before absorption. If I remember correctly 100mg of DIM gives you much higher (I think double) blood levels of DIM than 100mg of I3C.

      Then the bigger question, should you supplement with DIM at all? I can’t really say. The claims that it cures acne by blocking estrogens seem very weird. If anything, women with acne have too little estrogen. Estrogen has strong anti-acne activity. It can block androgen action in the skin and reduce sebum production. There’s some very preliminary data to show that DIM might inhibit the mTor pathway (master regulator behind acne), but that data is too preliminary and we can’t say it has the same effect on humans.

      If you want, you can get a cheap DIM supplement from iHerb, such as this one, and see if it does anything. I would avoid EstroBlock.

  2. Ive used estroblock in the white bottle on amazon and its actually really great. Also my sister used it and it reduced her acne and stubborn belly fat, so I think it does clear out the bad estrogens.

  3. Hey Seppo I wanted to ask, how can I achieve the benefits of the hormonal effects of a big breakfast and a small dinner if I do intermittent fasting? My first meal is usually 1pm-2pm and that’s where I have my post work-out meal which is the largest meal of the day and then I lower the potions gradually until dinner.

    Would that give me the same effect or?

  4. I actually wanted to ask, I got very interested in doing this because why not, it may help so I’m curious. I re-did my meal plans so I would eat the biggest amount of calories in the morning and the lowest amount of calories as dinner. I wanted to ask though.

    Since it was a study done by women, would it have the same affect for men? Also, is it possible for me to drink my 3 cups of tea before starting to eat my large breakfast or would that screw with the whole thing?

    • Women are more prone to hormonal-type acne, so I would assume this is more helpful for women. That said, men whose acne is linked to hormones/dairy/sugar should also benefit from this.

      Feel free to drink your green tea whenever you want. It has no calories and doesn’t have any effect on this.

        • You have two forms of testosterone (and probably also other hormones) circulating. One is bound to other molecules and another is unbound, or free testosterone. Only the unbound form is biologically active, i.e. usable as it is. The bound form must be ‘freed’ before it becomes biologically active.

  5. I actually tried this and was unsure if I should continue because eating the majority of my carbs and protein in one meal made me worry that I would produce too much insulin in one go, but eh.. Eating 6 smaller meals (Something I tried for the first time today) didn’t really satisfy me too much. So I may continue this pattern of eating. I wasn’t feeling hungry towards the end of the day at all either.

    The too much insulin production part still worries me a bit but if it’ll help me in the long run.

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