A study just published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics shows acne patients eat more sugar and junk food than people with clear skin.
Dr. Jennifer Burris and colleagues from Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health and New York University polled young adults of their dietary habits and acne severity. They asked 248 people aged 18 to 25 to fill a questionnaire assessing their intake of sugar, milk and other acne-relevant foods. The participants were also asked to fill another questionnaire determining their acne severity.
The participants were classified into 3 groups based on their acne severity: no acne, mild acne and moderate/severe acne.
This graph shows intake of various foods for the different groups. The bars are plotted on the axis on the left and the line chart on the right-hand axis. So you would read the transfat and total fruit and vegetable intake from the right-hand axis and the other values from the left-hand axis.
The most shocking finding is the difference in total and added sugar intake. While people with mild acne eat little bit more sugar than people with clear skin, people with moderate to severe acne eat almost 4 and 3 times more sugar than people with no or mild acne, respectively. The vast majority of sugar is added sugar, which moderate to severe acne sufferers eat on average 156 g per day. 156 grams of sugar translates to almost 13 tablespoons or 1.5 34oz (1 liter) bottles of Coca Cola. Knowing what we know of the relationship between sugar and acne it’s no surprise these people have skin problems.
The moderate/severe acne group also gobbles over 3 times more transfats than the other groups. This probably means they eat quite a bit more junk and processed foods.
There were no meaningful differences in glycemic index or total fruit and vegetable intake between the groups.
I separated the data for milk intake to a separate graph.
I think that graph is self-explanatory. People in the moderate/severe acne group consume over twice the amount of milk than people with no acne, and people with mild acne consume about 60% more.
While these results look dramatic, there are a couple of caveats we need to keep in mind. This study used self-reported values to asses dietary intakes and acne severity.
It’s no secret that such data is notoriously unreliable. People tend to have an overtly optimistic view of their dietary habits when filling such questionnaires, they underreport intakes of unhealthy foods and overreport intakes of healthy foods.
That said, I don’t see any reason why we couldn’t use this data to compare the differences between groups – presumably all the groups had similarly optimistic views of their diets.
And we shouldn’t confuse correlation with causation. For example redditor jasonp55 discovered ‘the real cause of autism’ by plotting the data for organic food sales against autism diagnoses.
Perfect correlation. If such correlation was found, for example, between GMO food intake and autism, natural health websites would be full of screaming headlines denouncing the evils GMO foods, but I’m still waiting for the email alerting me to the dangers of organic food! Funny how things work.
Moving on… Were this the only study linking these foods to acne, I wouldn’t think much of it. But it’s not. There are other studies showing both sugar and milk can affect acne. When you see these results in the context of existing evidence the findings become much more interesting.
I can’t draw any grand conclusions based on this study. If you are a regular reader, these findings probably don’t come as a surprise. Still, it’s interesting to see the fairly dramatic differences in sugar, transfat and milk intakes.