I have been warring with acne for the past seven years, and I have not won a battle yet. I cannot count the number of times I have woken up to a new inflamed pink spot on my face or the number of times I have painfully popped a whitehead and watched as the cream colored blob splats against a mirror while a droplets of blood begin to pool into the newly unclogged pore (Note: I am aware that popping pimples is not beneficial to dealing with acne, but I do not have the restraint or the patience to let the pimple naturally heal itself). Although I have tried a variety of over the counter treatments and prescribed drugs, like Retin A cream, to defeat my acne, nothing has provided me with the weapon I need to annihilate it forever. I have read a number of blogs and other sites on how to deal with acne, and one dietary change that is often suggested is decreasing the amount of high glycemic index carbohydrates I consume (Scroll to the bottom of the page for an explanation of what high glycemic index carbohydrates are). Because the health claim of high glycemic carbohydrates promoting acne is a popular health claim, I decided to review the current scientific journals on the effects of high glycemic index carbohydrates on acne.
Albeit there is a limited amount or research on high glycemic index carbohydrates and acne, I found two articles that are two conflicting research articles worth mentioning.
Study 1: The first study compared the effects of high glycemic index diets and low glycemic index diets in forty-three Australian teenage boys who had varying degrees of facial acne severity. Twenty-three of the young men were assigned to low glycemic index diets while the other twenty guys were assigned to high glycemic index foods for an eight-week period (the teens could eat their diets ad libitum). The severity of the boys’ acne was rated by a dermatologist at the beginning and end of the study, and two different dermatologists were used for these ratings. The boys also had to complete diet journals for each Saturday and Sunday they participated in the study, and the guys’ weights were measured each week. Blood sample tests, height, and weight of each participant was also taken. The results of the study showed that there were not any statistically significant differences between the acne severity of men on high glycemic index diets compared to men on low glycemic index diets. Although there were not any statistically significant results from the study, there are a few limitations/confounding variables from the study. These include the lack of knowledge on whether each subject remained on their assigned diet plan, the lack of women in the study to determine if the results would be similar based on gender differences, the differences in the ratings of acne severity based on the two different dermatologists used in the study.
The second study included forty three males between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five. Similar to the previous study, the men were divided into two groups and told to consume certain diets (low glycemic load diets and higher glycemic load diets) over a twelve-week period. The participants met with the researchers once a month to assess their acne severity, and participants were encouraged to remain on their diet plans through phone calls, 24-hour urine samples during week 0 and week 12, and daily glycemic load tests. The results of the study showed statistically significant decreases in acne severity of men with low glycemic load diets, decreases in weight, decreases in BMI, and improved insulin sensitivity compared to the higher glycemic load diets. The main problems with the study are the lack of knowledge on how well the subjects remained on their assigned dietary plans, the lack of diversity in the subjects (i.e. there were not female participants), and the small sample size. An explanation of the results of the study is that the regular consumption of high glycemic index diets frequently exposes adolescents to acute hyperinsulinemia, which is associated with increases in the bioavailability of the hormone, androgen, and increases in insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I). Increases in both of these compounds is part of a plausible acne pathogenesis pathway.
In conclusion, further studies need to be conducted in order for me to decide if reducing the consumption of high glycemic index foods could decrease the risk or severity of acne.
Explanation of Carbohydrates, Glycemic Index, and High Glycemic Index Foods:
Carbohydrates are compounds that can be broken down into sugar molecules and provide the main energy source for your body, glucose. The glycemic index is a way to measure the rise of blood glucose levels after eating a carbohydrate food source, and a high glycemic index food spikes blood glucose levels at a fast rate. Food sources of high glycemic index foods include white bread, certain fruits (such as watermelon), and corn flakes.
Note: This is the second blog post in a series of post I am completing on whether diet affects acne. To gain insight into my plans for the next few blog post, please view my first acne blog post.
- Smith, Robyn, Neil Mann, Anna Braue, Henna Mäkeläinen, and George Varigos. “A Low-glycemic-load Diet Improves Symptoms in Acne Vulgaris Patients: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition1 (2007): 107-15. Web. 29 Mar. 2016.
- Kaymak, Yesim, Esra Adisen, Nilsel Ilter, Aysun Bideci, Demet Gurler, and Bulent Celik. “Dietary Glycemic Index and Glucose, Insulin, Insulin-like Growth Factor-I, Insulin-like Growth Factor Binding Protein 3, and Leptin Levels in Patients with Acne.” Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology5 (2007): 819-23. Web. 28 Mar. 2016.
- Blake, Joan Salge. “Carbohydrates: Sugars, Starches, and Fibere.” Nutrition & You. 3rd ed. San Francisco: Pearson Benjamin Cummings, 2008. 119-20. Print.