Acne Vulgaris and Diet

Acne vulgaris (or simply acne) is a long-term skin condition characterized by areas of blackheads, whiteheads, pimples, greasy skin, and possibly scarring. Acne mostly affects skin with a greater number of oil glands including the face, upper part of the chest, and back. Acne occurs when sebaceous (oil) glands attached to the hair follicles are stimulated at the time of puberty by circulating male hormones. Sebum (oil) is a natural substance secreted by the sebaceous glands that lubricates and protects the skin.

Sebum helps the skin to get rid f the dead cells by bringing them to the cell surface through small pores.  Acne occur when these pores get clogged due to one more of the following reasons:

  • Dead skin cells- due to not properly cleaning the face and other exposed body parts
  • Excess oil- in diet and also increased secretions from the sebaceous glands
  • Bacterial growth- due to air pollution and/or infection
  • Increased production of sebum during puberty and also due to certain hormones like growth hormone and insulin.

Acne occurs most commonly during adolescence. People may also be affected before and after puberty, though it becomes less common in adulthood than in adolescence.  In 2010, acne was estimated to affect 650 million people globally making it the 8th most common disease worldwide.

During puberty in both sexes, acne is often brought on by an increase in androgens such as testosterone. Several hormones including insulin have been linked to acne. A high glycemic load diet is associated with worsening acne. Some trials have also shown a relationship between acne and insulin and sugar metabolism.

Foods high in sugar or the foods that have a high glycemic load increase secretion of insulin.

Foods that increase blood sugar and therefore blood insulin levels very fast are chocolates, candies, potato chips, sherbets, pastries, highly sweetened foods and also mango. Researches show that all these foods in moderation do not show similar adverse effect and therefore need to be taken in moderation.  Also, as insulin has been linked with increase in acne, it I advisable to take foods that have a low glycemic index.

Foods that may trigger increased insulin production and may cause increased occurrence of acne are:

  • Pasta made of refined flour
  • White rice
  • Refined sugars
  • White breads
  • Too much of Saturated and trans fats as in oily and fried foods
  • Potato chips and other such fried snacks
  • Chocolates and candies
  • Sweetened soda
  • Fruit Juices and sherbets
  • Highly processed and fast foods

The foods that are good for a healthy skin and help in avoiding acne:

  • Whole grains and cereals
  • Unprocessed foods
  • Legumes and pulses
  • Flaxseeds
  • Green tea
  • Pro-biotics such as curd and yogurt and pre-biotics such as sprouts
  • Low fat dairy
  • Vitamin A, C and E
  • The foods rich in mineral Zinc such as sea foods, germinated wheat, spinach, pumpkin seeds, nuts and mushrooms, etc.
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Dark green leafy vegetables
  • Tomatoes and berries (antioxidant rich foods)
  • Fish especially sea fish that are rich in omega-3  and
  • Nuts especially soaked almonds

Apart from the diet a good skin hygiene regime is very important to maintain a clean glowing skin.

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