The role of nutrition on acne

I had my first climb in a bit over a week after being sick, man I feel weak! Hopefully I’ll be back to normal in a couple of climbing sessions; good to be back either way. Other than that, I’ve been spending most of the last couple of days working or watching Smallville lol :p. Good show!

2012 has been, so far, the year with the most personal changes for me. I doubled up my Zoology major with Nutrition (I’m so glad for that!). I spent almost every day between May-September climbing outside; I can now rough it like no one else (people who’ve camped with me in the tail end of the summer would definitely agree lol). I ended my first serious relationship, I think I learnt more about myself within the few months following than I have throughout all of university lol (another factor that led me to doubling up my major!). I quit my job at a restaurant where I hadn’t been treated fairly only to find a few amazing jobs! I worked with an ‘outdoor adventure’ company throughout the summer with some absolutely amazing people. After the warm season was up, I decided to apply for a nutrition job and was lucky enough to get it; another amazing work place where I continue to learn every day! And finally, I decided to start a blog; I`ve had some amazing followers who have continually encouraged me to keep writing. All around, a very exciting year! I can only imagine what 2013 will bring after I`m graduated! It`s scary to think that I have no idea where I`ll be come June, but I have faith that things will work out for the best like they have so far!

Anyways, here’s a picture of me using my rest on a ledge in Kentucky- photo cred’s to my friend Liz


Acne is an epidemic that effects 85% of teenagers and persists into adulthood for about half of us. Environmental acne promoters (including diet) persist after puberty and drive adult acne. It is a distressing condition that often comes with depression, anxiety and significant physiological disability. So with that said, this post will be about the role of nutrition in acne (something that dermatologists should 100% consider).

So why is there such a rise in acne? The western diet is characterized by a high caloric, high glycemic, high fat, high meat and high dairy intake. These high intakes stimulate an increase in insulin and insulin growth factor-1 which will lead to an over activation of nutrient-sensitive enzymes (mTORC1). The increased mTORC1 activation is one of the major contributors for the slew of common modern day chronic diseases (e.g. obesity, diabetes, cancer). The over-activated mTORC1 will result in an increase in both fat production and androgen hormones (e.g. testosterone) which ultimately result in acne (and other problems). Our skin is a good indicator for our internal health, which is why we should be addressing our overall health when dealing with acne (in my opinion anyways).

In recent research, the reduction of high glycemic foods has been confirmed to improve acne, the rate of sebum excretion and androgen hormone content. An example of this can be seen in populations following paleolithic diets (e.g. certain indigenous populations) that are lower overall in glycemic loads. Acne is virtually absent; they have lower insulin levels because of the low glycemic load of their diets and as a result have lower rates of mTORC1 driven diseases. Although there`s overwhelming evidence for the role of diet in acne, this role is highly controversial and as a result, dermatologists still turn to drugs before considering nutrition.

I’ll say it again to keep driving my point home; acne prevention can be achieved through a reduction of mTORC1 activation. So how do we do that? A dietary intervention for acne can include the following; decreased calories, decreased high sugar products, decreased dairy, increased fruits and vegetables and potentially decreased meat consumption. The above would effectively decrease the mTORC1 activation. Vegan and paleolithic diets that are high in vegetables and fruits and excluding refined sugar, high-GI grains and dairy have been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and are therefore good options for treating acne. I strongly believe that dermatologists should be responsible for providing appropriate advice, before pushing drugs, which may save patents from other mTORC1 diseases later in life (e.g. obesity, diabetes, cancer).

Unfortunately, nutrition is not a common prescription given by dermatologists. Many of us have turned to a dermatologist and were then prescribed chemicals, antibiotics, birth control or even Accutane; all come with health risks like any other drug and don’t necessarily confront the root of the problem. ”Pop this pill a few times a day and you’ll be cured”, a common theme in modern medicine. I have a particular issue with this system because I was one of those teenagers who turned to a dermatologist and ultimately went through a large period of health problems (which were solved, after seeing a number of medical specialists, by my own research and a change in my diet). Why are we putting ourselves at any risk at all when finding a healthier diet free of risk would potentially resolve our problems? This continues to confuse me and has led me to be extremely leery of certain health care professionals.

So a wrap up; if you are suffering from acne, before turning to a drug, try a changeup in your diet. Try to reduce the glycemic load of your diet, maybe take out milk and up your intake of fruits and vegetables. Although a diet change is much harder than just taking medicine, your body will thank you in no time! And that marks the end of my post, hopefully you enjoyed reading it! Hope all of you have an excellent day! :)

Cordain L. (2005) Implications for the role of diet in acne. Semin. Cutan. Med. Surg.24;84-91.

Melnik, B. (2012) Dietary intervention in acne: Attenuation of increased mTORC1 signaling promoted by Western diet. Dermato-Endocrinology 4:1, 20–32.

Reynolds R, Lee S, Choi J, Atkinson F, Stockmann K, Petocz P and Brand-Miller J. (2010) Effect of the Glycemic Index of Carbohydrates on Acne vulgaris. Nutrients, 2, 1060-1072; doi:10.3390/nu2101060.

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50 comments on “The role of nutrition on acne

  1. Sandy says:

    Great article – just shared it on Twitter. Keep em coming.

  2. savorysouthern says:

    My daughter suffered terribly from acne. We tried every natural remedy we could find, carefully watched her diet. nothing worked! We finally found out it was her hormones, so birth control pills were the only solution that did work, which I hated!
    All the things you have listed to avoid should be avoided anyway. I truly wish parents would be more aware of what their children are eating. We had a family in the resaturant 2 nites ago that order a filet migon, 20 minutes later the server came in and told Chef Greg that the boy (13 yrs old ) wanted another one just like the first one. I was shocked….we serve really large pieces of filet, one is plenty for a grown man, but a 13 yr old….2 of them? Course I hardly ever consume red meat so I am a little prejudiced. First thing that popped out of my mouth was that is too much red meat for a child ,,,is he overweight? The server said yes and that she too was shocked at the child’s appetite.

    • Thank you for sharing! Although diet may not be the ultimate treatment for everyone (at least any traditional diet), I think it should be at least considered before going on medication. Good on you for looking to her diet first :). And that story about the boy made me really sad, what are his parents thinking! Thanks for the comment!

  3. I love this! My face just started breaking out again recently (I’m 23), but I figured it was because I just started taking birth control again. I’ve been a vegetarian for almost 10 years now and I’m starting my vegan diet today! I hope to see results in my skin by the end of January. Sounds like you’ve had an awesome year, I’m really happy for you! Stay safe.

  4. Susie says:

    Amen, Sister! I’ve been so convinced of this, especially how sugar impacts the face, yikes, for a long time. I’ve even talked to my middle school students at school about it. I think it’s important for us to educate our youth about how what they eat is more than just about tasting good. It’s a pitty that dermatologists and doctors are so slow to talk about the effects of food on the body, but food isn’t how they’ll make money, prescribing drugs does that. Shame. Thanks for the thoughts….

    • Thanks for sharing! I agree completely, thank goodness there are teachers like you educating our youth! That’s when education on nutrition is really most important! Thanks for the comment :D

  5. Great article, this should be read by health practitioners, especially dermatologists. After having consulted with two dermatologists in my past neither suggested a diet change for this condition, and it almost seems obvious. You absolutely should keep writing and don’t worry about uncertainty after graduation. You will do great, keep climbing and enjoying what you do – that’s what it’s all about. Happy new year!

    • It continues to confuse me why many practitioners don’t ever think about nutrition when making treatment suggestions, there’s something seriously wrong with this system. Thank you so much! I have faith things will work out for the best and I most definitely plan on continuing writing! I’ve learnt so much over the course of the few months I’ve been up and running, I found a new passion in writing and expressing myself :). Happy new years!

  6. frankoshanko says:

    Awesome post! Both about your year and about acne prevention in the wisest way possible, thereby leading to other amazing health benefits. I absolutely agree with you that all providers should try this approach first. I wish all health care practitioners put primary emphasis on ways to health, addressing the source of problems, more than masking them with drugs. People would be so much healthier and happier if they learned and implemented these miracles! Keep on keeping on! :)

    • I’m glad that you liked it :D. I’ve actually talked to quite a few medical students who had almost zero back ground in nutrition… I honestly think many doctors just don’t know anything (or very little) about nutrition. There’s something seriously wrong with that in my books!! Thanks for the post :)

  7. Great info. As you say, the typical medical approach has been to use medicines. We certainly need to focus more on health care than medical care! From research we’ve been watching, looks like dairy if often a major factor in acne. Some other good info can be found on the nutritionfacts website – check out for some informative short videos.

  8. Neo7ish says:

    Keep up your good work!


  9. paixpheonix says:

    this is a great one. Thanks.

  10. ryko2013 says:

    Hi Jen: Thanks for liking my blog. This is day two for me, so I’m thrilled that you liked my initial post. I really like your blog and will visit often. Your comment about dermatologists and their solution to the acne problem brought back vivid memories for me. I had pretty bad acne in high school and I was prescribed antibiotics and ended up eating them like candy. Not good! I told him at the time that my acne would consistently flare up exactly a day and a half after drinking a milkshake. His response: my acne has nothing to do with the milkshake This was about the time that I began realizing that doctors didn’t know everything and when it comes to nutrition, they generally know very little. After reading your post, I feel somehow vindicated. Thanks again and I look forward to reading all of your past and future posts…Rob

    • Many doctors have almost no background in nutrition through there education… there is a serious problem with this system!! Thank you for sharing! And keep on going with your blog :D. Thanks for the comment :)

  11. Chika Efobi says:

    I really enjoyed reading your blog. Congratulations on landing the fulfilling job. That’s the thing about life. Most times, when we let go of the stones we can then have enough roo to pick up the diamonds. Well done!

  12. Chika Efobi says:

    *room (apologies, I was typing faster than my keyboard)

  13. Totally true! Incorporating more fresh fruit and veggies while decreasing animal products will definitely help reduce acne! If you must consume animal products, choose leaner cuts of beef, or stick to mostly chicken and fish! Lots of water will help flush out toxins too! Thanks for sharing your article!

  14. Jewel says:

    OMG, what a great post! Thank you!! I found an image on Pinterest that shows what’s going on with your body depending on where your acne is. I get pimples all the time near my chin, which means a hormonal imbalance. I need to research eating for your hormones, hm….if I end up posting about this I’ll link back to you, too! :)

  15. Bev says:

    Great post Jen. You have an exciting future, that much is certain! Love your blog in general.

  16. says:

    Hey there! I’ve been following your site for some time now and finally got the courage to go ahead and give you a shout out from Austin Texas! Just wanted to tell you keep up the fantastic work!

  17. Iris D. says:

    Thanks Jen! I’ve been suffering from acne for the longest time; I’m slowly learning to change my diet which unfortunately, requires me to learn cooking too! Haha! Keep up the informative posts!

  18. You had written a great article . Good job

  19. Reblogged this on Aarex Homoeopathy and commented:
    The Role of Nutrition on Acne

  20. sti says:

    I agree 100%. I was recently reading about a drug you can get for acne called Acutane…scary stuff!! You have to regularly see a psychiatrist because of the possible neurological and emotional side effects!! So scary! Thanks for getting the word out :)

  21. meliponula says:

    Sounds as if you are living life to the hilt. Good for you.

  22. Ruby says:

    Wonderful article again! This is for you, I hope you enjoy ! Happy new Year’s Eve!

  23. hi

    Thanks for stopping by and liking my post. This was wonderful article you wrote. I am sure it was a awesome experience.

  24. Grndma Chris says:

    Thank you for dropping by my blog, that gave me an opportunity to visit you. I must say it is a fantastic blog. I envy you being able to climb, keep it up as long as you can. You have very good insight on nutrition etc. I look forward to following you throughout your journey. Happy new year.

  25. [...] Morning Hunger With a Healthy Breakfastgoodlife fitness kitchenersecond hand fitness equipmentCreatine and vegetarian athletes: do we need it to reach peak performance .recentcomments a{display:inline !important;padding:0 !important;margin:0 !important;} [...]

  26. Up to your usual high standard Jen. I keep telling everyone who will listen, and most who don’t, that diet is the most important factor in healthy living (even more so than exercise but please keep that quiet :) ) but unfortunately people seem to prefer taking a few pills with their pizza.

  27. Great points, and absolutely agree that diet is a critical factor to consider first when starting to tackle most health situations. I sometimes feel like we use drugs almost like a band-aid to mask the symptoms of problems, without going after one of the major root causes – diet! Personally I have seen a huge impact on the skin of my face and arms by dialling down the sugars, and increasingly nibbling on vegetables like red peppers and carrots for the Vit A, as well as nuts like Pumpkin seeds for the zinc. I almost fell over last weekend when someone told me “you have really good skin” – even though I’ve been eating well for about a year now, it was so not a part of my self-concept – didn’t think I’d ever hear those words! Go diet go!

  28. unknown says:

    One thing about the holidays is that everyone buys chocolate for gifts (especially if you are a first time home owner / hosting a party). I am nearly half way through eating the goodies that people have given me and can say that now that looking at my face and the breakouts that I probably shouldnt have eaten any.

    I really hate wasting food in general . . .I need to think of a way to tell people to stop buying chocolate!

    Great post!

  29. Anita Mac says:

    I have noticed removing milk and olives to make a difference!

  30. Very well said. Nutrition is so easily overlooked as the first line of defense and a natural way to improve the fitness of your skin! Thanks for sharing.

  31. Vibrant Bean says:

    Great post! Lots of good info

  32. Karin says:

    Hi. What a great post! I have been stuggeling with acne about 15 years now (im 28) without any success. Went vegan a bit more than 6 months ago and now (a week ago) I started additionally with gluten-free diet. Have to say that vegan alone didn`t help much in this area (of course – It is not a reason I went vegan) Anway I`m really interested in how gluten-free diet will affect my skin. So let`s see:) Good to see that you are happy with your decisions last year! All the best and keep up the good work you are doing in your blog (and your life)!

  33. That is some good diet info, a lot to take in and think about. Have you tried or written anything about natural acne remedies, if so plase share.

  34. Excellent blog here! Also your web site loads up fast! What web host are you using?

    Can I get your affiliate link to your host? I wish my web site loaded up as fast as yours lol

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