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by Marijana Domazet, Friday, March 8, 2013 | Categories: Skin and Nails

A topic that has received some attention with research regarding acne is whether diet plays a role in the pathogenesis of acne. A recently published literature review elegantly explains how the majority of studies regarding diet and acne have been flawed in the past, but that new studies indicate that a diet focused on Glycemic Load (GL) or dairy may be a worthwhile area to reconsider in research.

The review, which was published in Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, critically evaluated 27 studies that had considered the relationship between diet and development of acne. The majority of these studies were poorly designed, and often relied on self-report, lacked criteria for evaluating changes in acne development and had limited samples (who were often only males). Moreover, the same research teams, who repeatedly made the same methodological errors, conducted many of the included studies. However, the authors also highlighted some recent studies that had a better design and statistical measurement of the results. Overall, the researchers argued that diet does not cause acne, but that the potential relationship between diet and acne is worthy of investigation especially when it comes to consumption of dairy products and diets focused on GL levels.

For instance, in the case of dairy products, it was noted that excessive amounts of dairy seemed to be related to a higher amount of acne. Although this was a consistent finding between the studies, there were no specifications as to whether this relationship was direct or indirect. Similarly, the specific ingredient within dairy products that would play a key role was not specified. What surprised us the most was that none of the studies included cut-off points for when dairy or GL would become problematic, but mentioned that their participants had an excessive use of both.

We agree with the authors that more robust research, preferably randomised controlled trials, is needed in order to establish whether diet can play a role in developing acne. These studies would also need to pay greater attention to patients’ current and previous acne medications, and demographic factors such as race, sex and age. Including all of the aforementioned would enable more high quality comparison of studies.

We do not consider it unlikely that a diet would play a part in acne development, given that current research suggests several pathways to pathogenesis of acne. If future research were to present reliable findings, then this could have implications for recommending a certain diet in conjunction with acne medications.

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