Skin Blog 7 - June 2017: is acne related to food?

Posted By Dr. Eugene Tan  
11:00 AM
Skin Blog 7 – June 2017: Is acne related to food?

This question has been raised for decades. Studies as early as the 1970’s have found little or no association. Recent evidence however, points otherwise.

A large study involving 47,355 women in the Nurses’ Health Study that used retrospective data collection to determine diet during high school found an association between acne and intake of milk. This was supported by several other case-control studies.

It is proposed that the natural hormonal components of milk or other bioactive molecule in milk exacerbates acne. Milk consumption was also related to increased levels of serum IGF (insulin-like growth factor).

IGF is also increased by high sugar foods particularly those with a high glycemic index.

In summary:

  1. Moderate-severe acne is associated with high consumption of milk, in particular skim milk, cheese/yogurt, sweets/cakes, chocolate, and a low consumption of fish, and limited intake of fruits/vegetables.
  2. Foods with high glycemic index can worsen acne.


  1. Cordain L et al. Acne vulgaris: a disease of Western civilization. Arch Dermatol. 2002;138(12):1584.
  2. Grossi E et al The constellation of dietary factors in adolescent acne: a semantic connectivity map approach. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2016;30(1):96. Epub 2014 Dec 2.