Dairy: A 2005 article in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology examined the diets of 47,355 women and found a strong connection between milk and milk product (like cream cheese, sherbet, instant breakfast drinks and cottage cheese) intake and breakouts. Another study, of 4,273 teenaged boys also found an association between milk and acne flare-ups.
So what’s the link? “Much of the milk that we drink is produced by pregnant cows and contains high levels of hormones that can send oil glands into overdrive,” explains Schlessinger. Progesterone, insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) as well as compounds that the human body turns into dehydrotestosterone (DHT) are passed on to the milk, which can aggravate acne. Unfortunately, you don’t get a pass for buying organic milk from cows that haven’t been treated with Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH). “The hormones are just as bad,” he insists. If dairy triggers your breakouts, “You simply have to avoid milk.” Schlessinger advises his patients switch to almond milk (he likes unsweetened Silk Almond Milk), and cut down on cheese and other dairy products.
Researchers aren’t sure why, but skim milk seems to be more inflammatory, and they have a couple of theories why. Whole and partial fat milk have higher levels of estrogen, which can reduce acne, and may offset the other hormones. Or, the way skim milk is processed could make the hormones more available so that they have a stronger effect. At this point, milk does seem to aggravate acne, but the reason is still unclear.
Chocolate: Further evidence that life isn’t fair: A new study found a preliminary link between chocolate and acne. Ten men aged 18-35 with mild acne were told to snack on 12 ounces of Ghirardelli unsweetened, 100 percent cacao chocolate at once, then eat normally for the next week. On day four, the average number of acne lesions had shot up from 2.7 to 13.4. On day seven, it was 18.2.
Researchers also found that the more chocolate each subject ate, the more pimples he developed. But don’t quit that dark chocolate habit just yet. Dr. William Danby, Assistant Professor of Dermatology at Dartmouth, points out the study only suggests that chocolate inflames existing acne instead of causing it. And a previous study, where patients ate milk-free chocolate bars—not pure cacao— showed no connection at all. So if you don’t currently have acne, keep munching on 72 percent dark chocolate—it lowers blood pressure.
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