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A High-Sugar Diet Leads To Acne More Than Tobacco Use, Study Finds

Jamie Schneider
mbg Associate Beauty & Wellness Editor
By Jamie Schneider
mbg Associate Beauty & Wellness Editor
Jamie Schneider is the Associate Beauty & Wellness Editor at mindbodygreen, covering beauty and wellness. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare.
Image by Jennifer Chong / Stocksy
October 11, 2019

Acne affects one in 10 people globally, making it the eighth-most prevalent disease worldwide, according to existing research. Because it's so common, there are remedies upon remedies for how we can treat the most stubborn of spots. But new research claims that there may be a way to prevent that first zit from making an appearance at all. 

Research presented at the 28th EADV Congress in Madrid found that poor dietary habits—marked by eating high-sugar sweets—is one of the most significant factors that lead to acne. During the study, researchers analyzed data from 6,700 participants across six countries in North America, South America, and Europe in order to determine which external and internal factors were most associated with acne. 

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When the results were in, they found that 48.2% of individuals who suffer from acne consumed dairy products (which has been studied before), 35.6% consumed soda juices or syrups, 37% consumed pastries and chocolate, and 29.7% consumed sweets, all on a daily basis. Previous studies linking food to acne have shown foods with a high glycemic index can trigger breakouts; these new numbers only further underscore how deeply connected diet and skin are related.

The researchers also analyzed tobacco use, which has previously been shown as a potential acne trigger. And surprisingly, in this study, tobacco wasn't shown to have an influence on acne. While tobacco use results in a variety of other health concerns, it looks like eating processed sugar takes the cake (pun intended) when it comes to this particular skin condition. It's also interesting to note that 11% of participants who suffer from acne consumed whey protein products, which makes a case for investing in a clean protein powder even stronger. 

"Acne is one of the most common reasons why people with skin issues contact a dermatologist,” lead researcher, Brigitte Dréno, M.D., Ph.D., notes. "Its severity and response to treatment may be influenced by internal and external factors, which we call the exposome. For the first time, this study allows us to identify the most important exposome factors relating to acne from patient questioning prior to any treatment prescription."

So, the next time you're planning for an important event, party, or even an impromptu night out, you might want to cut back on processed sugar and dairy products. Even when the holiday treats become really tempting this season, remember that there are healthier ways to get your sugar craving fix. Trust me, your glowy skin will thank you.

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Jamie Schneider
Jamie Schneider
mbg Associate Beauty & Wellness Editor

Jamie Schneider is the Associate Beauty & Wellness Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare. In her role at mbg, she reports on everything from the top beauty industry trends, to the gut-skin connection and the microbiome, to the latest expert makeup hacks. She currently lives in New York City.