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Hormonal changes and genetics cause acne. Diet does not cause acne, and a number of research studies have proven this, according to the American Dermatological Association. In fact, the group says the idea of a diet-acne relationship one of the biggest myths about acne.

Still, a few studies have found connections between acne and the food that individuals concern. And some dermatologists now believe that, at the least, more research needs to be done to examine the complex relationship between food and acne.

Is dairy the culprit?

In a 2005 study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health examined questionnaires filled out by more than 47,000 women about their diet in high school and their physician-diagnosed cases of severe acne. After controlling for a number of factors, researchers found a positive correlation between acne and dairy consumption. The correlation was strongest for total milk intake and skim milk consumption.

Dermatologists who believe dairy consumption plays a role in acne hypothesize that drinking cow milk exposes us to growth hormones that are in the milk of the pregnant cow. In particular, they point to IGF-1, an insulin-like growth factor whose levels in blood before, during and after puberty correspond to the prevalence of acne. IGF-1 is present in cow's milk.

A low-glycemic diet may help

Australian researchers at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology conducted a study with 50 young men, ages 15 to 25, all of whom had acne problems. One group was fed a diet of lean meat, poultry, fish, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. The other was fed a typical Western diet. After 12 weeks, the group that consumed a low-glycemic, higher-protein diet had a 50 percent improvement in acne.

The researchers began to pursue this line of inquiry after learning about studies of developing countries that showed that the children in higher socioeconomic areas had more acne. Inuits who adopted a Western diet have also been shown to develop acne.

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