Ask an Expert: Can Eating Healthier Cure Acne?

Lily gives the real-deal answers to your nutrition questions. You ask, we answer.

Q: All of a sudden, I've been getting a lot of spots, I've been told that certain foods may worsen cause is this true?

A: Lily says... 

High Glycemic Load Foods

Diet won't necessarily be the cause of acne, however there is some emerging research in relation to nutrition and managing the condition.

The strongest dietary association to date is to do with something called the glycemic load. The glycemic load is a number which indicates how quickly a food is digested and how quickly it will raise blood sugar levels. Foods with a high glycemic load have a larger effect on blood sugar levels in comparison to foods with a low glycemic load.

Foods with a high glycemic load can in turn raise hormones such as insulin and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). These hormones can increase androgen production (male hormone) and increase oil production on the skin which is a common trigger for acne.

Foods with a high glycemic load include sugary sweets, biscuits, cakes, sweetened beverages, fruit juice, honey, maple syrup and other sugars, dried fruits, white refined carbohydrates including white bread, white rice, white pasta, and white flour products.


Interestingly there is also an association with dairy and increased oil production. Most of the research comes from observational studies, so we can’t categorically say that dairy causes acne, however it appears that in a small select group of people, those who consume dairy have a greater rate of acne.

Mechanistically it’s thought that dairy can stimulate the hormone IGF-1 which can in turn acts directly on the oil glands within the skin, triggering the production of sebum and acne. However for unknown reasons it appears that this association is to do with low fat dairy rather than full fat dairy.

Whilst dairy may worsen oily skin and acne for some, it’s important to remember that this may only be the case for a small, select group of people. Be cautious when excluding a whole food group and be sure that your diet is varied enough to make up for any lost nutrients.

Q: How much protein should we eat? Do you really think a non-meat eater can get this much protein in a single day?

A: Lily says...

Vegans can definitely meet the daily recommendations for protein – all soy products, beans, pulses, grains, nuts and seeds contain protein, and as long as they are following a whole-food vegan diet and are consuming the recommended calorie intake to maintain the weight they should be receiving optimal amounts.

In the UK, adults are advised to consume 0.75g of protein for each kilogram that they weigh - this equates to around 45g per day for the average female. However, those leading a more active lifestyle may need to consume up to 1g per kilogram of body weight and even as much as 1.5g for the very active.

Ask a nutritional expert questions

Q: Are complete/incomplete proteins a thing? Is this something non-meat eaters should consider?

A: Lily says...

Each protein molecule is made up of a number of essential amino acids, and protein from animal sources contain this full range of amino acids. However, protein from plant-based sources either do not contain all essential amino acids, or provide them in varying amounts. If two foods which contain plant-based protein are eaten in combination, for example lentil curry with rice, you are more likely to get a sufficient range of amino acids to create a complete protein.

It’s therefore essential for vegans to combine plant based protein sources to ensure they receive a greater range of amino acids.



We'll be doing a monthly Q&A with nutritionist Lily Soutter. For expert advice, comment your question below!



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