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Can Low Carb Diet Help Treat Acne?

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Acne related image Photo: Getty Images

Acne affects millions of people and for most people, this skin disorder can be agonizing to deal with. The disorder is surrounded by myths of gigantic proportions. While the cause of acne is well understood, the treatments have lagged behind. There are hundreds of treatments for acne but the majority either do not work or only work for the milder cases.

Besides drugs, there are also numerous lasers and light therapies being promoted to treat acne. In most cases, the evidence that these therapies work is very weak. If acne is allowed to fester, it may lead to life long scars.

Now there is evidence that eating a low carbohydrate diet may do a lot more than help you lose weight. The latest research indicates that such diets may also help improve skin and erase your acne. In the past many diet plans were introduced to help treat acne, but the results were not predictable or consistent (1).

Dr Alan Shalita, Chairman of the Department of Dermatology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in New York says that perhaps some people with acne may have high insulin and that consuming foods with low glycemic index may help control acne by lowering the insulin. Evidence shows that eating low carbohydrate diets helps maintain normal blood sugar levels and the high insulin levels gradually disappear. Thus, Dr Shalita recommends that patients with acne eat a low carb diet. He also recommends avoiding dairy products because there is evidence that such foods may promote acne (2).

Dr Shalita also dispels the myth of chocolates and acne. So far there is no evidence to link chocolate to acne. Dr Shalita believes that it is more to do with the high sugar rather than the cocoa in the chocolate.

So what does Dr Shalita recommend to patients? For mild acne he suggests using over-the-counter products like a salicylic acid cleanser followed by application of benzyl peroxide. If this fails to work, see a skin doctor. For severe acne the best drug today are the retinoids, or isotretinoin. However, this drug may not be suitable for women of childbearing age as it can cause birth defects and alterations in mood.

In any case, if you have acne, cut down on the sugar and see if it makes a difference. If the acne still persists, the best recommendation is to see a reputable skin doctor because untreated acne can lead to aesthetically unattractive scars, which are almost impossible to get rid off.


1. What's new in acne? An analysis of systematic reviews published in 2009-2010.

2. Low Carb diets may improve acne. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/747823

Reviewed August 11, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg R.N.
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.



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