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Acne Health Center

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Can Foods Make You Break Out?

The links between your diet and your skin may surprise you.

The Blood Sugar Connection continued...

A good way to improve the health of your skin is to eat in a manner that keeps your blood sugar steady, she tells WebMD. Some foods make your blood sugar quickly soar. This triggers your body to make a burst of the hormone insulin to help your cells absorb the sugar.

If throughout the day you’re “eating a cookie, you’re eating a granola bar, and you’re drinking a sweetened beverage, you’re pushing your blood sugar up high and fast, and you’re going to have more insulin circulating in your bloodstream,” says Treloar, who co-authored The Clear Skin Diet.

Some research suggests that insulin may play a role in acne. In a 2007 study, researchers explored a possible link. The study included 43 teenage boys and young men with acne. For three months, some ate a diet including foods with a low glycemic load (which is a measure of how foods affect people’s blood sugar), and others ate a carbohydrate-heavy diet without being concerned about their glycemic index. Those who ate the special low glycemic load diet had more improvement in their acne.

On the other hand, a study published in a dermatology journal later that year didn’t find an association between acne, insulin levels, and measurements of glycemic load. So the matter isn't settled yet.

Steps that keep your blood sugar steady, as well as fight inflammation and oxidative damage that could be linked to skin problems, include:

  • Focus on foods with a low glycemic index (GI), a measurement related to glycemic load These cause smaller increases in your blood sugar, as opposed to the steeper jump from foods with a high glycemic index, or GI. Identifying low and high GI foods may take some time. You can find a good introduction here.
  • Eat small meals often. Eating every two and a half to three hours will help keep your blood sugar and insulin levels steadier, Treloar says.
  • Eat lots of vegetables. Treloar recommends 10 fist-sized servings of vegetables daily. Choose veggies across a range of deep and bright colors. These will provide a variety of antioxidants that dampen free-radical (or “oxidative”) damage and inflammation. But keep in mind that some vegetables have a high GI.

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