Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Acne Health Center

Font Size

Is Acne Fed by the Western Diet?

Study Dishes Up New Controversy on Food-Blemish Connection


"We then looked at other studies that examined incidents of acne in similar populations -- South Americans and New Guineans now living in westernized settings," he tells WebMD. "We found that when they become more westernized and start eating like Americans, they do develop acne," he notes. "So it's not genetics."

His advice: Eat foods with a low glycemic index -- a prediction of how much a particular food will raise your insulin levels. Low glycemic foods include lean meat and fish, vegetables, and fruit. A new study is under way in Australia to test the effect that high- and low-glycemic foods have on acne-laden teens.

"This study shows the American people that there is a link between diet and acne and that it is treatable by altering diet," Cordain tells WebMD.

But not all are convinced. "Hypothetically, a high-load glycemic diet could lead to (acne), but I'm not convinced that going on a low-glycemic diet would improve acne," says Diane Berson, MD, of Cornell Medical College and a spokeswoman for the American Academy of Dermatology. "There are many factors that play a role in acne -- genetics, stress. It could be these people studied were genetically less susceptible or that their lifestyle is less stressful than western civilizations. It's hard to definitively conclude that diet is the factor."

Meanwhile, the academy has no plans to rewrite this long-standing policy: "Acne is not caused by food. While some people feel that their acne is aggravated by certain foods, particularly chocolate, colas, peanuts, shellfish and some fatty foods, there is no scientific evidence that suggests food causes or influences acne. Avoid any foods which seem to worsen your acne and, for your overall health, eat a balanced diet -- but diet shouldn't really matter if the acne is being appropriately treated."

That policy -- along with the thinking of Berson and most health experts -- stems largely from studies in the 1960s and 1970s that found no scientific cause for the popular notion (at least by patients) that breakouts occurred after certain foods were consumed.

"One of the ways in which everyone kind of blew off the food connection was because of a paper published in 1969 in TheJournal of the American Medical Association examining whether chocolate caused acne," says Cordain. "One group was fed chocolate and another fed a placebo. And lo and behold, the incidences were the same. But the placebo had the same glycemic load as the chocolate - virtually all the ingredients were the same except for cocoa. Bingo!"

Today on WebMD

Girl with acne
See if you know how to control your acne.
happy woman with clear skin
Triggers and treatments for blackheads, whiteheads, and cystic acne.
Bride with acne
Dos and don’ts for hiding breakouts.
close-up of a young man soaping his face
Why adults get acne and how to treat it.
Boy cleaning acne face
HPV Vaccine Future
beauty cream
Bride with acne
Woman applying mineral makeup
Arrows pointing on teen girl blemish

WebMD Special Sections