February 2013

Dairy and High GI Foods May Aggravate Acne

A new study suggests that frequent consumption of dairy and high glycemic index foods may aggravate acne.

The glycemic index (GI) is a numerical index that ranks carbohydrates based on their rate of conversion to glucose in the human body. GI uses a scale of 0 to 100, with higher values given to foods that cause the most rapid rise in blood sugar. Foods with a high GI result in marked fluctuations in blood sugar levels. Low-GI foods, by virtue of their slow digestion and absorption, produce gradual rises in blood sugar and insulin levels and have proven benefits for health.

Although still controversial, consuming less dairy products such as milk and cheese, may decrease acne. It is thought that the hormones contained in milk may be a causative factor in developing acne. Drinking soy milk or organic milk that does not contain hormones may help decrease acne.

In the recent study, the authors conducted a comprehensive search on studies evaluating the potential effects of diet on acne. Studies including herbs or supplements were excluded. The authors included 27 articles.

Analysis showed that a high GI diet and high dairy consumption were linked to acne. The researchers hypothesized that both of these foods increased insulin levels, which stimulates hormones responsible for acne development. The authors were careful to note that high GI foods and dairy do not cause acne, but may worsen existing acne.

More well-designed studies on this topic are needed.

For more information about acne, please visit Natural Standard's Medical Conditions Database.


  1. Burris J, Rietkerk W, Woolf K, et al. Acne: The Role of Medical Nutrition Therapy. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. doi:10.1016/j.jand.2012.11.016.
  2. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine. 

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