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Chocolate Causes Acne Fact or Myth?

Does Chocolate Cause Acne?For hundreds of years there has been the common belief that chocolate causes acne. Adults of every generation, with very good intention, pass on that they believe chocolate causes acne. The very idea that chocolate causes acne has been the center of many studies, yet no single study has been able to conclusively show a relationship between eating chocolate and the worsening or development of acne.

More than 17 million Americans suffer from acne, mostly during their adolescent and young adult years. Acne influences quality of life, including social withdrawal, anxiety, and depression, making acne treatment essential.


What factors contribute to the formation of acne?

  • Overproduction of oil (Sebum)
  • Irregular shedding of dead skin cells (results in irritation of the hair follicles of your skin)
  • Buildup of bacteria

Acne occurs when hair follicles become clogged up with oil and dead skin cells. Each of your hair follicles is connected to a sebaceous gland that secretes an oily substance called sebum. This sebum travels up your hair shafts and comes out onto the surface of the skin through the openings of the hair follicles in order to lubricate your hair and skin. Sometimes your body produces an excess of sebum and dead skin cells, and together these can form a soft plug in the hair follicles creating an environment where bacteria can thrive.


Are there foods that increase the severity of acne?

Let me begin by stating that there is no evidence to suggest any food can cause acne, however there is evidence to suggest it can have a dramatic effect on the severity of acne. Studies have shown that foods high on the glycemic index do increase the severity of acne.  One study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has determined that there is increasing evidence of a connection between diet and acne, particularly from high glycemic load diets and dairy products, and that medical nutrition therapy (MNT) can play an important role in acne treatment. They concluded that a high glycemic index/glycemic load diet and frequent dairy consumption are the leading factors in establishing the link between diet and acne.

Another study, published in the May 2008 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, looked at the diets of teenaged boys. The young men who drank the most milk also tended to have the worst acne. The analysis was repeated with teenaged girls and provided the same result.

Foods High In Fat – Acne is caused by insulin resistance, a blood sugar issue. Eating too much fat is a leading cause of blood sugar issues, specifically a large change between low and high sugar levels instead of maintaining a consistent level. These large changes cause a hormonal reaction that leads to increased sebum production and blocked pores. Another effect of too much fat is the slowing of nutrient and oxygen distribution within the bloodstream.  Essentially your cells won’t get the nutrients and oxygen they need which in turn can also exacerbate acne.

Dairy Products – First off, dairy products are often high in fat. Cheese, ice-cream etc. As already mentioned, too much fat can be a bad thing for acne. Milk comes from recently pregnant cows, and as a result of pregnancy these cows have an abundance of hormones, which naturally is passed on within its milk. Your skin glands contain enzymes that naturally convert these hormones into DHT (dihydrotestosterone) hormone. DHT increases sebum production at the skin gland, and therefore affects the severity of acne.

Caffeine – Sources of caffeine include items such as coffee, tea (black and green), chocolate (yes, chocolate), sodas, energy drinks and some pain killers, as well as many other sources. Caffeine causes a couple of notable problems. First, caffeine increases the release of stress hormones, which increases your stress levels. Too much stress is bad for your health and skin. Note: There are studies linking stress to acne and almost every health condition. Second, caffeine disturbs your sleep. I know what you are thinking, you don’t have a problem falling asleep after caffeine? Even so, caffeine prevents the body from entering the deepest phase of sleep which is especially important, because during this phase the body does physical repair and detoxing. If the body doesn’t have a chance to recover from the stresses of the day you can expect your health to decline and acne to get worse.

Processed Foods – For centuries humans lived their lives eating unrefined foods in their natural state. Modern industry provides us with processed foods which are often highly refined, which makes them very difficult to digest properly. As you may know, this can lead to allergic reaction, inflammation, and eventually acne. Processed foods often contain lots of fat and refined sugars making them highly fattening, which as mentioned earlier can affect blood sugar.


So does chocolate cause acne?

There is no evidence to suggest a direct link between chocolate and the cause of acne. However, studies have shown how many of the ingredients of a typical milk chocolate (Fat, Dairy, Caffeine, and likely processed to some degree) could aggravate or perhaps even cause an acne breakout.



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