Research Study: Low Sugar Diets Improve Acne?



ACNE. What a bummer.   What a very rude pest!  …..What causes it?


Although the pathogenesis is currently unknown for certain, recent studies of non-western populations have given us good reason to believe that a significant link between our diets, particularly varying ‘glycemic loads’, and the onset of acne could in fact exist. This weighty suspicion is due to the fact that in populations where glycemic loads are naturally and culturally low (for example Okinawan Islanders), acne seems to be virtually non-existent!   ..Eyebrow raising, no?

A recent study conducted by the American Society for Nutrition took this same intrigue and ran with it.  It was the first ‘randomized controlled intervention’ study ever to take a more focused look at the influence of varying dietary glycemic loads on the ‘the clinical assessment of acne’.  The topic itself has been one of hot debate in the world of dermatology for decades now (!), but opinions and testimonials aside for a moment, what does the most recent science on the matter have to say?



The objective of the study, as we’ve mentioned, was to investigate the possibility of lowering Glycemic-load diets (less sugar) in order to reduce the severity of acne in selected participants. The participants included 54 males with mild to moderate facial acne ranging within the ages of 15-25yrs. This study designed was a ‘parallel dietary intervention study’ with ‘Investigator-blinded’ dermatology assessments. The participants had also been told that the study was actually meant to assess the carb to protein ratio in diets (NOT TRUE!), and therefore during the study were unaware it honest purpose (tricky!). The methods included splitting the 54 males into two groups, a study group and a control group, then instructing the study group to ‘substitute high-GI foods with foods higher in protein (eg, lean meat, poultry, fish)’ or with ‘foods with a lower GI’ (e.g, whole-grain bread, pasta, fruit), and then instructing the control group to eat and/or continue to eat ‘carbohydrate-dense staples’ (bread, pasta, soda, etc). Self-reported diet records were kept by both group over the course of 12 weeks and monthly acne lesion counts and severity ratings were conducted, as well as the assessment of blood serum Insulin levels for all participants at both base-line and week 12.


The Results?

  • Glycemic loads were found to of decreased ‘significantly’ in the study group diets compared with the control group during the 12 weeks of assessment.
  • At 12 wk, the study group was reported to have a greater reduction in the average number of total lesions than did the control group.  (50% reduction in the study groups, 31% reduction in the control group).
  • Also at week 12, the study group had lost more weight and shown greater improvement in their collective insulin-resistance scores than the control group.
  • Final Conclusions: Dietary reduction of glycemic loads (sugar intake) can be shown to improve acne symptoms.


Could the high-sugar diets of our western civilization be a major contributor to todays WIDE-SPREAD acne issues? Yes, yes it could.  It’s not so hard to imagine really, especially when considering the acne-FREE non-western civilizations.  Is it the sole contributor however? Highly doubtful.  Acne continues to be, for many, a frustratingly mysterious and dynamic condition. However, the more studies like this we get on the board, the more likely we are to better understand it’s pathogenic possibilities, and therefore the better prepared we’ll be to nab the suckers before they does any real damage.


Good news for acnes sufferer’s everywhere!

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