Yes, Your Diet Really Might Be Giving You Zits

People who ate more of this nutrient had worse skin

Christa Sgobba |

Want clearer skin? The answer might be what’s on your plate: People who eat more blood sugar-spiking carbs tend to have worse acne, new research in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found.

Related: 5 Hidden Causes Of Acne

In the study, 32 people with clear skin and 32 people with moderate to severe acne completed a five-day food diary and had blood work done. The researchers discovered that 61 percent of the participants overall believed that their diets could make their skin worse. The most implicated foods among acne-sufferers? Pizza, French fries, and chocolate.

That falls in line with the longstanding belief that greasy food can cause zits, but when the researchers checked out the blood work, they found carbs seemed more to blame: The people who suffered from acne consumed more of their calories from carbohydrates, ate more carbs overall, and ate more empty carbs than the zit-free people did.

Related: 5 Nasty Contagious Skin Problems You Can Pick Up At The Gym

They also tended to eat more foods with a higher glycaemic load, meaning they spike blood sugar more sharply after eating. Foods with a glycaemic load of 20 or more are considered high, while those with a glycaemic load of 10 or less are considered low.

Complex carbs—which usually contain more fibre—tend to have lower glycaemic loads than simple, or refined carbs do, which tend to raise your blood sugar more quickly. So, for instance, a whole wheat tortilla, which has a glycaemic load of 8 per serving, would cause less of a blood sugar spike than a white bagel, which has a glycaemic load of 25 per serving.

Related: 6 Ways To Cover Up Acne Scars

So how might high glycaemic load wreck your skin? The researchers believe it could trigger the excessive production of insulin, which also increases your concentrations of a hormone called insulin-like growth factor-1, or IGF-1. Too much IGF-1 can promote a greater release of androgen hormones, which stimulate oil production in your skin—possibly triggering or aggravating acne.

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