Modern Mythology: Sugar and Your Skin
Halloween is coming up, which marks the beginning of the season wherein I buy lots of sugary candy and shove it in my face. It’s my favorite time of year.
One old wives tale I often hear is that candy in general – and chocolate in particular – causes acne. I’ve always been a candy-eater, and I’ve also always had less-then-perfect skin. However, I always attributed this to bad genes. I always dismissed the notion that my precious sweets could be the cause of it. Science may have an answer.
Short answer: Inconclusive.
Long answer: Up until a few years ago, the preponderance of the evidence supported the conclusion that sugar does not cause acne. Huzzah! But in science, just because you like a result doesn’t mean that the result is correct. Le sigh.
Actually, it may not be sugar per se that causes or exacerbates the prevalence of acne, but a food’s glycemic index. In 2007, researchers in Australia took a group of 54 acne patients between the ages of 15 and 25. Half were told to eat a diet low in blood sugar (like lean meats and complex carbs) and the other half were told to eat foods that would cause high blood sugar (like M&Ms and Doritos). At the end of 12 weeks, pictures were shown to a dermatologist and the patients who ate the sugary diet had significantly worse skin.
This seems pretty cut and dry, but as Dr. Sydney Spiesel, a pediatrician and professor at Yale Medical School points out, there are many other factors that influence acne – like stress and hormones. In addition, the effect of the low blood sugar diet had other effects on the group. They lost weight, they had lower intake of saturated fat, and they ate fewer calories. Any of these could have had an impact on the severity of acne. While more study is needed to determine exactly what is at play here, at this time it does seem that diet does have an impact on your skin.
I’m really going to have to rethink that second piece of pumpkin pie this year.
Featured image credit: Rochell, just rochelle