It’s no secret the keto diet can help people lose weight by switching the body’s primary fuel source from sugar to fat. But did you know it can potentially combat acne?
Dermatologists had long thought there was no relationship between diet and acne, but some recent research suggests food can indeed affect complexion, particularly through the consumption of carbohydrates.
The basic theory goes like this: Eating carbohydrates – especially refined carbohydrates – spikes your blood sugar. This spike can stimulate hormone production, and those hormones can trigger oil production, which leads to acne.
Several recent studies have linked the consumption of high-glycemic-index foods (meaning foods that spike blood sugar levels) with acne, including:
- A 2007 study that found a low-glycemic-load diet led to greater reductions in acne compared to high-glycemic-load diets.1
- A 2013 review that also found a correlation between eating low-glycemic-load foods and decreased acne.2
- A 2014 study that identified carbohydrates as the “main culprit” of acne, and which advised dermatologists to “encourage their acne patients to minimize their intake of high glycemic index foods.”3
- So, how might the keto diet be an effective therapy for acne? A 2012 article by Italian researchers explored that question, as registered dietician Franziska Spritzler wrote for Diet Doctor, suggesting three reasons:4
- Reduction in insulin levels: Elevated insulin levels stimulate increased production of skin cells, sebum, and androgens – setting the stage for acne eruptions. Ketogenic diets decrease insulin levels, often dramatically.
- Anti-inflammatory effects: Inflammation drives acne progression. Very-low-carb and ketogenic diets have been shown to reduce inflammation.
- Decrease in IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor 1): Ketogenic diets decrease levels of IGF-1. Like insulin, IGF-1 increases sebum production and has been found to play a large role in acne.
Of course, whether – or to what extent – diet affects acne is still an open question that requires further research, and it’s worth noting that complexion is also affected by other factors like genetics and stress.
- Smith, Robyn. Et al. A low-glycemic-load diet improves symptoms in acne vulgaris patients: a randomized controlled trial. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 86, Issue 1, July 2007, Pages 107-115, https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/86.1.107
- Aubrey. A., Diet and Acne: For A Clearer Complexion, Cut The Empty Carbs. Eating and Health. February 20, 201312
- Mahmood, S. et al. Diet and Acne Update: Carbohydrates Emerge as the Main Culprit. JDD. April 2014. Volume 13, Page 428. April 2014