Vegetarian Journal 2008 Issue 3

Nutrition Hotline

QUESTION: I am the parent of a vegetarian college student who has terrible acne. Can this be related to her diet? M.T., via e-mail

ANSWER: Food's role in acne is a controversial topic. There is no evidence that foods like chocolate or pizza affect acne, although some individuals notice that there is a connection for them. One possible explanation is that many students eat more pizzaand chocolate during times when they're stressed (such as exam week, maybe). Stress, for some people, can trigger an outbreak of acne, so while it may look like pizza and chocolate are the culprits, it may actually be stress.

There are a couple of studies that support a role for certain foods in acne. One recent study did find that there was a connection between drinking cow's milk and acne. ¹ Girls who drank two or more glasses of milk a day had a higher risk of acne than did girls drinking less than a glass of milk per week. This held whether the milk was whole, lowfat, skim, or chocolate. Soymilk was not studied.

Another recent study found that avoiding foods that can cause a sharp increase in blood glucose (blood sugar) levels could help with acne. ² These foods include sodas, candy, sugar, white bread, and pasta. Replacing these foods with higher fiber and/or whole grain foods led to fewer symptoms of acne. Higher fiber foods would include fruits, vegetables, and dried beans, while whole grain foods would include whole wheat bread and whole wheat pasta. Of course, if your daughter notices that certain foods do make her acne worse, she should avoid those foods.

Different foods, as well as different situations, can affect people differently. According to the National Institutes of Health , acne can be made worse by a number of factors. One of these is changes in hormone levels—many women have outbreaks of acne around the time of their periods. Cosmetics or hair products that are very oily or greasy can lead to an outbreak of acne. High humidity or sweating can also make acne worse, as can some medications. Your daughter may want to discuss these possible triggers and her symptoms with her health care provider.

In addition, your daughter might want to schedule a visit to a registered dietitian to help her determine if her diet is nutritionally adequate or if it needs to be improved. Many colleges and universities have dietitians in the student health center.


1 Adebamowo CA, Spiegelman D, Berkey CS, et al. 2006. Milk consumption and acne in adolescent girls. Dermatol Online J 12(4):1.

2 Smith RN, Mann NJ, Braue A, et al. 2007. A low-glycemic-load diet improves symptoms in acne vulgaris patients: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr 86:107-15.

Excerpts from the 2008 Issue 3

Dried Fruit: Treasures to Savor All Year Round
Debra Daniels-Zeller incorporates apricots, cherries, dates, figs, prunes, raisins, and more into every course of your meal.
An Update on Rennet
Jeanne Yacoubou, MS, learns the latest about cheesemaking ingredients.
Vegan Cheese: New and Improved Versions
VRG Dietetic Intern Melanie Campbell tests products for nutrition, taste, meltability, and more.
How Many People Order Vegetarian Meals When Eating Out?
See the results of The VRG's latest poll.
Quick-and-Easy, Lower Budget Vegan Items to Serve in Institutional Settings
Chef Nancy Berkoff stretches your dollar in this Foodservice Update.
Vegetarianism in Political Magazines
VRG Intern Bobby Allyn searches LexisNexis for articles on vegetarianism and veganism.
Nutrition Hotline 2
Are there links between my daughter's acne and her vegetarian diet?
Note from the Coordinators 4
Letters to the Editors 5
Vegan Cooking Tips 20
Fast Sandwich Spreads, by Chef Nancy Berkoff
Notes from The VRG Scientific Department 23
Scientific Update 24
Book Reviews 31
Catalog 33
Vegetarian Action 35
Chef Ralph Estevez: An Interview with the Team Chef of the Washington Redskins, by Melanie Campbell

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