Milk and sugary food cause adult acne - 2020 study proves

Milk and sugar cause more acne

A recent large study, published, June 10th, 2020, in the prestigious Journal of the American Association of medicine, on 25,000 adults, has proven the relation of several food types to more adult acne. This study suggests an association between current acne and the consumption of fatty and sugary products, sugary beverages, and milk.

The results of this very important clinical study support the hypothesis that the western diet (rich in animal-sourced milk and sugary foods) is associated with the presence of acne in adulthood.

Why sugary food cause more adult acne?

First, a high glycemic-load diet causes a rise in circulating levels of IGF-149 and insulin, which stimulates the mammalian target of rapamycin one activity. In turn, rapamycin 1 stimulates cell proliferation and inhibits apoptosis, which increases levels of oxidative stress and inflammation, thus promoting the development of acne.

The elevation in IGF-1 levels also stimulates the production of androgens, which are associated with the production of sebum and thus the development of acne.

Sugary food can cause more adult acne - clinical evidence.

A study of 44 acne cases and 44 controls by Ismail and his research group noted that the glycemic load, according to 24-hour dietary records, was higher in the acne group than in the control group. Other researchers have also found a correlation between a high glycemic load (high carbohydrate consumption) and the presence of acne.

Why does milk cause more adult acne?

The consumption of milk also generates an increase in IGF-1 production by the liver and an increase in circulating insulin levels. Neither IGF-1 nor insulin is fully inactivated by pasteurization, homogenization, and digestion.

Hence, milk consumption has similar consequences as a high glycemic-load meal. A role of IGF-1 in acne is also suggested by observations of patients with Laron syndrome, who do not produce IGF-1 and do not develop acne unless supplemented with this growth factor.

Milk and dairy can cause more adult acne - clinical evidence.

Adebamowo and his colleagues noted that the consumption of milk, mainly skimmed milk, was associated with acne presence in women after adjusting for age, age at menarche, BMI, and energy intake. Juhl and his colleagues reported the same results for adolescent boys and all adults.


1. Aizawa H , Niimura M . Elevated serum insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) levels in women with post adolescent acne. J Dermatol. 1995;22(4):249-252.

2. Ismail NH , Manaf ZA , Azizan NZ . High glycemic load diet, milk and ice cream consumption are related to acne vulgaris in Malaysian young adults: a case control study. BMC Dermatol. 2012;12:13.

3. Adebamowo CA , Spiegelman D , Danby FW , Frazier AL , Willett WC , Holmes MD . High school dietary dairy intake and teenage acne. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2005;52(2):207-214.

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

5. Adebamowo CA , Spiegelman D , Berkey CS , et al. Milk consumption and acne in teenaged boys. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2008;58(5):787-793.

6. Juhl CR , Bergholdt HKM , Miller IM , Jemec GBE , Kanters JK , Ellervik C . Dairy intake and acne vulgaris: a systematic review and meta-analysis of 78,529 children, adolescents, and young adults. Nutrients. 2018;10(8):E1049.

7. Juhl CR , Bergholdt HKM , Miller IM , Jemec GBE , Kanters JK , Ellervik C . Lactase persistence, milk intake, and adult acne: a mendelian randomization study of 20,416 Danish adults. Nutrients. 2018;10(8):1041.

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