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Disease-Free Living Through Fitness and Nutrition

Cow’s Milk Promotes Acne

Milk consumption and acne in adolescent girls by Clement Adebamowo in the May 2006 issue of Dermatology Online Journal found after studying 6,094 girls, aged 9 to 15, that those consuming two or more glasses of milk daily compared to girls consuming less than one glass, had 20% to 30% more acne.  In their research, low-fat milk was implicated, suggesting that is was not the fat, but other ingredients, that promoted pimples. They proposed that milk protein causes a rise in the body of a powerful growth hormone, Insulin-like Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1), which in turn promotes acne.  Male hormones, called androgens, are linked to acne and these are also increased by consumption of milk and cheese. 

Comment by John McDougall, M.D.:  A common mantra heard from doctors is, “Diet has nothing to do with acne.”  The truth is the few studies done show the opposite: diet does cause and aggravate the severity of acne.  Previously, I have held the position that the fat in the food was the primary culprit.  Fats and oils from the diet end up on the skin, where acne-causing bacteria feed upon them.  These authors add other dimensions to the diet-acne connection—focusing on milk products, and more specifically, the dairy proteins.  You should know that all animal proteins, as well as isolated soy proteins, cause a significant rise in IGF-1 levels in the body.

My experience has been that people (adults and teenagers) who switch to the low-fat version of our diet (avoiding nuts, seeds, avocados, and olives) experience an immediate reduction in the oiliness of the skin, and particularly the face; and within a month, they notice a dramatic reduction in the acne. (To learn more read my November 2003 newsletter article: Acne Has Everything to do With Diet.)

Adebamowo CA, Spiegelman D, Berkey CS, Danby FW, Rockett HH, Colditz GA, Willett WC, Holmes MD.  Milk consumption and acne in adolescent girls. Dermatol Online J. 2006 May 30;12(4):1.

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