Vyvian (XueQing) Jiang, BSc Pharm Student
Dairy is a big portion of our day to day diet, whether it be milk for your cereal or cream that you put in your coffee. Did you know that there may be a link between acne and how much dairy is in your diet? Today, we will explore a meta-analysis (a collection of studies) on dietary modifications, namely dairy products, and how dietary modifications may help reduce the severity of your acne.
Dairy and Acne
The collection of studies included in the meta-analysis investigated a large variety of dairy products, including different percentages of milk, yogurt and cheese. The results show a correlation between the amount of dairy products consumed, regardless of the type, and acne. Acne is more likely in people who consume larger amounts of dairy products.
However, we all recognize that milk is very nutritious and provides a source of calcium, which is good for your bones. So, what is the recommended amount of milk to drink? According to this meta-analysis, the recommended daily intake of milk is slightly less than one glass of milk each day, which amounts to 2-6 glasses a week.
Evidence to Support the Correlation
There is no evidence that directly shows how an increased dairy intake causes acne, but there are theories that support the correlation shown in the meta-analysis.
Lactase is an enzyme that helps digest lactose, a sugar found in milk, in the human body. Unfortunately, the body produces less of this enzyme in people who are lactose intolerant. Lactose intolerance tends to develop as children reach adolescence and their teenage years, which also happens to be when acne begins developing. This decrease in production of lactase may potentially be the reason why dairy intake affects acne. Interestingly, increased milk intake has a stronger correlation with acne in African and Asian people. These populations also have a larger prevalence of lactose intolerance in comparison to Caucasian populations.
Other Facts To Consider
Given the genetic difference between people when it comes lactase production, differences in geography should also be considered when analyzing how milk affects acne-prone patients. The prevalence of acne differs by country. This difference in the prevalence of acne may be a result of cultural differences in dairy use, such as how much milk is incorporated into cooking, how the milk is made and what additives are used.
Additionally, this correlation between acne and milk may just be one example representing a larger class of foods in general. One study shows that a diet of low-glycemic foods (meaning foods that contain little sugar) is actually better for reducing acne, and this study recommends reducing the amount of high-glycemic foods consumed as a result. Since milk contains lactose, which is a sugar, it’s considered a moderate-glycemic food, and this may be another indirect link between milk and acne.
The Bottom Line
Milk is a great source of nutrients, however there is an established correlation between increased consumption of dairy products and developing more acne. If you are an acne-prone person, then drinking 2-6 glasses of milk each week is all that is recommended. Researchers are still investigating this link, but believe it may be related to an individual’s level of lactase production or how the milk products are produced.
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- Juhl, C., Bergholdt, H., Miller, I., Jemec, G., Kanters, J., & Ellervik, C. (2018). Dairy Intake and Acne Vulgaris: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of 78,529 Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults. Nutrients, 10(8), 1049. doi: 10.3390/nu10081049