Does Pizza Cause Your Pimples?

August 4, 2019


By now, hopefully, we finally realized, that the way we eat affects our overall health.


But can diet affect acne? Acne is one of the most common dermatological conditions, affecting millions of young adult worldwide.[1] Let's look at the data.


 The latest studies have demonstrated that high glycemic load diets—diets that raise the insulin level in the blood quickly—can exacerbate acne. People who followed low glycemic load diet had significant improvement in acne severity, a noticeable change in weight and body mass index with improved insulin sensitivity.[2]


The examples of high glycemic load food include:

  • Doughnuts,

  • French fries, 

  • Pizza,

  • White Rice,

  • Cereals, 

  • White Potatoes, 

  • White bread,

  • Bagels,

  • Cheerios,

  • Pancake,

  • Instant oatmeal, 

  • Rice pasta, 

  • Corn syrup, 

  • Table sugar,

  • Soda,

  • Puffed rice. [3]











Another study revealed that certain dairy products, especially skim milk and ice cream can aggravate acne. No association was found with cheese or yogurt.[4]


What can you eat to clear your skin?


Replace high glycemic with low glycemic load and high fiber food, like:

  • Stone-ground, whole wheat bread,

  • Rolled or steel cut oatmeal,

  • Barley, bulgur, buckwheat

  • Sweet potato,

  • Corn,

  • Lima beans, peas, legumes, and lentils,

  • Non-starchy vegetables.[3]

Stay away from processed food, that is rich in high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

Replace skim milk with whole milk.

Avoid milk chocolate.


Add food rich in anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids, like fatty fish, to decrease inflammatory acne.[5]


Cut down on empty calories, try intermittent fasting or fast mimicking diet.[6]


What about special nutrients?


Vitamin A plays an essential role in skin’s health and successfully treat the most stubborn inflammatory acne. Even the most popular medications that are used by dermatologists are Vitamin A derivatives: "Accutane" and "Retinol".[7]


Vitamin D decreases acne severity, especially in patients with inflammatory lesions.[8]


Vitamin E another fat soluble vitamin, that can also decrease acne.[9]


Flax seed or borage oil improve skin irritation, diminish skin reddening and inflammation in patients with acne.[10]


Fish oil is proven to be beneficial for moderate to severe acne.[11]


Minerals, like Zinc and Copper, help with severe acne.[12]


So why people in indigenous societies do not experience acne, while, in contrast, acne is wide spread throughout the Western society. Is diet the sole reason, or are other environmental conditions such as stress, sun exposure, and air pollution important?


To prevent acne by dietary manipulation alone may not be possible, but there are scientifically plausible reasons to believe that nutrition can affect acne. 


For more information how healthy lifestyle can help you feel and look the best please make an appointment with Dr.Val Koganski by calling 215-750-7000, or online:



1. Thiboutot DM. Overview of acne and its treatment. Cutis. 2008;81:3–7. [PubMed]

2. Smith, R.N. et al The effect of a high-protein, low glycemic-load diet versus a conventional, high glycemic-load diet on biochemical parameters associated with acne vulgaris: a randomized, investigator-masked, controlled trial. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2007; 57: 247–256


4. Di Landro, A., Cazzaniga, S., Parazzini, F. et al. Family history, body mass index, selected dietary factors, menstrual history, and risk of moderate to severe acne in adolescents and young adults. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2012; 67: 1129–1135

5. Zouboulis CC. Is acne vulgaris a genuine inflammatory disease? Dermatology. 2001;203:277–279.[PubMed]

6. Downing D et al. Changes in skin surface lipid composition induced by severe caloric restriction in man. Am J Clin Nutr. 1972;25:365–367. [PubMed]

7. Kligman AM et al. Oral vitamin A in acne vulgaris. Preliminary report.  Int J Dermatol. 1981 May;20(4):278-85.

8. Lim SK, et al. Comparison of Vitamin D Levels in Patients with and without Acne: A Case-Control Study Combined with a Randomized Controlled Trial. PLoS One. 2016;11(8):e0161162. Published 2016 Aug 25. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0161162

9. Keen MA, Hassan I. Vitamin E in dermatology. Indian Dermatol Online J. 2016;7(4):311–315. doi:10.4103/2229-5178.185494

10. De Spirt S, et al. Intervention with flaxseed and borage oil supplements modulates skin condition in women. Br J Nutr. 2009;101:440–445. [PubMed]

11. Khayef G, et al. Effects of fish oil supplementation on inflammatory acne. Lipids Health Dis. 2012;11:165. Published 2012 Dec 3. doi:10.1186/1476-511X-11-165

12. The role of zinc in the treatment of acne: A review of the literature.Cervantes J, Eber AE, Perper M, Nascimento VM, Nouri K, Keri JE.Dermatol Ther. 2018 Jan;31(1). doi: 10.1111/dth.12576. Epub 2017 Nov 28. Review.PMID: 29193602

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