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Sugar became enormously popular during the 18th century, quickly becoming the “most valuable commodity in European trade,” changing the face of the European diet forever. Europeans began craving anything with the mere hint of the substance, consuming jams, candy, coffee, tea, cocoa, and processed foods in such a huge number that, Britain, for example, consumed five times as much of the stuff in 1770 as they did in 1710. Judging from that it should be no surprise that in Austrian physicist Josef Plenk published a book on the characterization of acne in 1776. It’s no secret that sugar can be pretty hard to resist. It’s been synonymous with sweetness since time immoral and has been used as a euphemism from everything from drugs, to sex, to money. But there’s something else it’s synonymous with: acne. Here’s why if you want great skin, you might want to skip the sugar.
Sugar and Acne
In the past few decades, research has uncovered hormones and inflammation as the two main causes of acne. Hormones accelerate skin glands causing an excess in sebum production and growth of skin cells, making for an excellent pore blocking combination.
Inflammation damages the sebum in the blocked pores creating an ideal environment for acne bacteria. Contrary to popular belief, it is not the bacteria that causes the acne, but the inflammation of the sebum.
Androgens are male sex hormones which increase the growth of skin cells and production of sebum. Other hormones linked to acne include insulin and insulin-like growth factor 1, or IGF-1. IGF-1 can increase pore size, sebum production, and severity of acne. While insulin is also detrimental, it is less of a threat than IGF-1. As you eat carbohydrates, especially sugar, your blood sugar levels spike and your pancreas responds by releasing insulin, which reduces blood sugar levels but increases IGF-1 levels. While the occasional candy bar will not pose much of a problem, frequent consumption of sugar will.
Studies show acne sufferers have higher levels of inflammation than individuals without acne. These high levels deplete antioxidants and increase the likelihood of acne. Sugar can exacerbate inflammation. A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition took 29 young, healthy men and gave them one or two 12 ounce cans of soda a day for three weeks. Results showed that their C- reactive protein levels went up by 87% after drinking one can a day for 21 days, while those who drank two cans showed an increase of 105%, C- reactive protein is one of the best ways to measure inflammation.
Candida is a yeast which exists in the skin and digestive tract. Although it is normally harmless, excessive sugar intake can make it uncontrollable. When this occurs in the digestive track, it can lead to gut problems which are indirectly linked to acne. The overgrowth of candida can cause the skin to become inflamed, leading to acne.
High GI Foods Lead to Acne
The glycemic index measures how rapidly food increase blog sugar levels. Research shows that low GI foods, such as fruits and whole grains, can reduce acne and the hormones associated with it by 30 to 50%.
While the occasional soda may not be harmful, try to avoid excessive sugar intake to keep skin clear.
Has giving up on sugar helped control your acne? Let us know your experience.