BY SUZANNE BADIEOZZAMAN
ACNE ISN’T JUST the bane of a teenager’s
existence: It affects children as young as 4 and
adults past their 50s. Acne is a disorder of the
skin caused by inflammation of the skin
glands and hair follicles. Statistics show 50
million Americans fight acne; specifically, 40
percent of men and 54 percent of women
older than 25 and 3 percent of men and 12
percent of women past middle age battle acne
Many point to stress, heredity, gender, age,
hormones and bacteria as acne causes, but no
single cause can be established. However,
observations can show relationships, according to Loren Cordain, a scientist and a professor at Colorado State University. Recent
studies support the suspicion that acne is often
a side effect of Westernized diets. According to
the diet-causes-acne hypothesis, what you eat
may be the root cause of an acne eruption.
For example, many non-Westernized
populations never deal with acne. Cordain’s
team examined Ache hunter-gatherers of
Paraguay for four years and Kitavan Islanders
of Papua New Guinea for seven weeks, and
did not find a trace of acne. Cordain observed
that, although heredity is a factor: the differences in acne rates between non-Westernized
and Westernized societies aren’t just genetic
(some people are not genetically resistant),
but result from an environmental factor, specifically, diet.
An unrelated 30-year study of Eskimos
by Dr. Otto Schaefer, published in 1971,
showed that Eskimos living in traditional
conditions were acne-free, but once they
acquired Western ways they pimpled up like
others in Western societies.
According to Cordain’s research, certain
foods, specifically high-glycemic carbohy-
drates, trigger a cascade of hormonal reactions
through elevated insulin levels, promoting
acne emergence. Insulin itself is a well-known
growth-promoting hormone and an acne
influencer; with some foods (or under certain
conditions, like insulin resistance) insulin lev-
els remain elevated, resulting in acne.
The tribes that Cordain observed consume minimally processed plant and animal
foods, which are virtually devoid of high-glycemic carbohydrates. Typically, non-Westernized people don’t eat processed foods, cereal
grains, dairy products, refined sugars and
refined oils; instead, their diet includes fruits,
vegetables, lean meats, fish and seafood.
According to Cordain, “Dietary interventions using low-glycemic-load carbohydrates
may have therapeutic potential in treating
acne because of the beneficial endocrine
effects of these diets.” He believes low-sugar-spiking foods are less likely to promote a hormonal cascade reaction that would trigger
He also says, “Processed meats have been
shown in a number of studies to adversely
affect glycemic control. Conversely, dietary
fish rich in omega- 3 fatty acids lowers fasting
glucose levels and improves glycemic control.” Omega-3-rich foods are also anti-inflammatory, and can help heal the
inflammation caused by acne.
Looking for low-glycemic foods may
sound daunting, but there’s a simple trick:
Look for unprocessed foods, like fresh fruits
and vegetables, lean meats, beans and nuts.
Grass-fed meats are especially good, because
they have more omega-3s. Avoid high-sugar
foods until your acne clears, then add them
back in moderation. Changing your diet
might help you discover what is contributing
to an acne breakout.
Dairy foods are tricky. They’re not high-glycemic, but they may have a component
that can aggravate acne in some people; the
research is unclear. If you choose to cut back
on dairy to see if it has an effect on your acne,
make sure you get enough calcium and vitamin D from other sources. C
Suzanne Badieozzaman is a freelance writer
and nutritional consultant.
The diet-acne connection:
Eating food for better skin
THIS YEAR MORE than 30,000 new cases of
oral cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. and
more than 8,000 deaths will be caused by the
disease, according to the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention. About 95 percent of
oral cancers occur in people over the age of
40; the average age for diagnosis is 60. It
occurs twice as often in men as in women.
Most oral cancers originate in the cells in
tissues lining the mouth and lips, and commonly involve the tongue. The gums, the
inside of the cheek, the roof of the mouth
(hard palate), the floor of the mouth or the
throat may also be involved.
Oral cancer is largely preventable when
risky behavior is stopped. In particular:
• Most oral cancers are related to tobacco
use, alcohol use or both. Reduce the risk for
oral cancer by avoiding all tobacco products
and drinking alcohol only in moderation.
• Other risk factors include viral infections, immunodeficiencies, poor nutrition,
exposure to ultraviolet light (a major cause of
cancer of the lips) and certain occupational
• Some human papillomaviruses spread
through sexual contact can infect the mouth
and throat, and are linked to cancer.
Signs and symptoms
Most early signs of oral cancer are difficult to detect because they are painless. Signs
to watch for:
• A mouth sore that doesn’t heal, or that
• A white or red patch in the mouth that
• A lump, thickening or soreness in the
mouth, throat or tongue.
• Difficulty chewing or swallowing food.
Early detection is critical
Surgery and other treatment methods
(radiation, chemotherapy) can be disfiguring
and costly. Early detection is critical, and
these cancers are located in sites with easy
access for diagnosis and treatment. Regular
and thorough head and neck examinations by
dental or medical professionals can significantly reduce a person’s risk.
For more information, visit the National
Cancer Institute website (
search “oral cancer” for a downloadable
booklet, What You Need to Know About™ Oral
for your health