During my research for writing this article, I came across various interesting facts and some curious questions about acne. Most searched and surfed question about acne is related to its relation with chocolate. Acne is the cause of much-known embarrassment, irrespective of the age and this is the last thing one would want to see happening to themselves in the mirror.
Does chocolate really cause acne is the one question which really caught my interest and this made me to search more and more about it.
As I found that more and more people are obsessed with this notion, I decided to address this widespread question. I have gone through various research studies and came across some wonderful explanations, facts and myths regarding this. So let’s start this interesting journey and explore its wide world and find out the facts.
To dig into this vast field, let’s look at various researches regarding this and discover if this sweet treat really has a bad side to it. Before going into the details of various studies let’s first check the ingredients of the chocolate which mostly consists of sugar, milk, trans fats, and cocoa powder.
The main culprit behind acne is the high glycemic index and dairy products. As we very well know that eating sugary foods leads to insulin spikes and produce insulin-like growth hormones which leads to more sebum production and we end up with more outbreaks of the acne. Insulin spike also triggers an inflammatory response and creates an ideal environment for the growth of bacteria to thrive. The overindulging in these chocolaty products leads to more loads of the calories by increased sugary intake and simultaneously less consumption of healthy products like fruits and veggies leads to a deficiency of various vitamins and minerals required for healthy glowing skin. It has been clinically proven that zinc, copper, iron and vitamins like A, D, C have anti-inflammatory enzymes like lipooxygenases and desaturase.
Milk is a dairy product loaded with various bovine hormones that lead to increase in the androgen levels which further cause inflammation and excerbations of acne and stimulate the sebaceous glands to produce more sebum and proliferation of acne. The casein and whey protein also aggravates the inflammatory responses.
Hydrogenated oils, corn syrup, cocoa butter which consists of oleic acid and stearic acid leads to an imbalance of essential fatty acids. This imbalance leads to various skin problems like dry skin, scaly skin which are pro-inflammatory and clog the pores. These high saturated fats completely throw off our hormonal balance out of gear.
Cocoa powder has a high content of two flavonoids, catechin and procyanidin both of them act as antioxidants in our body and fight against various free radicals so it is actually good for the skin. Dark chocolate contain a higher concentration of antioxidants than milk and white chocolate. Replace white or milk chocolates with dark chocolates which contain less sugar and milk.
It is usually seen that during the pre-menstrual cycle there is more breakouts of acne because there is a drop in estrogen levels which triggers the androgen production and the vicious cycle of stimulation of sebaceous glands and the inflammatory reactions. The craving for sugar and to indulge in sweets and chocolates coinciding with these hormonal changes brings a bad reputation for chocolates, says Dr. Shamban, dermatologist in weekly edition of Beauty and Myths.
Does our favourite sweet really had a bad angle attach to it?? Let’s study what the various studies and researches say about it. Some studies suggest that chocolate consumption may cause acne and others suggest that it doesn’t. So let’s try to connect the various dots.
- Historically studies go back to 1969 when the chocolate bar and control bars (candies with sugar and no chocolate ) were given to the subjects and comparative study was done and no link was found between chocolates and acne no difference was observed between two groups.
- An Australian study from 2003:
During this research it was found that the participants who ate foods with flavoured cocoa powder had higher insulin response then the control group who ate food without cocoa powder, hence it postulates the link between cocoa and insulin and suggested further research on this.
- A Malaysian study on young adults with high glycemic load, dairy milk and ice cream consumption related to acne vulgaris in 2012 by Noor Hasnai et al:
This study was conducted on 44 acne vulgaris patients and 44 controls aged 18-30 years. Subjects were asked to record their food intake on two weekdays and on one weekend. It was found during this study that by increasing the glycemic load, milk and dairy products the risk of occurrence of acne vulgaris increased by 4 times. But the significant role of chocolate was still to be confirmed.
- Chocolate consumption modulates cytokine production in healthy individuals by Stejara A Netea et al in 2013
This study demonstrated that chocolate consumption leads to release of more interleukin -1B and IL-10 which further on stimulation with, two microorganisms – Propionibacterium acne and Staphylococcus aureus aggravate the acne production. However these reactions are not proven in human beings.
- A Double-blind placebo-controlled study assessing the effect of chocolate consumption in subjects with acne vulgaris by Caroline Caperton et al in 2014:
In this study 14 men aged between 18-35 years were given capsules of unsweetened cocoa and hydrolysed gelatin powder showed positive correlation between the chocolate consumption and increase in acne exacerbation.
- Chocolate consumption may make acne vulgaris in 2017:
This study found that after giving one college student group the milk chocolate and to another the 15 jelly beans of equal glycemic load it was found that the chocolate group had significant increase in acne lesions as compared with jelly beans group. So both milk and cocoa powder could be be the culprit behind acne.
- To find the main culprit behind the whole scenario, another study in 2016 involving 25 people was conducted. An ounce of 99% dark chocolate, without added sugar or milk, was given and it was found that it would cause acne if consumed daily by acne prone males and there is a significant increase in both white and black comedones when compared to the baseline.
But the question now arises that if dark chocolate contains flavonoids which are known to be anti-inflammatory then how it can increase the acne formation. The dark chocolate contains cocoa butter, and fats like oleic acid and stearic acid which are pore clogging so always check for brands which contain fewer additives before buying. Similar study like this was conducted by Dr.Brian Berman, professor of dermatology and cutaneous surgery at the University of Miami, showed that ingestion of pure 100% chocolate in the form of capsules, devoid of milk & sugar leads to increase in the number of inflammatory and non-inflammatory lesions in young men who have history of acne.
- Latest updated study on 10 June 2020 found that consumption of milk, sugary drinks, and fatty acids and sugary foods does appear to be associated with the acne breakouts as published in the journal JAMA.
The bottom line:
The acne pathogenesis is complicated, multiple factors and aspects are involved with it like glycemic index, glycemic load, BMI, dietary habits, genetic predisposition, lifestyle (it is seen that westernized food and eating habits are more prone to acne than the Mediterranean ones as it is high in carbs, the deficit in long-chain omega 3 and alpha La, also the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 is disturbed). But one thing for sure is that role of diet in acne has really undergone a significant shift in the last decade and it is important to remember that food is not our problem, it’s actually a solution if taken in right amount and eaten in a right way.
So everyone has their own triggers and it is suggested to maintain a food journal so that you can find out the kind of food triggers that causes acne production in you. But one thing is sure that food has a definitive role in acne production. To be on the safe side, it is better to eat a lot of veggies and fruits which are low in glycemic load and to pacify your craving for chocolates, you may choose dark chocolates rather than milk and white varieties.
With this, I hope that I was able to raise the curtain from all the persistent questions about the acne and its relation with the chocolate. Hope this article was able to answer your all queries regarding acne and chocolate.