Is There a Link Between Acne and Obesity?

Recent studies suggest a link between acne and obesity, indicating that excess weight can be as bad for you as problem foods like sugar

Are acne and obesity interrelated, or not? Some authorities have suspected that they are for quite some time, while others have spent decades proving that acne is more closely linked to genetics and specific dietary components, such as sugar or carbs, than to excess weight.

It would be nice to believe that you can, in fact, eat your favorite dark chocolate without worrying about it triggering an outbreak. But there's always that sneaky suspicion that the diet deniers are wrong... or at least, not entirely right.
Let's look at some of the most recent research on the topic.

The Straight Story

According to a study conducted by Dr. Jon Halvorsen, a noted acne researcher from Norway, your favorite foods may not be guilt-free after all -- especially when you overindulge. Just when we thought it was safe to go back in the chocolate...

In early 2012, Halvorsen published the results of a survey of 3,600 Oslo teenagers, which showed that the girls surveyed were significantly more likely to have suffered from acne in the week before the survey if they were overweight or obese (based on a body mass index, or BMI, of 25 or higher).

About 13% of all female respondents had suffered some acne; the figure went to 19% for subjects with higher BMIs. Weight didn't seem to matter for boys: the figure was steady at 13-14% across the board.

The Upshot

What this apparent correlation means is uncertain; and the truth is, the connection between acne risk and carrying extra weight may not be directly linked in a cause-and-effect manner.

If they are, Halvorsen suggests, it may be because excess weight can result in changes in hormone levels. Especially common is a decrease in the production of insulin, the hormone that breaks down sugars and carbs into energy. We do know that hormonal changes can trigger acne.

Mixed News

Halvorsen's results follow on the heels of a metastudy (i.e., a study of numerous other studies) published in August 2011, which suggests that some dietary factors -- especially those that impact insulin resistance -- can have an effect on a tendency to suffer acne.

The metastudy yielded mixed results, however. One of the authors, Nanette Silverberg, cautions that the high blood pressure and other hormonal changes that come with weight gain might also explain the results. Too much testosterone in a woman's bloodstream, for example, could trigger skin problems.

What Does This Mean for You?

It's hard to say at the moment... but better safe than sorry. If you have a high BMI, it can't hurt to try to shed a few pounds; and if acne and obesity really do correlate, it may help cut down on those zits.

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