Chocolate and Acne

With the holiday festivities still in full swing, you are probably chowing down on lots of chocolate and other delectable sweets – but are you also suffering from breakouts? Many people report that they have outbreaks of acne when they eat chocolate and other “junk foods”, but what does the scientific literature say about the relationship between chocolate and acne?

There is No Confirmed Link between Chocolate and Acne …


To-date, there is not enough compelling research that chocolate intake can induce acne breakouts, for clinical studies have yielded inconsistent results. For example, research published in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology found that in males who had a history of acne vulgaris, ingesting 100% cocoa pills exacerbated their acne lesions. However, this study’s small and homogeneous sample sizes (13 males between the ages of 18-35) may have influenced the outcomes. Similarly, chocolate bars and other candies are a much more common form of chocolate intake than cocoa pills (the form of chocolate examined during the study), so it remains unclear if intake of lower doses of cocoa would exacerbate acne. Similarly, research from the Asian Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that intake of 100 gram white chocolate bars every day for 30 days did exacerbate acne, although the same was not found for 100% dark chocolate bars. As with the previous study, this experiment had a fairly small participant pool (57 individuals between the ages of 12-29 who had mild to moderate acne vulgaris). However, research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association did not find a relationship between chocolate intake and acne. With a pool of 65 participants, participants were asked to either eat a bar containing no chocolate or a bar containing 10 times the amount of chocolate in a normal bar. However, there was no significant difference in the number of lesions between those who ate the chocolate bar and those who ate the non-chocolate bar. While recent research certainly would seem to imply that chocolate intake can induce breakouts, there are not enough studies with uniformly-applied parameters that could indicate that chocolate intake could significantly influence acne breakouts (Prevention).

But It May Still Be Influencing Your Breakouts


However, this does not mean that you can chow down on chocolate care-free. Many chocolate treats are considered high glycemic index foods (read: very sugary), which lead your blood sugar to spike and subsequently induce acne flare-ups. Although its exact mechanism of action is still under review, it is believed that high-glycemic-load diets can trigger high insulin demand and alter insulin sensitivity, which may in turn affect the pathogenesis of acne (among other health concerns). Foods high in sugars and saturated fats can also thicken the sebum within one’s pores, which can clog the pores and form pimples (Prevention, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition). While you do not necessarily have to completely cut chocolate from your diet, you may want to reduce your intake.

Bottom Line

Clinical research has yet to confirm or deny that chocolate can exacerbate acne breakouts. While a little bit of chocolate (especially dark chocolate) every now and then can benefit your health, it is considered good practice to limit one’s intake of heavily processed chocolate treats, which may be high in sugar and other unsavory ingredients. Before greatly altering your chocolate intake, make sure to discuss your potential dietary changes with your physician so as to determine the best course of action.

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