Progress in Reducing Acne

A new study has found that persons with Laron Syndrome (a kind of dwarfism) get almost no acne. Persons with this syndrome, because of a mutation, are insensitive to growth hormone. As a result, they produce much less IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor) than normal. When given synthetic IGF, they may develop acne; when the dose is reduced, the acne goes away. The authors say: “The findings suggest that an interaction between IGF-1 and androgens is necessary for the development of acne.” This is great progress because people with Laron Syndrome are different from everyone else in just one tiny way (albeit a tiny way with many consequences).

The first important step in understanding the cause of acne was finding two (“primitive”) groups of people with no acne. This suggested that acne has an environmental cause. There were thousands of differences between the lifestyle of those people and “modern” people, so this was just a start. It was hard to know which differences mattered. The Laron Syndrome finding is consistent with the earlier result (no acne in two groups of “primitive” people) because a “Western diet with [its] high intake of hyperglycemic carbohydrates and insulinotropic dairy over-stimulates IIS” (insulin-like/insulin signaling).

This view predicts that if you replace hyperglycemic foods with foods lower in glycemic index acne should be reduced. This study did that and, indeed, acne decreased (compared to a control group) after ten weeks. The study ended after ten weeks. The patient who reduced his/her glycemic index the most saw the greatest decrease in acne. A second study found the same thing: a low-glycemic-index diet reduced acne. It lasted twelve weeks. With longer follow-up, there might have been even more improvement.

Thanks to Paul Nash.




8 Replies to “Progress in Reducing Acne”

  1. I’ll buy that carbs cause acne (there’s a book by Loren Cordain called “The Paleo Diet for Acne”, you know…), but I find the dairy hypothesis less compelling.

    The smallpox vaccine was discovered because milkmaids had beautiful skin; they lacked the pockmarks that can result from either smallpox or bad acne. Would they still have had smooth skin if dairy (which, one imagines, they weren’t avoiding) caused acne also?

    Lots of interesting observations from this thread over at PaleoHacks, including one person who breaks out from pasteurized milk, but not from raw milk.

    “Anyone got rid of acne on paleo diet without going low-carb?

  2. The high-glycemic link with acne squares with my experience. I eat paleo and have no acne. After a couple of times when I decided to just eat what was served at friend’s house at dinner I had acne the next day, in addition to the unhappy digestion. One particular dinner resulted in three pimples, which lasted for a few days. I can usually manage at restaurants, but I’ve taken to eating a full meal before I go to dinner at my friends’ homes.

  3. @Tuck
    Yes Cordain really ties it together in his book on acne. Supposedly the mechanism for carbs is insulin->increased igf-1 by liver->increased anti-apoptotic proteins -> tight junctions not disassembled properly -> large skin cell aggregrates -> clogged up pores. The raw milk could explain the lack of acne in milkmaids.
    A question that still need to be answered afaik is: is comedone formation purely dependent on these sticky skin cells, or is there immune involvement in this step as well?

  4. Considering that people with Laron sydrome also do not get cancer, it would be interesting to look at the correlation between acne and cancer incidence for the whole population.

    Seth: Excellent idea.

  5. @ Tuck,

    A bit of googling on dairy and acne finds a few articles written on this very subject, like this one Acne, dairy, and cancer

    Seems that acne often an indicator for breast and prostate cancers, which are hormone responding glands.

    As for the milkmaids, we can speculate on that. One guess would be that they often came from families with a long history of dairying, so they might be naturally more tolerant.

    In any case, dairy foods, and especially the whey portion of dairy, is highly insulinemeic, which is why body builders love it so much. Body builders are also prone to acne…

  6. Interesting stuff.

    A key to all of this is that there are many types of acne. Folks are always looking for one cause. Though most are likely hormonal.

    Not determined the cause of mine yet, but t’s not affected by glycemic index, carbs or milk.

    It clears up a ton with a lot of sun exposure. 2 months working in San Antonio had it looking better (though still there). Within a week back in London and I had cysts on my neck again. Same thing each time I go to a sunny location.

    The other big factor for me is digestion. No gallbladder means slower “movements” which I assume means poor removal of toxins.

    Thanks so much for continuing to focus on acne research. Acne has a huge impact on mental stress and social disorders.

    Seth: You’re welcome. In your case, what’s the connection with digestion? You mean that your acne got worse when your gallbladder was removed? Or what? Could you provide details?

  7. I think you are headed in the wrong direction as far as treating acne is concerned. New research has shown that acne patients have low glutathione levels and high interleukin-8 levels. Taking action to correct that can improve not only your acne but your cognition amongst other things. It is not a quick fix–it takes a few weeks to notice results. If you have acne and want to find out if you have low antioxidant function, get a spectracell micronutrient test done.

    Seth: Here is a study about acne and low glutathione levels. I can’t find anything about what happens when the low glutathione levels are raised. Do you know of such a study?

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