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Currently, much of the information available for the prevention of acne in both teenagers and adults discounts the existence of a link between acne and diet. Dr. Loren Cordain, often considered the father of the modern Paleolithic dietary movement, argues that the dogma of the past 30 years, that acne is unrelated to diet, is incorrect. According to Cordain, environmental factors, such as diet and overall lifestyle, have a significant role in the development of acne. Too, Cordain believes that the paleo diet can prevent and cure acne in adults and teens.
In 2002, Loren Cordain published an article in the Archives of Dermatology that considered rates of acne in two non-Western populations living a hunter-gatherer lifestyle: the Kitavan people near Papua New Guinea and the Ache of Paraguay. In both populations, not one case of acne was found. Cordain believes that excess insulin and the body’s insensitivity to insulin in the blood caused by grains and high levels of carbohydrates can contribute to acne. In hunter-gatherer societies such as those studied by Cordain, grains and simple carbohydrates are avoided, and acne does not present itself.
Interestingly, the overall health of the Ache and Kitavan people was astonishing, with low rates of obesity and cardiovascular disease, malnutrition and hypertension. Through blood tests, it was found that both groups maintained high insulin sensitivity throughout life, which ultimately resulted in low levels of insulin floating through the body.
As a result of Cordain’s studies, he found that diet is a probable factor in the development of acne, primarily due to diet’s role on insulin levels in the blood:
“Recent evidence has demonstrated that the hormonal cascade triggered by diet-induced hyperinsulinemia elicits an endocrine response that simultaneously promotes unregulated tissue growth and enhanced androgen synthesis. Hence, hyperinsulinemic diets may represent a previously unrecognized environmental factor in the development of acne via their influence on follicular epithelial growth and keratinization and on androgen-mediated sebum secretion [two well-documented causes of acne].”
It is believed that Western diets high in dairy, fatty meats, refined sugars, and grains contribute to overall insulin resistance in the body. Unlike typical American diets, the paleo diet is a hunter-gatherer diet and, founded on foods that stabilize blood sugar levels and insulin production in the body, can prevent and even reverse acne.
One of the main dietary culprits contributing to the development of acne is dairy. Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health found a definitive link between consuming dairy and developing acne. Dr. F. William Danby argues that drinking milk and eating dairy produced by pregnant cows exposes the consumer to pregnancy hormones that increase the likelihood of developing hormonal problems and illnesses, including both acne and prostate cancer. Eating a Paleolithic diet discourages consumption of dairy and thus prevents the intake of excess hormones.
Another way the paleo diet prevents acne, according to Paleo Village, is rooted in the abundant nutrition provided by the paleo dietary lifestyle. Researchers have recently found that omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found abundantly in the paleo diet via wild-caught fish, can reduce inflammation and decrease the redness associated with acne. EPA, another substance found in fish, is also abundant in the paleo diet and can decrease the body’s creation of androgens and can significantly reduce acne breakouts.
Whether genetics plays a large role in the development of acne, recent research concludes that diet is another factor. Eating a Paleolithic diet full of lean meats, fruits, nuts, vegetables, and healthy fats can prevent or even cure acne. The paleo diet decreases dietary intake of hormones, increases the consumption of foods responsible for regulating blood sugar, and increases the consumption of foods rich in nutrients, all of which drastically reduce the risk of developing acne.