An investigation of the association between diet and occurrence of acne: a rational approach from a traditional Chinese medicine perspective

Clin Exp Dermatol. 2010 Jan;35(1):31-5. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2230.2009.03360.x. Epub 2009 Jun 22.


Background: The association between diet and acne vulgaris has long been suggested but remains unproven in western medicine. In contrast, the diet-acne relationship is considered important in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Aim. To investigate the association between diet and acne, using a TCM approach.

Methods: Using a cross-sectional study of 322 entrants to a university in Hong Kong, China, we examined the participants' clinical severity of acne using the Global Acne Grading System and the participants' yin and yang scores using a quantitative method. We then divided them into two groups, a yin-predominant group (yin-PG) and a yang-predominant group (yang-PG) before the diet-acne relationship was investigated.

Results: In total, 82 (25.2%) participants were in the clinical acne group and 240 (74.5%) were in the reference group. There were 155 (48.1%) participants in the yin-PG and 167 (51.9%) in the yang-PG group. No association of diet and acne was found when the participants were considered as a homogenous group. In yin-PG, intake of foods from street stalls (P = 0.04) was significantly associated with a lower incidence of acne. In yang-PG, the intake of desserts (P = 0.04) and fresh fruit juices (P = 0.02) was significantly associated with a higher incidence of acne, whereas the intake of dairy and soy products (P = 0.04) was significantly associated with a lower incidence of acne.

Conclusions: The application of a TCM approach led to the detection of significant associations between diet and the incidence of acne.

MeSH terms

  • Acne Vulgaris / etiology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet / adverse effects*
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Female
  • Hong Kong
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medicine, Chinese Traditional / methods*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Yin-Yang*
  • Young Adult