Relationships of self-reported dietary factors and perceived acne severity in a cohort of New York young adults

J Acad Nutr Diet. 2014 Mar;114(3):384-392. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2013.11.010. Epub 2014 Jan 9.


Background: Recent observational and experimental evidence suggests that diet may contribute to acne prevalence.

Objectives: To examine the differences in select dietary factors (glycemic index [GI], total sugar, added sugar, fruit/fruit juice, fruit/vegetables, vegetables, saturated fat, trans fat, and number of milk and fish servings per day) between groups of self-reported acne severity. Secondary objectives were to investigate the differences in food-aggravated acne beliefs and acne-specific quality-of-life between groups of self-reported acne severity.

Design: This study utilized a cross-sectional design.

Participants/setting: A total of 248 (115 male, 133 female) participants, age 18 to 25 years, completed questionnaires designed to measure self-reported acne severity, select dietary factors, food-aggravated acne beliefs, acne-specific quality-of-life, and anthropometric and demographic characteristics. The Block fat/sugar/fruit/vegetable food frequency questionnaire assessed usual dietary intake. Data were collected in New York City between January and May 2012.

Statistical analyses performed: One-way between groups analysis of variance examined differences in dietary factors, anthropometric characteristics, and acne-specific quality-of-life between groups of self-reported acne. χ² tests compared food-aggravated acne beliefs and demographic characteristics between groups of self-reported acne.

Results: Compared with participants with no or mild acne, participants with moderate to severe acne reported greater dietary GI (P<0.001), added sugar (P<0.001), total sugar (P<0.001), number of milk servings per day (P<0.001), saturated fat (P<0.001), and trans-fatty acids (P<0.001), and fewer servings of fish per day (P=0.002). Among all participants, 58.1% perceived diet to aggravate or influence acne.

Conclusions: This study suggests that diet, particularly dietary GI, saturated fat, trans fat, milk, and fish may influence or aggravate acne development. Future research is necessary to elucidate the proposed mechanisms linking diet and acne and determine the impact of medical nutrition therapy on acne development.

Keywords: Acne vulgaris; Diet; Glycemic index; Milk; n-3 fatty acids.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acne Vulgaris / etiology*
  • Acne Vulgaris / physiopathology
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet*
  • Dietary Fats / adverse effects
  • Dietary Sucrose / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Fishes
  • Fruit
  • Glycemic Index
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Milk / adverse effects
  • New York City
  • Perception*
  • Quality of Life
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Vegetables
  • Young Adult


  • Dietary Fats
  • Dietary Sucrose