Does Milk Cause Acne?

Does milk cause acne? For decades scientists have searched for the causes of acne. A study has identified one of the key triggers: milk. Researchers claim to have found a correlation between milk intake and the incidence of acne. Teenagers who drink a pint or more of milk a day are almost 50 per cent more likely to develop spots and pimples than those who rarely or never drink milk.

This supports the results of previous studies, researchers began by asking people to recall what they ate. One such study asked 47,355 women to remember what they ate in high school 9 years prior. Another study asked teenage boys to recall what they ate and to determine the severity of their acne. After analyzing the foods eaten, researchers concluded that girls that consumed three or more servings of milk each day were 22% more likely to suffer from severe acne.

Studies investigating a link between acne and milk have not given clear results. At the moment the research does not support a strong link between acne and milk. This study also found that People who regularly drank skimmed milk, with two half-pint glasses a day raising the risk develop acne by 44 per cent. Those who drank a pint of whole milk a day were 12 per cent more likely to develop acne, while semi-skimmed milk increased the risk by 16 per cent. Overall, those who regularly drank milk were 22 per cent more likely to have suffered from acne than those who rarely or never drank the white stuff.

These studies had limitations. Trying to accurately recall what you ate years ago — or even days ago — can be difficult, so the collected data cannot be considered entirely reliable. So why drinking milk can cause acne? Some think it’s the hormones found in milk. Milk contains progesterone and other hormones that are known precursors to DHT, the primary acne-producing hormone in humans.

Cow milk also contains Iodine, the amount of hormones gets increased when farmers inject their cows with more hormones. This is done to increase the productivity of milk by a given cow. These injections increase the amount of IGF – 1 present in milk. It must be noted that it is IGF -1 that woks along with testosterone and DHT to cause acne.

But Skim milk was associated with higher IGF-1 levels than whole milk. The processing of skim milk may explain why it is linked to acne severity more often than whole milk. Whey proteins are added to give skim milk a creamier consistency. Some speculate that these proteins impact acne development.

So, does this imply that you should stop drinking milk altogether to get rid of acne? Not really. Try to opt for a no milk and no dairy diet for about a week. If you experience improvement in your acne condition, you might as well give up milk. However, if your acne does not improve you can continue drinking milk and not deprive yourself of the essential nutrients present in it.

The ability to develop acne is partly genetic and partly the result of hormone exposure [e.g. hormones from dairy milk]. I tell my female patients that genetics are the key to the fact that Paris Hilton has lots of money and no zits and my patients have lots of zits and no money.”

In teenagers acne peaks at between 16 and 18, although it can affect anyone at any age. Up to 98 per cent of people in Western countries are affected. A clear link between acne and dairy milk has been noted by researchers because acne is much higher in parts of the world that consume more milk. Acne makes the skin sore and uncomfortable, and is socially excruciating – $5 billion is spent worldwide each year treating it.

Acne is caused by hormones in dairy milk that affect the glands of hair follicles, making them produce more sebum than usual. This makes hair follicles stick together and form a kind of plug in the skin pore – this is the first visible sign of acne. The plug blocks the sebum canal and prevents the free-flow of sebum to the skin, thus making acne develop.

Dairy milk has many types of hormones. Some of the hormones are produced by the placenta to aid the cow’s pregnancy. Other hormones in milk, such as IGF-1, help the calf to grow rapidly. Humans also produce IGF-1 growth hormones. This hormone peaks at age 15 in girls and 18 in boys, coinciding with peak acne levels.

IGF-1 is known to work with testosterone and DHT to cause acne. IGF-1 is found in all types of dairy milk: raw, pasteurized, organic and nonorganic. So when you consume any type of dairy milk it will significantly increase your levels of IGF-1 and be likely to cause acne.

The evidence that cow’s milk is one of the biggest causes of acne is confirmed by several studies. For example, Dr Walter Willett led a team of researches at the Boston Harvard School of Public Health in a study of 47,000 women. The women were part of the ‘Nurses Health Study II’ (a major well-publicized project).

As part of the study, 47,000 women were required to complete questionnaires concerning their diet as teenagers, and to indicate whether they ever had severe acne. The study found no links between foods such as potato chips or chocolate and acne, but they did find a strong link between women who had acne and those who had regularly consumed milk.

Other research confirms this:

1. IGF-1 [in dairy milk] contributes to the increase in sebum production during puberty.

2. About 80% of [dairy] cows are throwing off hormones continuously [dairy milk is] implicated as a factor in the development of acne teenage acne patients improved as soon as milk drinking stopped. (Frank Oski, M.D., Don’t Drink Your Milk, Teach Services, Inc).

3. About 80% of cows that are giving milk are pregnant and are throwing off hormones continuouslyDr. Jerome has found that acne improved as soon as the teenagers stopped drinking milk. (Dr. George J. Georgiou, Ph.D., Clinical Nutritionist, Milk – A Recipe for Disease

By simply switching to non-dairy milk you will go a long way to avoiding acne. Some supermarkets sell non-dairy milk (usually soy milk and rice milk). But there are many other kinds of wonderful non-dairy milk which you can easily make at home in a matter of minutes. When made correctly, home made milk is super-nutritious and truly delicious, and of course, it does not cause acne.

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photo credit: Milk splash experiment via photopin (license)