A strong belief that I’ve developed over the last 2 years is that diet is very closely linked to the state of a person’s health, in so many different ways. It doesn’t mean that I reject medicine, not at all. But I do believe that we as a population have far too much of a reliance on pills and medication and not enough understanding of the delicate alchemy and interplay between the food we eat and how it manifests itself in the density of our bones, length and shine of our hair, strength of our teeth, our mental well-being, and the lustre of our skin, to name a few things.
It’s the last part, the quality of skin, that I’ll be focusing on today.
Good skin starts from the inside out.
Eating a conventional North American diet, high in sugar and processed carbohydrates, causes a rapid rise in blood sugar levels. This process causes changes in the cell and is also a cause of internal inflammation, which affects organs like the heart, brain and skin. In addition, when blood sugar levels go up, the sugar attaches itself to collagen in a process called “glycation” which makes the skin stiff and inflexible. Collagen is necessary for making skin supple and youthful, and losing collagen in the process of glycation converts resilient youthful looking skin into wrinkled old skin.
Studies Linking Diet to Skin Condition
At this point, after several notable studies linking diet to skin issues as listed below, the majority of dermatolgists agree that that diet is an underlying cause for skin issues like acne, and that a diet low in processed carbohydrates is optimal for skin clarity.
- A NYU review of 27 studies show a correlation between a diet low in refined carbohydrates and a significant decrease in skin issues, including acne and lesions.
- Another study, from the Harvard School of Public Health, linked diet (specifically consumption of dairy) to prevalence of acne symptoms.
- Societies that do not consume a Western diet high in flour and sugar (processed carbs) have a glaring absence of acne.
Internal inflammation has also been linked to heart disease (conventional wisdom used to blame saturated fat in the form of “lipid hypthoses” but they are moving away from that towards inflammation as the underlying cause of heart disease). Internal inflammation also has been linked to diabetes, obesity and other chronic diseases that we thought were merely part of the aging process but are gradually being revealed to be diseases of lifestyle, mainly diet.
Inflammatory and Anti-Inflammatory Foods
Dr. Michael Eades outlines the foods that cause inflammation and the foods that don’t (bolded).
“Numerous studies have shown that while carbohydrates in general cause more of an inflammatory response than other macronutrients, fructose specifically causes the most rapid and intense inflammatory response of all. Polyunsaturated vegetable oils of the omega-6 variety (the majority) are inflammatory, trans fats (all of which start out as vegetable oils) are the worst, and most of the fat of animal, fish and dairy origin are actually anti-inflammatory. Sadly, we’ve been busy replacing the latter with the former. We find ourselves as a nation in the situation where most of our population is overfed the wrong kinds of food all too often with resulting high rates of obesity and chronic inflammation.”
Next up is a post listing effective, low cost and natural ways to achieve optimally clear skin.