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Why Dermatologists Miss the Acne-Diet Connection

Why Dermatologists Miss the Acne-Diet Connection

It is rare to find the dermatologist who will lay claim to a dietary effect on acne. This can be confusing to many of us who see major improvements to our skin as our diet improves. While we often look to medical professionals for full-spectrum advice, the well-intended help may be MIA for a few reasons.

1. Dermatologists receive little to no nutritional education in school. 

Nutrition education in U.S. medical schools is severely lacking, with only a quarter of schools offering a course dedicated to the subject. According to a survey conducted by the American Association of Medical Colleges, more than 50% of graduates rate their nutritional knowledge as inadequate. Not surprising as a previous report by the National Academy of Sciences uncovered that only 27% of schools met the minimum requirement of 25 hours of nutritional education. Simply put, U.S. Medical Schools have not educated or prepared their students enough on how to deal with questions regarding diet. Unfortunately these schools have not bred our good natured medical doctors to be a good source of nutritional information.

2. Dermatologists may not be reading significant research studies linking diet and acne. If they did, they would find an increasing amount of documentation showing that there is a connection between diet and acne. Two poorly conducted studies from the 70s (about chocolate and fried foods) have seemed to have ingrained in the medical community that diet has nothing to do with acne. But a visit to google scholar will pull up the numerous studies and reports conducted since then that support a diet-acne connection. Take the report “High School and Dietary Dairy Intake and Teenage Acne,” which found a positive association with acne for intake of milk. Or Loren Cordain’s eye opening observation, “Acne Vulgaris: A Disease of Western Civilization,” which finds various tribal cultures with zero incidence of acne compared to western cultures which experience around an 80% incidence of the disease.

3. Most modern medicine these days is simply about writing prescriptions. It's a sad fact. In my past, I have seen multiple dermatologists. They never spent more than five minutes with me, wrote me a prescription, and sent me on my way. You sure can see a lot more clients in a day operating like that, but how much does it help your patients? In addition, drug companies pay out hundreds of millions of dollars to doctors every year. And between 2007 and 2010, pharmaceutical companies have paid out nearly $7 billion in settlements towards lawsuits alleging they illegally paid doctors to push their drugs. Bottom line, there just isn’t much money to be made in telling clients to eat more vegetables.

It is rare the dermatologist who acknowledges the diet-acne connection. Worse, they can prescribe Accutane - a drug that has the potential side effect of death. But at least your skin will look great, right? It is very unfortunate, but until our country’s medical community seeks a radical shift away from a prescriptions-only solution, holistic treatment methods most often need to be sought elsewhere. 


Elise May, CN + LE, is the owner and practitioner behind SKINutritious. She has helped over 1,000 clients clear acne with detoxing treatments, clear skin coaching, and holistic skincare. 

Work with Elise. Book online here.

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