Acne: Reality is Not a Morality Tale

Someone named Red Fury made an interesting comment on my Boing Boing article about acne:

I had acne on/off for years. . . . In my mid-thirties, I tried the Retin-A at night, antibiotic gel for day regimen for about 2 years – no effect. . . . Then, I was talking to a co-worker whose daughter was taking ‘modeling classes’ to become a teen model. She casually mentioned her acned daughter had to give up rice, potato chips, and bread, all of which are high-glycemic index foods. My quack-radar went off, and I looked around for something scientific behind that advice. http://www.ajcn.org/content/86…

Huh. I guess those  nutrition-bashing dermatologists actually did a study and published the scientific results in a peer-reviewed journal. . . . My acne disappeared completely as soon as I eliminated rice and potatoes.

He finds a study that supports the casual advice, he follows the advice, his acne disappears. By convincing him to follow the advice, the scientific study helped him get rid of his acne. Which is impressive.

The interesting twist is that the study was published twice, clearly breaking the rules. Bad scientists! Who did something really good.

9 Responses to “Acne: Reality is Not a Morality Tale”

  1. Tuck Says:

    Wow, that approach sounds… scientific!

  2. TMS71 Says:

    Doctors are reflexively dismissive of any claim that people can solve their own health problems. The case for a dietary cause of acne in Loren Cordains ‘A Dietary Cure for Acne’ was completely overwhelming, even elucidating the mechanisms. Docs are arrogant and ignorant and this is just more evidence that they don’t deserve to be held in anywhere near the esteem that they are.

  3. Adam Says:

    TMS71: I don’t think Seth appreciates name calling & it doesn’t seem productive to me here either.

    SOME doctors are arrogant & SOME doctors are ignorant. Don’t hold these ones in esteem, but don’t lump ALL doctors into one category. Some black people commit crimes, but how would it come off if I said “Black people are criminals”?

  4. Evolutionarily Says:

    Adam it is a common human bias to make that error. If people hear that all terrorists are Muslim (not true), many people will mistakenly infer that all Muslims are terrorists. That mistake seems elementary, but I think we are all capable of making it in certain applications. Perhaps it is even the default… Does anybody know the formal name of this logical error?

  5. nathan Says:

    Yep, I just found out that inadequate cleanliness is not the cause for acne outbreaks.

  6. TMS71 Says:

    Dude, this story is a cliche. Most Docs are reflexively dismissive of any alternative approaches. Its infuriating and they deserve the name calling. As for those Docs who are open-minded, I’m sure they weren’t offended. If the shoe fits – wear it.

  7. Juha Says:

    I’ve learned that many foods high in carbohydrates cause me acne and heartburn.

    Three years ago I cut pretty much all sorts of candy and the like from my diet and a few weeks later I also dropped rice, potatoes, bread and pasta. I did this because I believed that the carbs in my diet aren’t good for me (increase the risk for diabetes even if I’m not overweight). Over time I realized that my acne and heartburn symptoms have gotten better, too.

    Initially I wasn’t sure if there’s a connection but today it seems pretty obvious to me. If I eat any of those high-carb foods on lunch I often have some heartburn and acne in the evening. I don’t like to eat those foods often but I don’t always have a choice if I want to get enough calories so I unwillingly experiment with this several times a month. So far the evidence seems pretty convincing to me.

    What’s curious is that lentils don’t worsen my symptoms. They’re high in carbs, too. I’m not sure but it could be that they also have quite a bit of protein and their glycemic index is roughly half what the GI is for rice, potatoes, bread and pasta.

    I find it interesting that several paleo bloggers suggest to avoid lentils because of their high phytate and lectin content. Rice may be okay since it’s a “safe starch”. At least for me it’s the other way around.

  8. Red Fury Says:

    Well, if you’re interested in self-experimentation after consulting medical journals, I have decades of my own data!

    The most unusual experiment is discovering that my paternal family’s centuries-long history of dying of massive heart attacks around the age of 60 is due to ‘Familial Defective Apolipoprotein B-100″, and it has inspired me to be the first one to Fight the Future through diet and exercise.

    BTW, I am female and a long-time Men’s Health reader.

  9. Dave Newman Says:

    Good Post! Other foods you may consider elimimating from you diet to cut down on breakouts are milk, sugar and most processed foods. Drink lots of water and eat a good diet of fruits and vegggies.