Does the Western diet give you spots?

Actu GP Alimentation occidentale : de quoi donner des boutons !

By disorganizing the intestinal microbiota, the Western diet, too high in fats and dairy products, encourages the development of acne, according to a Chinese study.


Acne vulgaris–commonly called acne–is a chronic inflammatory disease of the skin which affects 80% to 90% of adolescents. Genetic predispositions can strongly influence its appearance, but diet, more particularly a Western-type diet (high in dairy products, chocolate, refined sugars and saturated fats) is regularly singled out for blame. This diet is said to unbalance the intestinal microbiota and to increase the level of toxic lipids, thus contributing to inflammation. For all that, at the moment there is no direct evidence implicating an imbalance of the flora in the development of acne.

Differences in the composition of the intestinal microbiota

To determine its involvement, Chinese researchers compared the fecal microbiota of 43 students who had presented with variably severe acne for an average of three years, with that of 43 healthy students. They observed a significant reduction in microbial diversity in the acne patients, with no association with lesion severity. The most significant difference concerned the Bacteroidetes, which were distinctly more abundant than Firmicutes in the acne cases. Further, the intestinal flora of these adolescent acne sufferers was clearly less rich in four potentially beneficial genera of bacteria.  Such an imbalance of these bacterial families is characteristic of the Western diet and has already been observed and associated with other inflammatory diseases like psoriasis and chronic inflammatory bowel diseases (CIBD) such as Crohn’s disease.

Balanced diet and probiotics

The authors consider that the early presence of microcomedones (very small blackheads caused by excess sebum) and inflammatory lesions in acne patients might reflect the role played by the intestinal microbiota in the immune system and the inflammatory response, thus suggesting that dysbiosis caused by the Western diet fosters acne. However, the exact mechanism, as well as the link between bacteria and development of the disease, still has to be elucidated. A diet lower in fats and dairy products together with the use of probiotics could prove an effective approach in the prevention and treatment of  this type of acne.



Deng et al. Patients with Acne Vulgaris Have a Distinct Gut Mucrobiota in Comparison with Healthy Controls. Acta Dermato-Venereologica (2018) doi: 10.2340/00015555-2968