What Causes Acne and How to Treat it


In a previous post, I spoke about how dairy should be avoided if you suffer from acne and have PCOS. In this post, I will explain the biology, what goes on in the body, what causes acne and ways to treat it.


What Causes Acne


Studies have shown that  an over-consumption of high glycemic foods, milk and animal protein causes an increase in insulin and IGF-1.These hormones activate the enzyme mTOR, causing the body to activate inflammation and keratin, which in turn results in the development of acne.  As a result, the transcription factor FOX01 becomes depleted, a deficiency people who have acne already suffer from.




mTORC1 stands for "mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1" and it is a key protein that controls cell growth and metabolism. High insulin and the insulin growth hormones can activate mTORC, and this is where diet is linked to acne. Once mTOR is activated protein synthesis is increased by the muscle cells.


What are the mTOR activators

  • Insulin
  • IGF-1
  • Testosterone
  • Excess carbohydrates
  • Amino acids, particularly leucine and arginine
  • Oxygen levels
  • Excess calories
  • Leptin- in the hypothalamus


 How to inhibit mTOR activation

  • Protein restriction
  • Leucine restriction
  • Omega 3
  • Ketogenic diets
  • Olive Oil
  • Calorie restriction
  • Glutamine restriction
  • Caffeine
  • Genistein
  • Quercetin, consumption of tea, onions, red grapes, and apples
  • Resveratrol, found in red grapes.
  • Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG, in green tea)
  • Indoles, compounds found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and brussels sprouts. (DIM)
  • Curcumin
  • Cryptotanshinon, from the roots of the plant Salvia miltiorrhiza Bunge (Danshen).
  • Fisetin, member of flavonoids, found in fruits and vegetables, such as strawberries, apples, persimmons and onions.
  • Apigenin, a member of flavonoids, found in fruits (oranges, apples, cherries, grapes), vegetables (onions, parsley, broccoli, sweet green pepper, celery, barley, tomatoes) and beverages (tea, wine).
  • N-Acetylcystein (NAC)
  • silymarin (milk thistle)




FoxO1, Forkhead box protein O1, is a key transcription factor that is targetted by insulin and modulates the metabolic homeostasis in response to oxidative stress. Regulation of, inflammation, DNA damage repair, oxidative stress management, glucose and lipid metabolism is controlled by FoxO1.

It has been shown that consuming a high amount of dairy products, glycemic food and animal protein is linked to an increase in insulin and IGF-1, in turn, activating mTOR.


Genes and Acne


A high level of testosterone creates DHT and it is the increased conversion of testosterone to DHT that results in acne skin.

Although, individuals who suffer from acne are deficient in FoxO1. FoxO1 suppresses androgen receptor and controls inflammation and cell growth. It can therefore be suggested FoxO1 is key to reducing the likelihood of acne skin.


What can you do to prevent or reduce the likelihood of acne?


It can be seen that what you eat/your diet plays a crucial role in the development of acne. As research indicates, the high in sugar and calories, Western style - diet is a leading cause of acne. Therefore, it can be said, avoiding or reducing the consumption of high glycemic food, dairy products and animal protein can help with acne.


Consuming sugar increases the amount of insulin that is secreted into the bloodstream. Over time cells in the body become resistant to the hormone insulin, cells are unable to use insulin effectively resulting in high blood sugar. Also, such a diet will result in an increase in the hormones that cause acne.


Consume plenty of fruits and vegetables which contain anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and are proven to help with acne, such as, Green Leafy Vegetables, broccoli, blueberries, strawberries,cherries. Anti-inflammatory foods, such as salmon, which contains omega 3. Including foods such as turmeric, ginger, green tea, nuts can also help with acne.



  • Fish Oil/Omega 3
  • Selenium
  • N-Acetylcystein (NAC)
  • Evening primrose oil
  • Zinc
  • Vitamin A: isotretinoin (20 mg/d) Only do this for three months. Do not do this if you are pregnant.
  • Vitamin E



Pappas, A. (2009). "The relationship of diet and acne". Dermato Endocrinolgy. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2836431/ . 1(5), 262–267. [Accessed:7 November 2016] 

Kucharska, A., Szmurło, A. and Sińska, B. (2016). "Significance of diet in treated and untreated acne vulgaris". Postepy Dermatol Alergol. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4884775/ . 33(2), 81–86.  [Accessed:7 November 2016] 

Laplante, M and Sabatini, M,D. (2009). "mTOR signaling at a glance". . http://jcs.biologists.org/content/122/20/3589 .

Laplante, M and Sabatini, M,D. (2012). "mTOR signaling in growth control and disease". https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3331679/ . 149(2): 274–293. [Accessed:7 November 2016]  

Hay, N and  Sonenberg, N. (2004). "Upstream and downstream of mTOR". Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press. http://genesdev.cshlp.org/content/18/16/1926.long . 18, 1926-1945. [Accessed:7 November 2016]  

Ballou, M,L. and Lin, Z,R. (2008). "Rapamycin and mTOR kinase inhibitors". Journal of Chemical Biology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2698317/ . 1(1-4), 27–36. [Accessed:7 November 2016].
 Huang,S. (2014). "Inhibition of PI3K/Akt/mTOR Signaling by Natural Products". Anticancer Agents Med Chem. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3775843/ . 13(7): 967–970. [Accessed:7 November 2016]. 
Nakae, J., Oki, M. and Cao, Y. (2008). "The FoxO transcription factors and metabolic regulation". Metabolic Disease. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0014579307011696 . 582(1), 54–67.  [Accessed:7 November 2016]. 
Sparks, D,J.and Dong, H,H. (2009). "FoxO1 and hepatic lipid metabolism".Curr Opin Lipidol. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2964835/ . 20(3): 217–226. [Accessed:7 November 2016]. 

Sahib, S,A., Al-Anbari, H,H., Salih, M. and Abdullah, F. (20102). "Effects of Oral Antioxidants on Lesion Counts Associated with Oxidative Stress and Inflammation in Patients with Papulopustular Acne". Journal of Clinical & Experimental Dermatology Research. http://www.omicsonline.org/effects-of-oral-antioxidants-on-lesion-counts-associated-with-oxidative-stress-and-inflammation-in-patients-with-papulopustular-acne-2155-9554.1000163.php?aid=10078 .  [Accessed:7 November 2016]. 







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