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Chocolate's bad rap: Clearing up some acne misunderstandings


Q: Is there any truth that chocolate, sodas or fried foods make acne worse?

A: Eating lots of chocolate and fried foods, and drinking soda may be bad for your waistline, heart and teeth, but as far as we know, they don't affect your skin. Over the years, it's been shown that acne is caused by a combination of factors unrelated to diet.

The skin cells of people prone to acne tend to be excessively sticky, causing blockage of the skin pores. Sebum, a fatty substance made deep in the pores by glands, cannot get to the skin surface. This leads to acne blemishes. Certain kinds of bacteria on the skin, as well as hormonal stimulation of the glands also play a role.

Stress makes acne worse in some people. We wonder if under stressful conditions people tend to eat more chocolate and fried foods. If their acne gets worse at this time, they may believe that diet is the culprit.

There are a number of simple and effective treatments currently available for acne. Check with your doctor, since the best treatments are available only by prescription.

Dr. Wilson is director of general pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center; Dr. Joffe is director of adolescent medicine.

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