Butter as a Cause of Acne

Stick of Butter
A stick of butter on a plate. (Image: SouthernLightStudios/iStock/Getty Images)

One of the most heated controversies in the field of dermatology is on the link between diet and acne. However, there does seem to be at least a modest correlation between dairy consumption and this condition, a fact that makes it reasonable to wonder whether there is a link between acne and eating butter.

Dairy Consumption and Acne

Data from the Nurses Health Study II provides evidence that dairy consumption is linked to acne, according to a 2005 article published in the "Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology." In this study, the data on more than 47,000 women who had completed questionnaires on high school diet and physician-diagnosed acne were analyzed. The results showed that intake of milk and milk products was correlated with acne, and that this association remained after controlling for age at menarche, body mass index and energy intake.

Lipid Peroxidation

Lipid peroxidation is a process in which a free radical steals electrons away from lipids in the cell membrane, thus producing more free radicals and cell damage. According to a December 2010 article in "Lipids in Health and Disease," lipid peroxidation may be the match that "lights an inflammatory cascade in acne." This process is worsened by butter consumption, according to a 2008 article published in the "Journal of Nutrition."

Cholesterol Levels and Acne

According to the American Heart Association's website, dietary cholesterol, like that found in butter, can raise blood cholesterol levels. Cholesterol is the precursor to male hormones, which also are found in women but in lower doses. A December 2010 article in "Clinical Biochemistry" reported that both testosterone, a male hormone, and "bad" LDL cholesterol were higher in females with acne than in those without it. Correlation, however, does not prove causality.

Milk Products Androgen Production

According to a 2010 article in "Clinical Dermatology," milk products in general contain 5alpha-pregnanedione and 5alpha-androstanedione, two precursors to the androgen 5alpha-hydrotestosterone. Testosterone worsens acne by promoting the production of sebum, which can block pores. According to this article, foods with high glycemic loads also also promote acne. This research suggests that If butter is eaten with carbohydrate-rich foods, like muffins and pancakes, then the resulting insulin release leads to an even higher level of androgen production and further increases the risk of developing acne.

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