Cereal and Acne

Family at breakfast table, girl (8-10) holding bow of cereal
A girl is eating a bowl of cereal. (Image: Kraig Scarbinsky/DigitalVision/Getty Images)

Starting the day with a bowl of breakfast cereal is a quick and easy way to fuel up in the morning before heading to school or work. Unfortunately, most breakfast cereals, with the exception of a few, belong to a category of foods that can contribute to acne and prevent you from having clear skin. Understanding the connection between the foods you eat and your acne can help you get it under control.

High Glycemic Foods

Foods with a high glycemic index cause a quicker and larger increase in your blood sugar and insulin levels after eating, compared to foods with a low glycemic index. The glycemic index, or GI, is measured on a scale of 0 to 100. A GI of 70 and above is high, 55 and below is low, and between 56 and 69 is moderate. A study published in the July 2007 issue of "The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" showed that reducing the glycemic load of the diet of participants, by replacing high glycemic foods with either low-carbohydrate foods or low glycemic foods, reduced acne lesions by about 50 percent in 12 weeks.

Breakfast Cereals

Most breakfast cereals have a moderate to high GI. It is not only the added sugar found in breakfast cereals that affects its GI value, but also the type of starch in the grains and the degree of processing. For example, corn flakes and puffed wheat have a GI of 80; bran flakes and oat rings, a GI of 74; puffed rice, a GI of 83; chocolate-flavored cereals, a GI of 77; shredded wheat, a GI of 67; wheat flakes, a GI of 69; and regular, instant or flavored oatmeal, a GI of 63.

Breakfast Cereals, Insulin and Acne

The GI of a food is consistent with its insulin index, or the amount of insulin your pancreas secretes in response to carbohydrate-rich foods. Because of the moderate and high GI of most breakfast cereals, eating breakfast cereals first thing in the morning can quickly elevate your insulin levels. Higher insulin levels can increase the levels of different hormones in your body, including IGF-1 and IGFBP-3, which are both involved in the pathogenesis of acne, as explained in an article in "Seminars of Cutaneous Medicine and Surgery" in 2005.

Low Glycemic Breakfast Alternatives

To improve your acne, replace your bowl of breakfast cereal with a lower glycemic option. The breakfast cereals with the lowest GI include porridge made from steel-cut oats, old-fashioned oatmeal, millet or quinoa. If you prefer to have bread or toast, choose sourdough bread or bread made from 100 percent stone-ground whole grain flour. Alternatively, omelets with vegetables, cheesy scrambled eggs with sausages, or reheated leftovers from the previous day make perfect low glycemic substitutes for your usual breakfast cereals.

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