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Milk and Acne: Does it Help or Hinder?

By Dr. Kristie

Acne can cause a great deal of frustration and heartache for both teens and adults. It’s due to overproduction of sebum and poor skin sloughing, which blocks the pores. This overproduction of sebum is thought to be triggered by fluctuating levels of hormones, especially testosterone.

When excess sebum and poor sloughing clogs a pore, bacteria feed on it and it becomes inflamed – leading to ugly, acne lesions. Not surprisingly, researchers have looked at the connection between acne and diet – dairy products, in particular. Interestingly, the effects of milk on acne could depend on what type of milk you drink.

Milk and Acne

Researchers speculated that milk may worsen acne by increasing levels of a hormone called IGF-1 that triggers acne outbreaks when it interacts with testosterone, also present in cow’s milk. Some, but not all, studies show that milk drinkers have a greater risk of developing severe acne lesions.

Fermented Milk to the Rescue

Not all milk is created equal when it comes to acne. More recent research shows that fermented milk may be beneficial for preventing acne outbreaks – especially fermented milk supplemented with 200 milligrams of lactoferrin.

In a study published in the journal Nutrition, researchers gave 36 young people fermented milk or fermented milk enriched with lactoferrin for 12 weeks.

The group who drank the lactoferrin-enriched milk developed fewer acne lesions, less sebum and fewer painful inflammatory lesions than those who drank fermented milk without lactoferrin. They also had fewer skin surface lipids that could contribute to clogged pores.

Researchers believe lactoferrin-enriched fermented milk improves immune function and helps to keep the bacteria and inflammatory response in check so that a person gets fewer acne outbreaks and less inflammatory lesions.  Lactoferrin also has anti-bacterial activity.

Milk and Acne: The Bottom Line?

Whether drinking regular milk worsens the symptoms of acne is unclear, but drinking lactoferrin-enriched fermented milk may have some benefits. Fermented milk is available at many natural food stores, and some people have an easier time digesting it than regular milk.

If you have acne and you drink regular milk, switch over to fermented milk enriched with lactoferrin for a few weeks and keep a diary of your acne outbreaks to see if it helps.


Nutrition. 2010 Sep; 26(9): 902-9.



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Disclaimer: Articles not intended to Diagnose, Treat, Cure or Prevent Diseases.

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