Milk vs. Chocolate

In terms of the relation between diet and skin health, there are conflicting arguments in medical research. The connection between the two is still unclear. So it is very difficult for a dermatologist to answer a question like “Doctor, is it something I ate?” Interestingly, there are some foods whose effects to the skin are often opposite to what people usually think. The typical ones are milk and chocolate. Milk is believed to bring people smooth and fair skin while chocolate is the main culprit in aggravating acne. Is this true? Let’s look at some interesting facts.

How does milk affect the skin?

There is no doubt that milk is a good source of nutrition but we don’t know whether milk benefits skin particularly. In fact, Harvard School of Public Health has published their research indicating an association between milk consumption and acne. But how could milk cause acne? Dr. F. William Danby from Dartmouth Medical School explained that “drinking milk from pregnant cows exposes us to the hormones produced by the cows’ pregnancy, hormones that we were not designed to consume during our teenage and adult years”.

Does chocolate cause acne?

Independent experiments by Fulton et al. and Anderson et al. concluded that chocolate was not the cause of acne. These studies were once criticized by several researchers for certain methodological flaws but no one could demonstrate any link between the two either. Loren Cordain from Colorado State University said that the major problem was that these two studies were often erroneously interpreted. His explanation, I believe, is more helpful to solve a consumer’s confusion. He said that these studies could only conclude that cacao solids (cacao paste and cocoa butter) were not involved in the cause of acne because that was what they used in the studies. He also said “the results of the experiment cannot be generalized to assume that chocolate candy does not cause acne because chocolate candy contains many other ingredients in addition to cacao solids. […] Accordingly, any of the other ingredients in chocolate candy either individually or in combination with one another cannot be ruled out in the etiology of acne.”

Several studies have shown that western industrialized societies tend to have a high percentage of people with acne compared with some less developed regions. They explained that this was mainly due to the high-glycemic diet consumed in westernized societies. If this is proved true, then the high sugar content in chocolate can be a problem.

Does cacao promote the skin health?

There is some popular study recently showing long-term ingestion of flavanol rich cacao can reduce the UV-induced reddening and lower the water loss from skin. According to this study, it is the flavanol in cacao that provides the benefits. Although the benefits of flavanol to skin still needs more testing, flavanol has been proved to be a type of antioxidant that benefits the overall health, including the cardiovascular health. It is confusing, however, that the amount of flavanol varies a lot in the manufactured chocolates. Just remember that the dark chocolates with high percentage of cacao usually have more flavanol than milk chocolates and white chocolates have zero flavanol. If you don’t like chocolate, then you can benefit from flavanol in green and black tea, red wine, grapes and raspberries too.

With these facts as reference, my personal suggestion is that: buy dark chocolate with high cacao and low sugar content; drink milk in moderate amount; and maintain a low-sugar diet.

This will not only benefit your skin but also the health of your whole body. When the nutrition research gets complicated, one simple rule might always be true: eating too much of anything is not good.

2 comments to Milk vs. Chocolate
  • Thank you. I will keep it up.

  • Guest

    Thank you for the very insightful article… and I could not agree more with your conclusions.

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