June 8, 2015

Dairy has been used for decades as a source of protein for muscle growth and athletic benefits. In light of the recent issues with allergy and sensitivity to the casein protein, also known as the milk curd, many companies have switched to pure whey based protein supplements for muscle growth.

Teenage boys are especially interested in muscle growth and comprise the lion's share of the whey protein supplement sales in youth. There are now multiple studies showing that whey protein powder use causes moderate to severe teenage acne in certain individuals.

The mechanism causing the acne appears to be related to insulin and insulin like growth factor 1, IGF-1. These hormonal pathways are associated with many metabolic and physiologic abnormalities when they are altered. Insulin is the main hormone driving glucose sugar balance in the blood and ultimately the deposition of fat. IGF-1 structurally looks like insulin and has growth and anabolic effects in the human body.

Diets rich in flour and sugar also promote excessive insulin activity and are known to cause abnormal metabolism highlighted by diseases like: polycystic ovary syndrome, acne, diabetes, coronary artery disease and more.

Naturally, IGF-1 production peaks during puberty potentially accounting for some normal acne effects of teenagers. Thus, it would make sense that flooding the body with a cow's milk diet or supplement that increases the IGF-1 level in genetically susceptible individuals would worsen the acne issue.

Intermittent fasting has been shown to reduce IGF-1 which could be beneficial to the teen with bad acne. Fasting is known to have many benefits to the human species. Reducing flour and refined sugar consumption will have a similar effect.

Take Home Point: If you know a teen that is suffering from moderate to severe acne, ask if they are drinking a lot of milk or taking whey based protein supplements. Recommend a trial off for a month and the answer to causation will appear or better yet disappear.

Dr. M