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 August 19th, 2019

As school and athletics are back in full swing, let's look at a teenage centric return to school issue, muscle building and acne. Dairy has been used for decades as a source of high quality protein for muscle growth and secondarily, athletic benefits. Unfortunately, many Americans are challenged by the increased frequency of allergy and sensitivity to the dairy based casein protein, also known as the milk curd, prompting many to switch to pure whey dairy 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 susceptible 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 refined flour and sugar also promote excessive insulin activity, inflammation and 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 based diet or supplement that increases the IGF-1 level in genetically susceptible individuals would worsen the acne issue. The key here is in genetically susceptible individuals as not all teens suffer milk allergy, intolerance or acne based reactions.

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 beneficial effect reducing insulin levels, inflammation and metabolic derangements.

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


Murturana Self Article
Cengiz Health Promot Perspect Article
Carvahalo Pontes An Bras Derm Article
Burris Journal of the Acad of Nutr and Diet Article
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