June 12

Flashback Friday: Saving Lives by Treating Acne with Diet


Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

“Acne is an epidemic skin disease of industrialized countries, reaching prevalence rates of over 85% of teenagers. In the [U.S.], acne nowadays persists [even] after adolescence into the third decade of life in nearly half of men and women.” But it’s considered “a disease of Western civilization”—meaning, in some places, like Okinawa, it was rare or even nonexistent.

“In this regard most common acne…is not [some] ‘physiological’ phenomenon of puberty, but [may represent] a visible risk indicator…pointing to aberrant nutrient signalling promoting chronic epidemic diseases of civilisation.” This is what they mean: the dairy, junk foods, meat, and egg proteins in Western diets all conspire to raise the activity of the enzyme TOR, contributing to acne and obesity. So, using diet to suppress TOR may not only improve acne, but may prevent the march to more serious chronic TOR-driven diseases of civilization. So, the excessive TOR stimulation induced by the Standard American Diet may first just manifest as premature puberty and acne, but then may contribute to obesity and diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer’s.

A lot of this is relatively new. “[U]ntil recently [for example] only a weak association has been accepted for the role of milk and dairy products in acne [formation].” But there is now “substantial …evidence supporting the effects of milk and dairy products as enhancers of…acne aggravation.”

“Milk is not just food but appears to represent a most sophisticated [hormone-] signaling system activating” TOR, which is of critical concern, given that TOR recognized as a “fundamental driving force” for a number of diseases.

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But if milk is naturally supposed to stimulate TOR, why the problem? Because we’re drinking milk from the wrong species. Cow’s milk is designed for calves. Cow infants grow nearly 40 times faster than human infants. Cow’s milk has three times more leucine, the primary activator of TOR, so it may lead to human TOR overstimulation. It’s like where they do experiments giving donkey milk to rats to see what happens. Makes no sense.

And, of course, milk is for babies. “[C]ontinued consumption of any kind of milk [after childhood,] during adolescence and adulthood” is something that never really happened naturally, and “may have long-term adverse effects on human health.”

“In this regard, [it’s kind of] frightening to realize that more than 85% of [teens in] Western countries exhibit acne.” “This implies that the majority of our…population is living with over-activated [TOR] signaling,” a major disease-causing factor, “which probably may pave the way for the development of other [more] serious diseases…” A history of acne has been associated with breast cancer risk in women, for example, and prostate cancer in men.

So, “[E]arly dietary counseling of teenage acne patients is thus a great opportunity for dermatology, which will not only help to improve acne but may reduce the long-term adverse effects of Western diet on more serious [TOR]-driven diseases…”

So, just like urologists use erectile dysfunction as an opportunity to save lives, by putting people on heart-healthy diets, dermatologists can use acne as a way to save lives, by putting people on a cancer-prevention diet.

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So, how do you turn acne on and off via dietary manipulation of TOR? A “comprehensive dietary strategy” to treat acne “can only be achieved by higher consumption of vegetables and fruit[s,]” given “preliminary evidence for the effectiveness of natural plant-derived [TOR] inhibitors in the treatment of acne,” “and [the] reduction of animal-derived food.”

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