Acne App Helps Track Dietary Choices
April 2, 2014

App Helps Acne Sufferers Improve Their Diet

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

A new iPhone app is helping acne sufferers learn how to make better food choices to improve their skin condition.

The free app – diet & acne – uses data from a systematic analysis of peer-reviewed research studies to show users whether there is scientific evidence linking acne to certain foods such as chocolate, fat and sugar.

“Users may be surprised to learn that there is no conclusive evidence from large randomized controlled trials that have linked chocolate and acne,” said the app’s creator, Diana Cohen M.D. of Northwestern University, in an interview with the University’s news service. “Although one small study found that eating 100 percent cocoa could worsen acne symptoms,” said Cohen, who designed the app when she was a graduate student in engineering design and innovation.

Research displayed in the app shows that dairy (particularly skim milk), whey protein, omega-6 fatty acids and foods high in sugar have been associated with the presence of acne, while foods rich in antioxidants and fiber have been associated with a decreased presence of acne.

A study examining the use of the app was published online in the March 2014 issue of JAMA Dermatology.

According to the report, the diet & acne app was downloaded to 5,507 devices in 98 different countries from April through August of last year.

In a survey of more than 100 users, 87 percent reported having acne for longer than one year, with 37 percent reporting they had not seen a physician for the condition.

The report revealed that the use of well-constructed apps based upon peer-reviewed literature can be a highly effective way to widely disseminate medical information to a large and diverse population.

“People all over the world are turning to mobile apps as a source of information regarding health issues, but most of the apps out there are not evidence-based, and some exist to just sell a product,” Cohen said.

“This app is different because it uses evidence from a systematic review of peer-reviewed literature and puts it at a patient’s fingertips.”

Roopal Kundu, M.D., associate professor in dermatology at Northwestern Medicine's Feinberg School and study author of the JAMA report, said that while most of the people who downloaded the app discovered it through searches of keywords such as “acne” in the iTunes app store, the new tool could soon be part of a doctor’s toolkit.

“Oil production and hormones have more of an impact on acne than diet, but I don’t dismiss dietary intake when I treat patients,” said Kundu, an attending physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

“This app is a tool I can offer patients to help them make better food choices based on scientific research.”