December 13, 2005
Teenage Acne May Be Related to Milk’s Iodine Content
By Charnicia E. Huggins
NEW YORK -- The link between increased dairy consumption and teenage acne may be partly explained by the high iodine content in milk, according to a New York researcher.
"Farmers give their cows iodine-fortified feed to prevent infection, and they use sanitizing iodine solutions on their cows' udders and milking equipment," Dr. Harvey Arbesman, of the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences in upstate New York, said in a university statement. "Consequently, there is a lot of iodine in dairy products."
"For that reason, I've advised my acne patients to decrease their dairy intake," he added.
Previous research has suggested that teens who consume lots of milk and other dairy products have an increased risk of acne, but the reason why is unknown. In a recent study investigators hypothesized that the association may be due to hormones and bioactive molecules in milk.
Arbesman speculates that iodine may also play a role. Studies have shown that milk produced in the United States, Britain, Denmark, Norway and Italy have high levels of iodine. "It has been well established since the 1960s that iodine intake can exacerbate acne," he said.
Writing in a letter to the editor of the December issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, Arbesman speculated that "the observed association of dairy products with acne may be secondary to the iodine content of the dairy products ingested."
Future studies about the link between dairy products and acne should evaluate this hypothesis, he concluded.
The possibility of an iodine connection is interesting, according to Dr. Susan V. Bershad, a dermatology professor at The Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. She noted that "excess iodine causes a rare skin condition called iododerma, which is similar to acne but not the same condition."
Bershad, who has conducted acne research and has several US patents on acne and other dermatology-related treatments, told Reuters Health that she knows of no research linking iododerma with teenage acne or evidence showing that drinking two to four glasses of milk a day increases a person's iodine level to the extent where he or she develops iododerma.
Further, considering that a young child's diet typically includes much more milk than a teenager's diet, she asked, "Why don't younger children have more acne, if milk is the cause?"
The key factors influencing a teenager's development of acne are his or her "hormones and heredity," Bershad explained.
"Acne is a skin disease, not a symptom of nutritional excess or deficiency," she added. "Long ago, we dermatologists discovered that treating acne with rational -- and for the most part conservative -- medical therapy yields results that are far superior to the lack of response usually seen from stringent dietary regimes."
SOURE: American Academy of Dermatology, December 2005.