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Mooove Over Dairy: Does Milk Cause Acne?

Dairy milk comes from this majestic & massive animal.

This is you. You are not that majestic animal. You're majestic. But you're not that animal.

When you think about it, drinking dairy is weird. You don't drink dog milk, right? No, that's gross, right? I mean, your dog is pretty easily accessible to you, why don't you just get her pregnant and drink her milk? Farm fresh! Better yet, why not just ask your mom to get pregnant so you can continue harvesting her milk - that would be the most logical thing to do. It is, after all, the milk intended specifically for you!

We don't do this because we don't need the milk our mothers produce past infancy, so we don't continue to drink it past infancy. We don't drink our dog's milk because .. well .. it's gross. So why do we drink milk from cows, and goats, when we have no physiological need for it?

In reality, it is the evolutional principle of mammalian milk to promote growth and support anabolic conditions for the neonate during the nursing period. The NURSING period. ANABOLIC GROWTH. Heck, why not just take steroids? It will do something similar to your body, and will also give you acne. Lose-lose.

I'm not here to get into a history lesson of when and why humans began drinking the milk of a cow, because frankly I don't care. Whether or not you believe we should be drinking cow's milk, the fact of the matter is we don't need cow's milk - if we did, our mothers would produce cow's milk, or we would be a baby cow. Plain and simple. It doesn't matter if it's "natural" or unnatural - we don't need it, and it doesn't offer us anything that we can't get from plant sources.

Semantics aside, many of us do consume dairy products, whether it's in the form of milk, cheese, yogurt, sour cream, ice cream, whipped cream, cream dips, cream dressings, chocolate, or just as an unfortunate ingredient in a product. We do so because we were raised to, and because it has become normalized to do so. So dairy is in everything - like, almost literally everything. It's disguised by terms like whey, casein, ghee, lactalbumin, kefir, and other sneaky disguises.

So we know that dairy is sneakily hidden in everything we consume these days, but did you know that dairy may also be at the root cause of your acne?

Yep, you read that correctly.

In one 2005 study, 47,355 women completed questionnaires on their high school diet in 1998 and physician-diagnosed severe teenage acne in 1989. After accounting for age, age at menarche, body mass index, and energy intake, total milk, whole milk, low-fat milk, and skim milk were all associated with an increased risk of acne. Instant breakfast drinks, sherbet, cottage cheese, and cream cheese were also positively associated with acne. Ruh-roh.

In 2006, a prospective cohort study of 6,094 girls aged 9-15 also found a positive association between intake of milk and acne.

In 2008, the same researchers conducted another prospective cohort study that evaluated 4273 boys' lifestyle habits, and yet again found a positive association between their intake of skim milk and acne.

In 2011, Nestle (yes, the makers of Dairy Milk chocolate) released a study that found that milk and whey protein-based products contribute to elevations of postprandial insulin and basal insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) plasma levels, which can affect acne. I'm not even kidding you, that's literally what the study says. The study concluded by actually recommending the restriction of milk consumption! That's like Burger King telling you red meat is bad for you. Say whaaat?

In 2012, a case-control study of 205 moderate-to-severe acne patients in dermatologic outpatient clinics in Italy were compared with 358 no-or-minor acne patient control subjects. They found that moderate-to-severe acne is strongly associated with a family history of acne in first-degree relatives, and that the risk of developing acne increased with increased milk consumption in those consuming more than 3 portions per week.

One researcher who is very well-versed in the field of acne and dairy recommends specifically, and consistently, that acne patients should absolutely restrict dairy. Given the evidence, this should come as no surprise.

Thus, it is clear that the metabolic effects of milk are sufficient to elicit biological responses in consumers. Researchers hypothesize that the association of acne with milk may be because of the presence of hormones and bioactive molecules in milk, such as Insulin-like Growth Factor-1 as a general stimulant, synergized by the steroid hormones present in milk, or factors that influence endogenous hormones, androgen receptor transactivation, comedogenesis, increased sebaceous lipogenesis, and follicular inflammation.

So by now you're probably beginning to realize that your face is suffering due to your ongoing cheese addiction, aren't you? I've shared several posts on Instagram about my followers who have cut dairy from their diet and seen drastic improvements in their acne.

One of my followers writes:

"I'm 21 years old and I've had acne since about I was 12. I do not remember a prolonged time feeling good or confident about my skin. In January, I started birth control pills, and 5 months later my skin was the worst it has ever been (new hormones, for sure). I cried to my parents because I just did not know what to do. I remember looking up procedures, doctors I could see, etc. It was just so costly. And then, I remembered someone telling me about the link in acne and dairy. I decided, it was well worth a shot. And after a month, the horrible cystic acne that COVERED the bottom of my chin and neck had cleared. It was amazing."

Given the evidence, given the anecdotal support - it's worth a try.

But don't be sad. Don't panic and wonder how you're going to live without cheese.

At the end of the day, is this really a loss? Should we really be sad that we shouldn't be consuming dairy? Or should we be rejoicing for yet another reason to ditch the dairy?

When you stop consuming dairy milk, cheese, yogurt, sour cream, ice cream, etc., (and instead opt for yummy, plant-based alternatives), you stop supporting a cruel industry that takes away the bodily autonomy of female cows, that takes 1-2 day old baby calves away from their mothers only to chain them to a crate so they can't move, and then sell them off to be chopped up into veal. Why support this industry, when it contributes to environmental degradation (1)(2), the loss of innocent lives, to health consequences(1)(2)(3)(4)(5)(6)(7)(8)(9)(10)(11)(12)(13)(14)(15)(16)(17)(18), to acne ... the list goes on ... when you can just have a dairy-free ice cream, or a dairy-free milk (soy, almond, coconut, cashew, hemp, oat, rice), or a dairy-free cheese? What's stopping you? It's easier now than ever before. Do it for your acne, do it for your health, for the environment .. and importantly, for the animals.

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