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I am struggling with acne and have been for a while; topical options just don't seem to cut it, and I'm not sure how I feel about antibiotics. Anyway, I eat a lot of soy products and recently have noticed that my acne gets worse during periods when I eat more of them. I've been doing my own research, but the opinions on the web are conflicting. Is there a link between soy and acne?
—Suspicious of Soy
No one likes to deal with blemishes, here's what the doctor has to say on the matter.
When I first received your inquiry, I was not sure about the relationship, so I did an extensive online search of medical databases, including the biggest, PubMed. The search for "soy and acne" returned no relevant papers or articles. Next I went to a reputable online source of medical information called Emedicine and again came up empty-handed. The next place I turned was Google. The search for soy and acne led me to a number of forums, message boards, and health-related websites/blogs. Similar to your experience, I found these sources contain conflicting information. There are quite a few reports of people eliminating soy from their diets and noticing an improvement in their acne. However, there are also a number of websites that actually promote increasing dietary soy to improve acne.
The short answer to your question is no. There is no evidence of a direct link between acne and soy. However, everyone's body is different, and some people may have improved acne by eliminating soy. The only way to know for sure is to try a week or two without soy and see if it helps. Most health professionals, including dermatologists, actually do not believe that there is a strong relationship between food and acne. This is because most old wives' tales about the relationship between acne and foods, such as chocolate, have never been validated by scientific studies. However, this Newsweek article reports a possible link between highly refined carbs (such as bread and pasta) and acne. More well-established causes of acne include bacteria, hormones, stress, and inflammation. Wikipedia actually has a surprisingly good review of the causes of acne and the issues surrounding the relationship between food and acne.
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