From day one, teenagers have the message drilled into their heads. “Acne is inevitable. You might reduce it substantially with our super-affordable and scientifically advanced facial cleansers. Basically though, you have to ride out the storm until your hormones calm down.” Maybe you’ve heard claims like…
- You lost the genetic lottery and there’s no way round it.
- Humans haven’t adapted to having skin without hair yet.
- Every inch of our planet is irreversibly polluted and your skin is paying the price.
It does make sense, considering that in westernized societies like the United States, the UK and Australia, acne afflicts between 79% and 95% of the adolescent population. The story rang true for me as a teenager; many young people have lost hope because of it.
The good news? Those notions are all completely false. There’s not an acne patient alive who can’t get clear. In this article I’m going to show you a very clear example of how acne is not inevitable.
Kitava – a clear-skinned paradise
Kitava is a tiny island of just 2000 people in the Trobriand Islands group off the Eastern coast of Papa New Guinea in the Pacific.
They live a simple fisherman’s lifestyle, with their food nor lifestyle habits hardly influenced by Western civilisation at all. In 1990, electricity, telephones, and motor vehicles were absent. Some Western goods are received from the Papa New Guinea mainland, but the influence of Western civilisation has been minimal.
It is a land of wooden rowing boats, coconuts, and blazing sunshine. The average life expectancy is 45 and there is little access to antibiotics, Accutane, or other scientific medicine.
Why the fuss over this unremarkable little island? Well, Kitava was once the subject of one of the most impressive studies on acne of all time.
In 1990, Dr Staffan Lindeburg travelled to Kitava to analyse the health of its people. He wished to compare their rates of so called “Western-style diseases”, like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke, dementia, and cancer, to Europe and North America.
Hence, for 7 weeks Dr Lindeburg visited all 494 houses in Kitava and performed a general health examination in 1200 subjects aged 10 years or more, including 300 Kitavans between 15 and 25 years. Dr Lindeburg is a Swedish general practitioner who regularly examines European patients with acne ranging from grade 1 through grade 4. His formal training included detection of acne comedonica, acne papulopustulosa, and acne conglobata; he is an expert in skin conditions.
Dr Lindeburg’s team checked the Kitavans for signs of acne and other skin disorders. The patients were analysed in daytime to provide optimal visibility for pimples and acne scars. In male Kitavans, the chest, face, and back were examined, whereas in females, only the face and neck were examined.
As expected, there was far less heart disease, cancer or diabetes. There were few Western style illnesses at all. Cardiovascular disease and strokes were nearly absent. Malnutrition, hypertension and being overweight were also rare. Most early deaths resulted from their lack of advanced medical care; infected wounds, broken limbs, or pregnancy complications…
…but the finding most widely reported on was this: not a single Kitavan islander had acne.
Out of all 1200 men and women analysed, not one pimple was detected. The sample even included 300 young people aged between 15 and 25, at prime time for acne. Still, according to the Lindeburg: “Not a single papule, pustule, or open comedone was observed in the entire population examined. Although no closed comedones were reported, it is possible that they were present but undetected.”
That’s remarkable. Again between 79% and 95% of the teenage population in the United States has acne. This study analysed 847 students from seventh and sixth grade classes in Auckland. 91% of male and 79% of female teenagers had acne.
It’s believed that acne is a worldwide teenage phenomenon. Yet the residents of Kitava blast that theory right out of the water. Apparently, the team might have detected a single blackhead on a teenager. However Lindeburg still wasn’t convinced that he hadn’t imagined it or seen a trick of the light…
…and anyway, that’s a single blackhead. Individual papules and pustules were observed, but they were of infectious origin rather than caused by acne. They cleared up quickly once basic penicillin was applied.
The conclusion is clear: Kitava is an island where acne does not exist. Acne is not inevitable.
The next obvious question is: how does their lifestyle differ to ours?
The Kitavan diet
The Kitavan diet is as follows. Coconuts, fish from the sea, tubers rich in starchy carbohydrates (yams and sweet potatoes), and tropical fruit are the mainstays. The most commonly eaten fruits include guava, pineapple, banana, papaya, mango, and watermelon.
Consumption of grains, added sugar, margarine, vegetable oils, and trans-fats is virtually nil. Intake of dairy, coffee, tea, and alcohol was also virtually nil. Fat intake was roughly 20% of calories with carbohydrates forming nearly 70% and protein the rest. In the West we eat an overload of omega 6 fats from soybean and corn oil. In Kitava most fat intake comes from saturated fat or omega 3s in fish oil.
Unlike our staple wheat, which spikes insulin substantially, the tubers and fresh fruit that Kitavans gain their carbohydrates from all have a low-glycaemic index. The average Kitavan spends a tiny $3 a year on Western food.
As fairly primitive people, Kitavans eat most of their food fresh. Coconuts, for example, are eaten for their raw flesh, not ground down into the nutritionally bereft desiccated coconut used in many Western products. They simply don’t have the technology to degrade their food and pump it full of chemicals.
Kitavans truly love coconuts and eat them in a variety of ways; they eat young, watery coconuts as a refreshing snack with lunch time, they eat the flesh. They also like to eat sweet potatoes and yams cooked in a coconut cream with sea salt.
The diet is full of foods rich in magnesium, potassium and soluble fiber. The Kitavan islanders eat almost every sea creature available. Staples include tuna and many shellfish. They also eat every organ of a sea creature, including the head and guts. They even eat fish eggs, which are apparently beloved by the children there, especially when cooked burnt. Every body part of the fish is eaten except for the gall bladder, bones, and scales.
As for their lifestyle, fish is a big dietary staple in Kitava and hence, fishing is what the residents do. They spent long hours outside each day, and thanks to the scorching climate of the south Pacific, they get tons of sunlight. Consequently most Kitavans will have optimal levels of vitamin D. Cigarette smoking is rampant in Kitava, with a massive 75% of the population doing it.
Their life is uncomplicated and stress free too. According to Dr Lindeburg Kitavans are an extremely superstitious race and are gripped by an intense fear of supernatural beings. However there are no busy commutes nor giant mortgage bills to pay. Crime is low; their small villages are so intertwined that there’s no chance of the culprit getting away with it.
Kitavans don’t use fluoride toothpaste or any cleaning products containing triclosan. Generally they use holistic methods for cosmetic and cleaning items, with natural ingredients like their beloved coconut oil.
The Kitavan – as fit as a fiddle
Also worth noting is the results of the study’s original purpose; the inquiry into their general health. Dr Lindeburg found that heart disease, diabetes, strokes and hypertension were nearly non-existent. Later he did a second paper where their health was compared to Swedes, a classic Western race.
The Kitavans were far leaner. A young adult male body had an average BMI of 22, which only diminished with age. Meanwhile, the average Swede has a BMI of 25 throughout his or her life. Because both populations lose muscle mass with age, Kitavans stay lean their whole life while Swedes steadily get fatter.
Furthermore, the average American has a BMI of 28, 2 points from being obese. Sweden is one of the thinner developed countries, yet the Kitavans easily outperform them.
The Kitavans are hardly starved either. They might be primitive, but their island is a bona fide tropical paradise, with an abundance of fish and bananas everywhere. It’s their choice of food that really matters.
Likewise, Dr Lindeburg found that Kitavans have substantially lower blood pressure than Swedes, at all ages. This is yet more evidence that the Kitavan lifestyle is superior for health in nearly every way. As acne is simply a sign of a broader problem in the body, it’s no surprise that Kitavans haven’t even heard of it.
What does this tell us about YOUR acne-clearing strategy?
Some have argued that Kitavans must have amazing genetics; that if they ate the same amount of grains and sugar as Westerners do then they still wouldn’t get acne. Not so. According to Lindeburg:
- “…it is unlikely that the effective absence of acne in the Kitavan and Aché people resulted entirely from genetic resistance to acne, since other South American Indians and Pacific Islanders whose ethnic backgrounds are similar to the Aché and Kitavans but who live in more westernized settings maintain considerably higher acne incidence rates than those we report.”
He discussed that in the full study here. In other words, it’s not their genetics. It’s their healthy lifestyle, a lifestyle that’s the exact opposite of what we take for granted in Western civilisation. Their diet is the opposite of the Western one in many ways. No grains, no added sugar, no processed food. It’s no coincidence that their skin is the opposite too.
Never ignore zinc – zinc is the most important nutrient for clearing acne and the best supplement for your skin full stop. The Kitavan diet is a vast feast of zinc rich foods. The oysters, the lobsters, and the coconut flesh are all bursting with it.
Here in the West zinc deficiency is an epidemic. Acne patients are particularly in need of zinc, with 54.1% being deficient in this study. Zinc was even shown in one study to reduce acne levels by 49.8%. The Kitavans are pumping themselves full of the best substance for acne on earth without even realising it.
Your first solution is to simply copy their diet and eat tons of seafood. Alternatively, you can take a well-absorbed supplement. The brand I use daily is this NutraBio L-OptiZinc, since it’s completely free from chemical additives and the zinc comes in the efficiently absorbed zinc l-methionine form.
Fresh food is forever – everything the Kitavans eat is whole, minimally processed food. Coconut from a tree, fish from the ocean, and tubers from the earth. They don’t add MSG, table salt, or factory made canola oils. I’ve talked at length about the problems of processed foods in this article. Endless studies have found processed meat like sausages, for example, to dramatically increase the risk of cancer compared to unprocessed meat like steak.
As for acne, processed foods can increase inflammation and free radical formation in the body, just because of the sheer variety of contaminants. You’ve got pesticides, stabilisers, and flavour enhancers emulsifiers – not to mention tons of added sugar.
You don’t know what you’re eating with processed food. That’s why all acne patients should take a leaf out of the Kitavan’s book.
Vitamin D is critical – in the West we don’t get enough sunlight. We’re so seduced by television and iPads that we don’t play enough sport anymore, or even just go out adventuring in the wilderness. Hence vitamin D deficiency is an epidemic.
What you’ll always notice about Kitavans is that not only is their skin acne-free, but their skin tone is radiant and glowing too. I’ve been taking supplements for years now, and vitamin D has enriched my skin tone more than any strategy I’ve ever followed. As the saying goes, it’s the sunshine vitamin and it makes your skin tone sunny too. I live in damp old England, so I take a vitamin D supplement all year long, lowering the dosage in summer and late spring.
If you’re unable to get enough sunlight or want a quick fix for acne, then my favourite brand by far is this mushroom derived Nature’s Plus Garden Vitamin D3.
Grains are the biggest acne villains – in the United States and Europe, we all eat tons pasta, bread, pizza, cakes, biscuits, and cereal every year. Wheat is the backbone of our food industry. In Kitava, they eat no grains at all. The total lack of grains eaten in Kitava is the biggest difference between our diets. Meanwhile, acne is an epidemic in the West and unheard of in Kitava.
In my eBook Annihilate Your Acne, there’s a 15 page chapter on grains and how they’re a disaster for your skin. The gist is that they have natural defensive compounds like gluten and lectins, which cause digestive disruption in just about everybody, not just celiacs. Kitava also completely disproves the food pyramid; they eat no whole grains, yet a 75 year old Kitavan is fitter, less crippled, and generally far more able to enjoy life than the equivalent Westerner.
Vegetable oils are giving acne to millions – likewise, sunflower oil and its ilk are touted as heart healthy. Saturated fats like coconut oil are touted as heart attack triggering monstrosities. Yet the Kitavans get most of their fat from coconut oil, and heart disease is a rarity. They don’t eat any soybean or corn oils because they can’t; it’s not available to them.
Meanwhile, you’d be shocked at how much soybean oil you’re eating. You might not buy it from the shelf but soybean oil is cheap, and thus found in donuts, pizzas, cakes, cookies – endless processed foods.
Vegetable oils are everywhere and that’s bad news. Soybean oil, for example, is created through an extensive factory process where it is blasted with catalysts like the inflammatory neurotoxin hexane. It also has a terrible ratio of omega 6 to 3 fatty acids. Instead of that junk, Kitavans use coconut oil, which contains many antioxidants and MCTs, which boost the metabolism and mental function.
Vitamin C cannot be beaten – like zinc, the Kitavans are ingesting vitamin C left, right and centre. Almost all fruits and vegetables are drenched with vitamin C, but they happen to love the pineapple, the mango and the sweet potato – some of very richest sources. In America, the most commonly eaten vitamin C source is the potato, but everybody cooks it so harshly that the delicate vitamin C molecules are destroyed.
To clear acne, you can’t ignore your vitamin C intake, since it constructs proteins in your skin like collagen. It’s also a godsend for stress hormone levels, and this study found that acne patients had an average of 40% less vitamin C in their bloodstream compared to clear skinned patients.
The solution? Eat plenty of tropical fruits like the Kitavans, or simply take a supplement. The great thing about vitamin C is its megadosing potential; you can take up to 1000mg for clearing acne, compared to the minimum daily intake of 60mg. If your acne is due to anxiety or stress then megadosing is particularly effective.
A well-absorbed, food derived, filler free supplement is this Garden of Life Vegan Raw Vitamin C.
Sugar overdose = acne overload – in the West we eat roughly 160 grams of sugar per day, with the recommended quantity being 50 grams. In Kitava, they don’t eat any added sugar. Bananas and mangoes contain sugar, but that’s bound with fiber and is thus absorbed more efficiently. By eating sugar found in nature their totals never dramatically 50 grams of day. It’s very hard to do so when you’re eating real food, unless you enter gorilla mode and stuff your face with bananas.
Coconuts are king – it’s often wondered why the Kitavans can eat so many carbs yet still not get fat. The carbohydrate, not fat, is the most fattening macronutrient as it is most directly involved with shuttling energy into your glycogen stores, and triggering fat storage when those stores get full.
The solution may lie in the coconut. Coconut oil is rich in medium train triglycerides. These fatty acids have been demonstrated in hundreds of studies to accelerate the metabolism of healthy patients, obese ones, cancer patients, and just about everybody. Likewise, sweet potatoes are packed with vitamin A, magnesium, and potassium, which can increase fat burning efficiency of your whole body.
For acne, this has a simple message: we humans are adaptable. Your diet does not have to be perfect, free from every single problem. Your average Kitavan man smokes like a chimney. That should lead to tons of acne, theoretically, but it’s not happening. He’s probably eating enough antioxidants from coconuts and sweet potatoes to prevent the fee radicals from burning tobacco to cause harm.
In the West, meanwhile, we don’t eat enough fruit and vegetables. Parents don’t force their kids to eat broccoli like they used too, and their daily serving of “fruit” is often sugary and nutritionless orange juice. The total lack of herbs and spices, except on pizza and in curry, is a whole other story.
The truth is that if you eat nutritionally dense foods like coconuts and fruit, you can equip your body to prosper in many circumstances. To cure acne, you shouldn’t just avoid unhealthy foods; you should strengthen your entire body’s defences through nutrition.
It becomes far easier to cope with an inflammatory pesticide or two when your organs and digestive system have the resources they need.
Fresh fish beats Western factory meat – Kitavans eat pork on special occasions, but fish is their main protein source. Fish oil is packed with omega 3s, which are important for immune system control. It’s a clean source of protein, without hormones, antibiotics or pesticides pumped into it like the American cows kept in confined CAFO operations.
Conclusion – what you must do now
Don’t let anybody tell you that acne is an inevitable part of teenage life. It’s only guaranteed when you live a normal Western lifestyle.
For a moment, consider your own diet, and compare it to that of Kitava. Is it completely and utterly different? If so, then that’s excellent; you have big scope for clearing your skin.
With that said, there’s no need to adopt the Kitavan lifestyle in its entirety. As humans we are one of the most adaptable species on the planet. The Kenyan Masai are another tribal group that has no acne. Their diet is completely different; it consists mainly of beef, cow’s milk, and cow’s blood. That’s a far cry from the 70% carbohydrate diet of the Kitavans.
Similarly, the Arctic Inuit only developed acne once they adopted a Westernised lifestyle on the streets of Canada. Back on the icecap they relied on seal blubber and also ate nearly no carbs.
What all these examples show, however, is some common themes. Ditch the grains, added sugar, and vegetable oils, and above all else, eat fresh and minimally processed food.
Thanks for reading!