By now almost everybody knows that eating processed foods can wreck your health in the long run. But what’s one of the better kept secrets is the fact that processed foods are an extremely huge cause of acne.
You only have to head over to Paraguay to find out how much better real foods are for all aspects of health. The Aché hunter gatherers eat a diet made up of a) animals hunted in the forest, b) plants and fruit from the forest, and c) honey and other assorted natural foods. They have very little contact without outside culture, so to put it colourfully, they can’t just go off to Burger King whenever they get bored of the hunter-gatherer lifestyle…
The significance of this for acne patients? A classic study on acne in other cultures examined the skin of 115 Aché Hunter Gatherers, and not a single case of acne was reported that day. That even included 15 Aché aged 15-25 years old.
The reason? They do get a ton of exercise and sunlight, which is great, but the diet free from processed vegetable oils, inflammatory additives, manmade trans-fats, and added sugar is the real reason why.
Also, while the Aché hunter gatherers do often die young due to injuries and then lacking advanced medical care, if they do survive then they are almost free from disease. Similarly to the Kitavan islanders, these Paraguayan jungle dwellers have non-existent amounts of heart disease, diabetes, and other “Western-style illnesses” as they’re often called.
There’s also a few other civilisations that live similarly and have just as good health, including the Kitavans, the various tribes of Papua New Guinea, and also the Kenyan Masai.
Processed foods – growing unhealthier by the second
Basically, it is very clear that processed foods are the bane of Western civilisation. The good thing is that it’s hardly a controversial statement these days. People are catching on that real foods are so much better for them as study after study is conducted. But nevertheless, they still don’t eat them. Why? Because junk foods are extremely addictive, and if you eat too many of them you’ll get hooked into a mild form of dependence.
There’s an old theory known as the “reward hypothesis of obesity” and in my opinion, it explains a whole lot more than just why the average man is so fat. The theory goes like this: human taste buds are wired to seek out certain compounds in food which indicate that the food is nutrient dense. Three of the primary such compounds are sugar, fat and salt. Back in our prehistoric days this system would have been very useful because natural foods with those ingredients are often extremely nutritious.
Fat, for instance, is a hyper-rewarding ingredient in food because it is high in calories. Our bodies are still wired for survival mode; our taste buds have no idea that we can just go to the supermarket these days. Therefore your taste buds instruct you to eat as much of the fatty, high calorie food as possible in order to stock up on calories while they’re available despite the fact that it is not even slightly necessary.
Basically, your taste buds don’t know that Burger King exists; they still believe that we are starving on some rocky outcrop in the wilderness. It’s an extremely useful mechanism for surviving when your food supply is very unreliable.
Now however, the system is backfiring on us big-time. The problem is that food companies, or “big food” as it’s known as, knows how to take advantage of our taste buds’ instincts extremely very well. They try to pack as much sugar, fat and salt into their foods as the physical limits of reality will allow.
At the same time, food companies have to constantly compete with each other to make the tastiest product on the market. They are all players in a never-ending poker game to pack in the most hyper-rewarding ingredients. One company increases these ingredients to make their food more popular, then the next company has to do it to match the other, the third company raises the stakes even higher; the scenario goes on forever.
What you’re left with is a situation where just about every processed food is packed full of these hyper-rewarding flavours, meaning that a single bite of a cookie or cake can get a person gasping for more within minutes. Studies are increasingly showing that junk food can act on the brain like an addictive drug.
Consider the fact that sugar is widely known to be eight times as addictive as cocaine. Then consider the fact that many junk foods are full to the brim with the stuff. This study and this study specifically found that hard drug addiction and food addiction share very similar mechanisms, meaning that junk food addiction is actually a physical process within the brain rather than just a mental thing.
How this leads to obesity is very straightforward; because so many foods are packed with such high concentrations of reward ingredients these days, it is all too easy to overeat. The average man does not even realise because the body does not send him signals that he has overeaten (apart from the fact his clothes no longer fit).
That is the “reward hypothesis of obesity”. It is basically a scenario where our instincts to eat as much we can in order to survive, are now backfiring on us in a world where doing so is easy.
So that, for one thing, is one reason why obesity is an epidemic these days. Junk food producers are getting smarter and smarter in adding hyper-rewarding ingredients to their food, although you can hardly blame them for just giving the people what they want…
…and secondly, the significance of the hypothesis is absolutely enormous for our acne. It’s not obesity that matters in this case, but rather that people are compelled to eat a ton of processed foods which are absolutely loaded with acne-causing ingredients.
Processed foods can contain any acne villain
Let’s say you were to go into a supermarket, for example, and pick a ready-meal off the shelf without giving any thought at all to its ingredients. That food would likely contain excessive sugar, unhealthy vegetable oils, inflammatory additives and countless other ingredients.
If you were lucky you would pick something healthy but the odds are small. The truth is that the vast majority of processed foods on a supermarket shelf will contain enough damaging ingredients to make your acne significantly worse. Some of the worst ingredients for acne include…
Canola oil – a type of vegetable oil. These oils are commonly considered to be health foods but are actually the opposite. A vegetable oil is unhealthy by its very nature as it contains an absolutely awful ratio of omega 3 to 6 fats, a ratio that is guaranteed to give you serious acne-causing inflammation in your body…
…and that’s not the worst part; the worst thing is the ridiculously toxic way in which the oil is manufactured. Watch this video and you’ll be amazed. It shows how rapeseed oil is made and it’s so ridiculously unhealthy that it’s like a bunch of butter companies hired a horror writer like Stephen King to come up with a myth that would damage the vegetable oil companies in the worst way imaginable.
The process in the video uses chemical catalysts such as hexane, which has been demonstrated to increase cancerous tumours in female mice and is a known neurotoxin.
Not to mention that almost all vegetable oils are loaded with trans-fats, something that their propaganda machine never mentions. Vegetable oils have infiltrated almost every single processed food on the market, and that’s enough to mean that just about every processed food can make your acne worse too. The situation is getting out of hand just with them, but that’s not all…
Tons of sugar – sugar is one of the key “hyper rewarding ingredients” that gets people hooked on junk food. However it is also an acne causing monstrosity in its own right that generally leads to inflammation in the body, when too much is eaten. It can also use up some of your valuable acne minerals, particularly zinc because it is used to process the sugar you eat. It’s needless to say that most cookies, candy and cakes are loaded with sugar. However even protein foods like breaded fish now contain added sugar, as does bacon.
Trans-fats – vegetable oil already contains them, but the dreaded “hydrogenated fats” (the name you need to avoid on labels) are often added as ingredients in their own right. The trans-fat is so unhealthy that even their own manufacturers don’t bother to deny it anymore; it’s one of the few things every nutritionist agrees on.
Processed foods with trans-fats include donuts, ice cream, down-market chocolate, cakes, and basically anything. The good news is that trans-fats are actually facing bans in countries such as the USA, but nevertheless they are still clinging on to life and can be found in many foods.
Trans-fats are linked to acne in ways such as causing insulin resistance, inflammation, and preventing the absorption of healthy omega-3 fatty acids. There’s a whole article here about how they can cause acne.
Stabilisers, thickeners, flavour enhancers, emulsifiers, preservatives and many more – a common additive in foods is aluminium used as a raising agent. Aluminium has been linked to increased generation of free radicals within the human body (study).
MSG is a notorious and common flavour enhancer that has also been shown to generate free radicals (study). Benzoates are preservatives that can increase estrogen in the body, contributing to estrogen dominance, excessive DHT and oily skin. Your average processed food is packed full of acne-causing substances.
Possibly the worst part of all this is that as you cook a ready meal or slice of breaded fish in the oven, you never really know what you’re about to eat.
Tons of ingredients in processed foods don’t even have to be declared on the label. Take trans-fat, for instance. It’s one of the most dangerous and acne-causing food ingredients in any amount. Yet despite all that, a product can still advertise itself as trans-fat free as long as the amount is below 0.5 grams.
You could be about to eat a stabiliser that will induce insulin resistance, or you could consume a substance that has stress-inducing effects. Some additives are even known to block the absorption of vital nutrients like zinc and vitamin A. Who knows what could happen?
My acne recommendations for processed food
For that reason, and all the acne-causing substances above, I recommend that you avoid processed foods as much as you possibly can in your diet. This article has basically been a long session of fear mongering so far, but honestly, if there’s any topic that requires fear-mongering then this is it.
The level of processed foods in the western diet is indeed having dire consequences for the health of Westerners today. Today’s generation of kids is predicted to be the first that fails to outlive their parents, precisely due to junk processed food and the obesity it causes. I personally don’t think that will happen because I don’t think they’re taking account of how fast medical technology will advance but nevertheless the quality of life for a lot of people today is bad.
The news isn’t all bad though; the good news is that the problem does not have to affect you. There is one extremely simple solution to the acne-causing nightmare of processed foods, and that is to simply eat real foods again. That includes whole, unaltered fruits, meat cuts straight from the butchers, eggs, and so on.
These real foods do of course include some processing, but what they haven’t gone through is any chemical processing. A head of broccoli pulled up from the earth and cut is very different from a pasta ready-meal from a bargain basement grocery store.
I’m sure you know already what exactly real food is and what isn’t, so instead I will say this. There is almost no reason in all of nutrition to eat a heavily processed food above a real one or one that is merely lightly processed.
You can get all your vitamin C, all your zinc, all your protein and carbohydrates, and just about everything you need from food that comes straight from the earth or straight from an animal. Junk food is only a necessity if you want a quick burst of pleasure or if you are addicted to it.
Another great advantage of eating a diet of real food is that you will slowly lose interest in processed foods. Eventually your taste buds will adapt to healthy foods and you will begin to experience a far more interesting and varied set of flavours.
If you’re a sugar addict then the constant sweetness tends to brutally overwhelm everything else. Drop the sugar and the full set of flavours will be far more satisfying then the sugar rush that processed foods give you.
The only processed food I eat on a regular basis is dark chocolate, and that’s one of the healthiest foods around. Dark chocolate contains cocoa butter, cocoa powder, tiny amounts of sugar, and vanilla, four perfectly natural ingredients that do not cause acne.
That is the only kind of processed food you want to be eating; as a basic rule I would not recommend that an acne patient eats anything that has greater than five ingredients on a regular basis. Healthy and nutritious foods just don’t need any more than that.
I highly recommend that you look to the diets of the Kitavan islanders and other primitive groups for inspiration. The Kitavans eat an entirely unprocessed diet based around fish, coconuts, tubers like sweet potatoes and tropical fruits.
I don’t recommend that you eat those foods exactly; I certainly don’t. However what you should do is follow the basic theme of the diet, so that you can get skin that’s just as acne free as their’s is.
Remember, if it doesn’t grow from the earth, walk the earth, or swim in the sea, don’t eat it!
PS: I also understand that the readers of this article will have their own specific favourite foods on the market that they don’t want to give up. Most processed foods are bad, but there is a chance that your favourite might be OK, so if you are unsure then feel free to send me an email. Simply hit the contact button on the right hand side of this website.
Thanks for reading!