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Can the Easter Bunny cause breakouts?

The Christian religious holiday of Easter is only a few days away, and we're guessing someone in your life (a coworker, family member, or the Easter Bunny) will bring a few sweet treats your way. And if you observe Easter and "gave up" sugary treats for Lent, you may be tempted to overindulge. The problem is, research shows that high-glycemic index foods could worsen acne and rosacea by increasing the body's inflammatory response.

So, if you're prone to breakouts or other skin issues, should you step away from the jelly beans, Peeps, and chocolate bunnies?

First, a 101 on the Glycemic Index

According to the official website for the glycemic index (GI), the index is "a ranking of carbohydrates on a scale from 0 to 100 according to the extent to which they raise blood sugar levels after eating." What does that really mean? Basically, low GI foods are slowly digested and absorbed, which produces a gradual rise in blood sugar and insulin levels. High GI foods are the opposite, in that they are rapidly digested and absorbed. In it's most basic understanding, low GI foods get a thumbs up and high GI foods get a thumbs down (for health benefits; we're sadly not taking taste into consideration).

High GI foods:

  • Sugar
  • White bread
  • Chips

Low GI foods:

  • Vegetables
  • Multigrain bread
  • Beans

Why Should I Care about the Glycemic Index?

In 1999, the World Health Organization and Food and Agriculture Organization recommended that people in industrialized countries base their diets on low-GI foods in order to prevent the most common diseases of affluence, such as coronary heart disease, diabetes and obesity. So in general, a low-GI diet is good for your overall health.

As it relates to your skin: In recent years, studies have implied a link between high-glycemic foods and acne. For example, one web-based study found that 87% of the 2,500+ dieters who completed an online survey reported improvements in their skin while following a low GI diet. Granted, there are some flaws in the design of the study but the results are interpreted with optimism. Also, a study compiled by the National Rosacea Society reports that chocolate is one of the top food triggers for rosacea flare-ups.

Should I Stop Eating Candy?

Thankfully, even though most candy has a relatively high GI, eating a single piece of candy will result in a relatively small glycemic response. Why? Because your body's glycemic response is dependent on both the type and the amount of carbs consumed. So, unless you're going to eat the entire bag of jelly beans, you're in the clear. In even better news, despite its high sugar, chocolate has a relatively low glycemic index.

So what's the takeaway? It's okay to have some sugary goodies for Easter (or any other time) – as long as it's in small doses. But if your acne or rosacea persist no matter what diet changes you make, it's probably time to see a dermatologist.