Everyone has heard the old myth that chocolate makes your skin break out. Most of us have read or heard about articles debunking this idea and explaining why chocolate really doesn't cause acne. When scientists finally got around to testing chocolate as a cause for acne, however, it turned out that chocolate really is something acne sufferers, especially men, need to avoid.
Why the Experts Used to Think Chocolate Was Safe
For many years, nutritional experts told us that the old advice that chocolate causes pimples was a reasonable misunderstanding. Chocolate is rich in the amino acid arginine. The viruses that cause cold sores and similar infections of the skin are activated by processes that require large amounts of arginine.
Chocolate, the experts reasoned, increases available arginine that leads to the activation of the virus, but the effects of arginine are canceled about by another amino acid, lysine. Just eat foods that are rich in lysine, such as beef, chicken, catfish, kidney beans, pinto beans, soy, and quinoa, and eat all the chocolate you want. A researcher named Dr. Samantha Block at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, however, found out that the experts were wrong.
Eating a Lot of Chocolates Causes a Lot of Zits, At Least in Young Men
Dr. Miller recruited male volunteers to eat up to 8 oz (224 g) of pure chocolate (up to 3 milk chocolate bars) at her lab once a week, giving them instructions not to eat any chocolate the rest of the week. At the beginning of the study, the college men had an average of three pimples. Just four days later, they had an average of 13 pimples. At the end of the week, Dr. Miller's volunteers had an average of 18 pimples, and those who at the maximum allowable 8 oz of pure chocolate had an average of 70 pimples.
There was absolutely no doubt chocolate made these young men's faces break out. But would chocolate affect other acne sufferers the same way?
Pure Cocoa May Have Been the Problem
The University of Miami study used chocolate bars made with pure cocoa. Any 100%-chocolate bar contains a lot of two chemicals known to aggravate acne, namely, caffeine and theobromine. Acne sufferers who eat "the cheap stuff" may not break out as severely or as fast.
If you have acne, should you eat chocolate? Dr. Miller's study suggests that eating just a little chocolate may not cause as many problems. The volunteers who stopped after eating just a single 4 oz candy bar developed an average of only 10 pimples. If you eat a small milk chocolate bar a day, you may not notice any effect at all.