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Acne and the Sugar Connection

Through his studies and clinical experiences Dr. Perricone has discovered that it's cellular inflammation that cause many of the problems associated with aging, as well as many diseases, including acne. He says the key is to preventing this kind of inflammation is to eat a diet that has been designed to prevent a rapid rise in blood sugar.

Why is this important? Because a rapid rise in blood sugar causes an insulin response in the body, which then causes an inflammatory response. Remember this simple fact: whatever food we eat is converted to sugar as it is digested. Different foods are converted to sugar at varying rates. If we consume foods that are rapidly converted to sugar, that is considered proinflammatory. Proinflammatory foods cause all kinds of problems in the body resulting from a rapid rise in blood sugar, which in turn sparks a burst of inflammation on a cellular level. As our insulin rises, this triggers more inflammation throughout the body.

The cornerstone of the anti-inflammatory diet is the careful regulation of blood sugar. Never forget this important fact if you want to have clear, healthy, and beautiful skin. It is crucial to understand the relationship between the food we eat and its effect on blood sugar levels.

By now, almost everyone is aware that eating sweet foods such as cookies, cakes, and candy will cause a rise in blood sugar.

Unfortunately, a lot of people are not aware that many foods not considered sweets are also rapidly converted to sugar in the body. In fact, at first glance many proinflammatory foods appear to be good choices. Just a few of these are bananas, potatoes, fruit juices, processed cereals, corn, peas, rice, pasta, bread--the list goes on. These simple starches are broken down into sugar by enzymes in the digestive system. Once these foods are ingested, they act the same as sweet foods, causing a rapid rise in blood sugar, triggering an increase in insulin, resulting in inflammation on a cellular level. (Elevated insulin levels also cause the body to store fat.)

Quality and Quantity--They Both Count
How can we tell which foods are proinflammatory, which foods are rapidly converted to sugar? As mentioned in the previous chapter, a rough index has been developed known as the glycemic index that rates food on an arbitrary scale from zero to one hundred. Water is zero and table sugar is one hundred. Foods with ratings above fifty should be avoided. The lower the rating on the glycemic index, the less likely it is to be proinflammatory. Proteins and fats, for example, rate low, while sugar and starchy foods rate high.

In addition to understanding the glycemic index, another important factor to consider is the quantity--the glycemic load of the food eaten at a given time. If we eat too much at one sitting, even if the food is very low on the glycemic index, it will cause a rise in blood sugar. As always, common sense prevails: Moderation in all things.

As you learn to control your blood sugar, which is the absolute key to controlling inflammation and thus preventing diseases, accelerated aging, cognitive impairment, and fatigue, it is important to be aware of the:

Types of foods being eaten
Amount of food being eaten at any one time
It is both the type of foods eaten and the amounts eaten that determine how rapidly blood sugar will rise. The key to the anti-inflammatory diet is learning how to carefully regulate blood sugar and insulin levels so that inflammation on a cellular level can be controlled. If one's blood sugar is high, inflammation runs rampant throughout the body, resulting in feeling (and looking) terrible, low energy levels, an increased susceptibility to infectious diseases, age-related diseases, and an accelerated aging process, as well as increased acne flare-ups. This proinflammatory state sets off a cascade of problems. The immune system is depressed, and levels of critical neurotransmitters are reduced, negatively affecting mood, cognitive abilities, and memory. An ongoing proinflammatory state slowly but surely destroys the body and the brain. To optimize health and keep skin clear and beautiful we must avoid proinflammatory foods, which include the aforementioned sugar and everything that is rapidly converted to sugar, such as potatoes, pasta, bread, sugar, honey, cakes, cookies, candy, baked goods, dried fruits, sugary beverages, sweet drinks of any kind.

But this is only half of the story. In addition to avoiding the proinflammatory foods, it is crucial to learn about the foods that have powerful anti-inflammatory activity. Many of these anti-inflammatory foods provide excellent sources of essential fatty acids (the good fats). The essential fatty acids designated as the omega 3s have powerful anti-inflammatory activity. These good fats are found in many foods, including fish, salmon in particular. Fresh fruits and vegetables are also wonderful foods with anti-inflammatory properties. Those possessing the most powerful anti-inflammatory activities are the ones that are brightest in color-- Mother Nature's signal that they contain many antioxidants. Antioxidants include vitamin C and vitamin E, as well as the carotenoids.

I encourage everyone to drink at least eight to ten glasses of water every day. Taken in the proper quantities, water exerts an anti-inflammatory effect on our bodies, and when we combine plenty of water with the anti-inflammatory diet there is a very rapid reduction of inflammation in the body with visible results on the skin. To fight inflammation and get rid of acne, water is just as important as high-quality protein; essential fatty acids; and low-glycemic, antioxidant-rich carbohydrates. Believe it or not, I have seen dramatic improvement in patients' acne just by increasing their water intake.

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