Fish, Honey, and Juice are Especially Vulnerable to Food Fraud in the Grocery Store


Gatorade to remove an ingredient in response to a teenager’s online petition

here is the petition Sarah created

Changes to General Mills Packaging in 2014

I am always happy to see my friends and family making an effort to buy healthier products at the grocery store (even more excited when they cook from scratch with them), but unless you are particularly interested in health and nutrition, you probably do not have the background or experience to interpret some of the health and nutrition claims on many processed food packagings – that is why consumer protection groups often address what they consider to be misleading advertisements and packaging. To be sure, there is a component of personal responsibility that cannot be ignored, the consumer cannot be protected from itself entirely, he or she should make a reasonable effort to police his or her own purchasing decisions, but I believe that expectation should be in the context of reasonably clear and fair information with which to make those purchasing decisions. I doubt anyone is under the illusion that Krispi Cream Donuts are healthy or contain any nutrtious ingredients, but they taste good to many people and many people buy them, knowing full well what they are eating.

But as the American consumer has become more health conscious, companies sometimes use advertising in ways that are misleading. Not everyone agrees with that assessment, and there is disagreement about the degree to which certain packaging claims are deceptive.

The Federal Trade Commission recently ruled that advertisements from juice maker POM Wonderful contained health claims that were misleading and unsubstantiated. This was not the first confrontation between the regulator and the company. In 2010, the FTC sued POM Wonderful for claiming that its drinks helped prevent heart disease and cancer.

The POM case is just one example of a slew of recent confrontations companies have had with regulators, customers and advocacy groups for false advertising and misleading labeling. Foods labelled as healthy or “all-natural” have been targeted most frequently. Other products at issue have ranged from shoes to cars. Based on recent reports, 24/7 Wall St. has reviewed the most misleading product claims.

Other government agencies, in addition to the FTC, have taken action against companies to protect consumers from misleading advertising. Last November, the Environmental Protection Agency publicly said that Hyundai and Kia, sister South Korean automakers, misrepresented the fuel efficiency of several of their models and required the company to change its advertising.

The majority of the cases on this list are related to food or drink products claiming to have benefits they do not have or, at the very least, that the company does not have the evidence to support. Diamond Foods, for one, was sued after it claimed its walnuts have heart benefits without having supporting evidence. General Mills’ Fruit Roll-Ups had pictures of strawberries and other fruits on the box, yet the product is made with pear concentrate, and with no strawberries of any kind.

One of the public interest groups that has been at the forefront of suits related to food or drink and health is consumer advocacy group the Center for Science in the Public Interest. The CSPI has been involved in several of the lawsuits on this list.

In an interview with 24/7 Wall St., Stephen Gardner, the Director of Litigation at CSPI, explained that there has been a major uptick in actions over food and beverage products and their health claims. Gardner explained that a major reason for this increase is a notable lack of clarity in FTC language on some kinds of food labeling. This extends to whether or not a company can label its product as “all-natural,” as well as claims about the healthiness of products.

“Eight years ago” Gardner noted, “there were, four, possibly three private lawsuits. When we showed this was a viable consumer lawsuit, many, many more people got involved.” Gardner added that this growth has been exponential.

Last year, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to volunteer for CSPI and help draft a section of a reply brief submitted by the plaintiff in the General Mills law suit. The law suit ended in a settlement, with General Mills agreeing to packaging changes starting in 2014.

General Mills agreed to improve its labeling for Strawberry Naturally Flavored Fruit Roll-Ups, an agreement that resolved a lawsuit brought against the company by a consumer who represented CSPI. Strawberry Naturally Flavored Fruit Roll-Ups contain no strawberries, but are made with pear concentrate, corn syrup, dried corn syrup, sugar, partially hydrogentated cottonseed oil, and 2% or less of various natural and artificial flavors. Based on the settlement, as long as the product contains no strawberries, the new labels will not depict images of strawberries. And, so long as the product’s label carries the claim “Made with Real Fruit,” such claims will be required to include the actual percentage of fruit in the product. Both of these changes will take effect in 2014. It was a real honor to work with Steve Gardener and Amanda Howell in contributing to the brief.


“By stating the actual percentage of fruit in the product, these labels will be less likely to lead consumers to believe that the product is all or mostly fruit,” said CSPI litigation director Steve Gardner. “A more accurate name for the product would be Pear Naturally Flavored Fruit Roll-Ups, since pear is present and strawberry is absent. But the removal of pictures of strawberries is a step in the right direction. We are pleased to have worked cooperatively with General Mills to reach this agreement.”

ps. Homemade Fruit Roll-Ups are super easy and far more nutritious

check out this recipe from Two Peas and Their Pod, it requires only two ingredients


In the alternative, there are a number of brands making fruit leather with more nutritious ingredients than most conventional brands


Stretch Island Fruit Company sells theirs with no sugar added and is available for only $.87 per ounce on (compared to $.43 per ounce for the General Mills variety that contains Pears From Concentrate, Corn Syrup, Dried Corn Syrup, Sugar, Partially Hydrogenated Cottonseed Oil, Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate, Pectin, Distilled Monoglycerides, Malic Acid, Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid), Acetylated Mono And Diglycerides, Natural Flavor, Color (Red 40, Yellows 5&6, Blue 1)

Chocolate Fest 2013

This past weekend, Drew and I went to Chocolate Fest at Fairchild Tropical Gardens. I don’t think either of us have ever tried so much chocolate! There were so many vendors giving samples of their products and so many cooking demonstrations that ended with samples – by the end I could not eat it any more. Drew was kind enough to take my samples so that I would not have to eat them or through them away 🙂

One of my favorite demonstrations was by the Mars Company, they have a division called American Heritage, that researches and educates Americans about the history of chocolate in the Americas, and in particular, in the US during colonial times, Their presentation ended with a sample of hot chocolate from a 1706 recipe! It tasted, amazing, and was completely natural and dairy free. Just pure chocolate, about 8 spices (secret recipe) and a tiny bit of sugar. Sugar was very pricy in the 18th century, so recipes did not call for a lot.

My other favorite part was the cooking demo by Short Chef, a true New Yorker who now lives in Miami and works with schools to educate children on healthy eating and cooking. Due to his own health problems and the loss of several family members from heart disease, he changed his career path as a chef to focus on healthy eating and educating children. He prepared for us a wonderful salad that included a chocolate and papaya dressing… was so yummy!

But maybe the best part was that Drew decided to plant a cacao plant in his backyard. It’s really a rain forest plant, so Miami can be a little to cold and windy in the winter and a little too sunny in the summer for it – but it’s worth a try!

Below are some pictures and recipes. Enjoy!



then, after digging through several feet of limestone rock, Drew planted the cacao plant…it will take several years before we get chocolate, but how good will that taste, knowing how much work and time went into it!


Below are also some products that we learned about that are worth mentioning:


Cannot recommend this chocolate enough, it is a 1706 recipe, all natural, no preservatives, low in sugar, dairy free and would make a great gift. Click here to see where you can purchase online

51Yw-JpLX2L._SS500_A few of the authors that contributed to this cookbook were at the festival and had samples of some of their recipes, they were all, without exception, outstanding! There is one called ‘Best-Ever Carrot Cake’ – and it just might be, we tried it, trust us. Click here for their Amazon link


Chocolate Spice Bark (serves 36)

16 Ounces of 70% Bitter Sweet Chocolate

1 tsp curry

8 ounces Dried Pineapple

8 ounces Toasted Almonds

1 small Orange Zested


1. Coat a 9 by 12.5 inch rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray and line with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on the ends

2. Melt chocolate in a double boiler, add spices

3. Pour into baking sheet and spread in an even layer

4. Immediately sprinkle toppings over chocolate, refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour, peel off paper and break into pieces

Other spice combos: Star Anise, Mango and Macadamia Nuts

Summer Salad with Chocolate and Papaya Dressing

1/4 cup orange juice

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1/4 c olive oil

1/2 tsp dijon mustard

mandarin oranges

6 cups of mixed greens

1/3 cup candied almonds

1 large papaya cleaned and cut into pieces

1 ounce semi sweet chocolate curls (create curls by running a vegetable peeler over the edge of a piece of chocolate

Beyond a Raw Food Diet

I’m blessed to live in a city that has a lot of healthy eating options, though cooking myself or with Drew is still my favorite option. But of all the places in South Florida to eat at, my preferred location is Life Food Gourmet, a local organic restaurant, owned by John Schott that began as a strictly raw vegan establishment. It’s walking distance to my house, so I’ve been going there for quite a while. But over the last few years, they have expanded their menu to include not only some cooked foods, but even some meat, grains, and dairy. But, as you might expect, it is all grass-fed and organic.  I personally like their expanded menu, because it means there are more options for me. Below is a video where John explains why he expanded beyond the raw vegan diet to now include foods such as grass-fed beef.

Speaking of their grass-fed beef, my best friend Dani took me to Life Food Gourmet for my birthday and had one, she liked it, a lot…and she is Uruguayan, they like their beef!


Some of the comments people left to the video show just how divisive this issue can be, I think the best approach is to educate oneself, not to assume the way you have been doing things is always the best, and listen to your body – there are many things that apply across the board, but maybe different diets affect different people in varied ways. A strict raw vegan diet may be best for some people, but perhaps not all. Balance is also key – not that junk food in moderation is a good idea, but within the range of wise eating styles, a little variety is probably a good thing, always taking into account that your individual body may be allergic or intolerant to certain foods that others tolerate very well. Listen to your body.

Interesting Article in US World News and Report About an Unlikely Partnership

Tea Party Libertarians and Small Organic Farmers Make Strange Political Bedfellows – The Unlikely Coalition Between Tea Party Libertarians and Small Organic Farmers By  January 24, 2013


Laura Bledsoe didn’t set out to join a political movement, she merely wanted to serve what she considered a sustainable meal.

In October 2011 she and her husband Monte decided they wanted to host what they called a “farm to fork” event in their home. They own a small farm 50 miles outside of Las Vegas.

“We advertised it as a zero mile footprint,” she recalls. “It’s been shown that the bulk of our food travels 1,500 miles to get to our plate and we were advertising the fact that this was, for the most part, food prepared directly on our farm.”

The Bledsoes placed advertisements in local newspapers and sent the announcement out to their E-mail list, and within the first day they sold all 100 of their tickets, some at $100 a plate.

Trouble began two days before the event was to take place. They received a call from the Southern Nevada Health District Office, who wanted to know if the farmers had secured a health permit for the event. “We didn’t know we needed to,” Laura says.

[OPINION: Obama and Congress Must Protect Family Farmers]

They did, she was told.

The Bledsoes didn’t panic. Monte immediately dropped what he was doing and traveled 40 miles to Mesquite to apply for a permit. It was here he learned the process required an inspection to take place the day of the event.

“It made us a little nervous, but we talked to our chef who’s used to working with the health district, and he didn’t think there would be any problem. He was very familiar with what [the health inspector] was looking for and didn’t give it another thought,” says Laura

But it soon became apparent that her nervousness wasn’t unfounded.

The health inspector arrived simultaneously with several of the event’s guests. The Bledsoes led her to where the food was being prepared while the guests were guided on a chaperoned tour of the farm by interns.

“She literally came in and started looking for things she could find fault with,” Laura recalls. “That just became apparent in her attitude and demeanor with how she handled things.”

The health inspector raised several concerns, but chief among them was the meat the Bledsoes were preparing to serve. Because the event was advertised as a “zero mile footprint,” the meat hadn’t been sent through a USDA processing plant, as is required for any meat purchased at a grocery store or restaurant, so the inspector deemed it illegal to serve.

“She immediately demanded that we send our guests home and cease the event, and if we didn’t she would call the police and have them personally escorted off the property.”

Increasingly panicked, flustered, and “having a nervous breakdown,” Laura attempted to reason with the inspector without success. In addition to being ordered to send their guests home, the farmers were also told they needed to pour bleach over all the meat to ensure it would never be served.

“It’s one thing when you throw out a piece of food that you have no relationship to,” Laura says. “But we raised these animals. When you raise animals and slaughter them and then prepare them, it’s with great reverence that you eat this food. The total disregard for any of that was just appalling to me.”

In the middle of this disruption, the Bledsoes recalled they had a number for the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund, a non-profit organization that protects the legal rights of family farms and artisan food producers. Though it was a Friday evening, the organization’s lead counsel Gary Cox called them back within 15 minutes. He instructed them to ask if the inspector if she had a search warrant, if she didn’t, Cox told them to tell her to leave the property.

The tactic worked. Though the health inspector threatened to come back with the police, she left, leaving the Bledsoes to explain what had happened to their guests. They had already poured bleach on the meat, but they were still able to serve their vegetable dishes without further disturbance, and of the 100 who signed up for the event, only a handful left because of time constraints, Laura says.

While the Bledsoes didn’t immediately hear back from the health department, they decided to send out an E-mail recounting the experience to shareholders of their local food delivery service, known as a CSA. Soon, the story went viral, traveling the globe and leading to hundreds of E-mails from farmers and activists. Eventually, Laura was contacted by Nevada lawmakers, many of whom were sympathetic to her cause and wanted to reform state laws so that such a fiasco wouldn’t happen again.

Without even meaning to, the Bledsoes found themselves swept up in a political movement that has only accrued momentum in recent years, one in which owners of small local farms and gardens are pitted against government agencies, both local and federal, over the rights of property owners and private citizens in terms of how and where they can prepare their food.

But what is perhaps even more peculiar about this movement is its bipartisan interest. Among its most vocal proponents you’ll find an amalgamation of ardent Tea Party libertarians—concerned over property rights and the over-extended reach of government—and liberal environmentalists who believe the local, organic farm is the ecologically-friendly solution to the nation’s health woes.

“If I had to guess, I would say we were fifty-fifty in terms of extreme liberals and extreme conservatives,” says Laura. But though the fight extends across party lines, little has been done so far to bridge the political gap in pursuance of bipartisan activism for farmer rights.

Lynn Hamilton, a professor of agribusiness at the California Polytechnic State University, argues that this tension between government and farmers stems from structural changes within the industry over the last decade. She points to a U.S. Census of Agriculture report finding that while the number of farms increased between 2002 and 2007, “nearly all that increase came from the smallest segment that produce less than $10,000 in sales.”

“The statistics show that basically that middle ground of what people think of as a traditional farm in America, that’s shrinking,” she says. “The largest segment of commercial farms is growing and the segment of very small lifestyle rural hobby farms is growing. But it’s that middle ground, that traditional agrarian, bucolic vision that a lot of people have of what farming is, that’s shrinking. It seems like you either get small and go niche to a high end market, or you go big.”

The report found that the number of farms with sales of less than $1,000 had increased by 118,000, and those with sales of more than $500,000 grew by 46,000. The only contraction occurred for farms generating between $1,000 and $250,000 in sales.

Jeff Rowes, a lawyer for the Institute for Justice, a libertarian public interest law firm based in Arlington, Virginia has sought out and represents many of these cases. Like Hamilton, he traces the roots of this movement to a decades-long shift in the agricultural industry toward large, commercially-viable institutions built for the mass-production of food. As government regulations have coalesced around this new normal during the past few generations, small farmers have found themselves caught within the confines of laws that weren’t designed for them.

“What that means is that when there’s a grassroots movement like there is now, back toward simplicity, back toward raising your own food in a manner that people have done for thousands of years, including the people who founded this country, suddenly the methods that they want to use on a micro level are all illegal,” said Rowes.

Or, as Hamilton put it: “It’s like hitting a fly with a B-2 bomber.”

Often times, Rowes said, his clients are surprised to find themselves pulled into the movement.

Recently, the New York Times profiled several individuals who had planted vegetable gardens in their front yards, only to be confronted by local authorities who were enforcing county or city zoning codes that forbid such actions. One sustainability director in Orlando ascribed these codes to an era when “the aesthetic was more of a formalized thing. Organic, natural planting was out of vogue.” Many local officials admit that the codes merely protect the property values of homeowners, rather than having any real public utility.

Admissions like these are what make such issues fodder for public outrage, as many can sympathize with the David versus Goliath archetype that’s formed when you see a gardener seemingly bullied by a larger institution.

“Generally what we’re looking for in a case is it has to have simple facts,” says Rowes. “The fact has to be outrageous. There has to be an evil villain, and there has to be a sympathetic plaintiff.”

But perhaps because many who find themselves battling state and local governments aren’t seasoned political activists, they haven’t always done a spectacular job organizing grassroots opposition, at least not across party lines.

“The one thing that I have not found is a lot of bipartisan cooperation, even though it’s a bipartisan issue,” Rowes says. So while the Tea Party libertarians and liberal environmentalists may be on the same side, each isn’t necessarily aware the other exists.

In some cases, attempts to organize these farmers can be met with resistance. Such has been the case for Mark Baker, a 52-year-old Michigan farmer who has been engaged in a year-long battle with his state’s Department of Natural Resources, which recently issued a declaratory rulingplacing wild Russian boars on its invasive species list.

For years, Baker has been raising and slaughtering a hybrid breed of Mangalitsa pig -a European breed with a hairy fleece that has been gradually replaced by domestic breeds. Under Michigan law, an animal only has to meet one of nine characteristics to be labeled invasive (including an incredibly vague catch-all: “Other characteristics not currently known to the MDNR that are identified by the scientific community”). As a result authorities informed him last year that the pigs raised on his farm were illegal and must be put down.

What followed was a vituperative legal war in which Baker not only sued the state (the case is still ongoing), but has also appeared before a Michigan state senate committee to argue his cause. But the more immersed the recalcitrant farmer has become in the political process, the more he has distanced himself from both parties.

“They put on the show for the people, but they never really do what the people want—either side,” he says.

And so when his story began to spread and various political groups approached him, Baker rebuffed their advances.

“We had the Tea Party wanting to come alongside of us and make us their little darling. I didn’t like the spirit of the people I was talking to on the phone. They were going to use our situation and our hardship to prop up whatever their agenda is,” says Baker. Similar inquiries from liberal groups were also rejected.

Not all relationships between these small, local farmers and government agencies are entirely antagonistic, however.

Amy Stewart, one of the writers for Garden Rant, a group blog of “highly opinionated gardeners,” says while many horticulturists get frustrated with the red tape that has accumulated over the past decade, they also maintain a symbiotic rapport with government scientists and researchers.

“You can call your representative at the USDA when you’re having this problem with apple codling moths and say, ‘We’ve tried to get rid of them and it’s not working anymore. Are you guys doing any research?’ And they’ll come and set up a research station on your farm and figure it out,” she says.

And in some instances, both sides can reach a happy agreement.

For the past year, the Bledsoes have worked directly with Nevada lawmakers while the legislature has been out of session to carve out exemptions for farmers like them. Under proposed legislation, the Nevada Department of Agriculture would inspect their facilities and designate them “self inspectors,” which would permit them to sell meat on their own farm without sending it 400 miles to a USDA processing plant. The bill will be introduced to the legislature during the 2013 session that begins in February, and Laura says she’s optimistic it’ll pass.

Hamilton, the agribusiness professor, says there have been several recent cases in which the government has carved out some regulatory room for smaller niche producers.

“For example, the big E. coli outbreak that happened in 2006 was really the catalyst to get the Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement put into place,” she explains. “Because the cost of these regulations are so onerous, there are exceptions that are made for producers below a certain size.” The whole purpose of the agreement, after all, was to deal with greens that flow through a large food chain—from the fields in California to the packing and cooling sheds to the grocery store; the more marketing channels there are, the greater risk of a food safety problem. If you’re a small grower, that chain merely extends from the farm to a local farmer’s market, thereby limiting the risk.

But lest one be lured into a false sense of amicability between farmer and government, the self inspections weren’t the only changes the Bledsoes hoped for when lobbying Nevada representatives.

“The first thing I wanted to include was the option to purchase raw milk,” Laura says. “We were told right off the bat don’t even go there.”

More News:

Dr. Mark Hyman’s Article About the Link Between Dairy and Acne

  • February 11th, 2011


As our sugar and dairy consumption has increased over the last 100 years so has the number of people with acne. We now have over 17 million acne sufferers, costing our health care system $1 billion a year. Eighty to ninety percent of teenagers suffer acne to varying degrees.

The pimply millions rely on infomercial products hawked by celebrities or over-the-counter lotions, cleansers, and topical remedies. Recent research suggests that it’s not what we slather on our skin that matters most but what we put in our mouth.

Many have suggested a diet-acne link, but until recently it has not been proven in large clinical studies. Instead dermatologists prescribe long-term antibiotics and Accutane, both of which may cause long-term harmful effects. In 2009, a systematic review of 21 observational studies and six clinical trials found clear links.

Two large controlled trials found that cow’s milk increased both the number of people who got acne and its severity. Other large randomized prospective controlled trials (the gold standard of medical research) found that people who had higher sugar intake and a high glycemic load diet (more bread, rice, cereal, pasta, sugar, and flour products of all kinds) had significantly more acne. The good news is that chocolate (dark chocolate that is) didn’t seem to cause acne.

The dietary pimple producing culprits – diary and sugar (in all its blood sugar raising forms) – both cause spikes in certain pimple producing hormones. Dairy boosts male sex hormones (various forms of testosterone or androgens),  increases insulin levels, just as foods that quickly raise blood sugar, (sugar and starchy carbs) and spikes insulin.

Androgens and insulin both stimulate your skin to make those nasty, embarrassing pimples. One patient recently told me he would give a million dollars for a pill to cure acne. He doesn’t need to. It seems that for many the cure to acne is at the end of their fork, not in a prescription pad.

While pimples are not as simple as too much milk or sugar in your diet, both have a significant impact. Nutritional deficiencies as well as excesses can worsen acne. Correcting common deficiencies including low levels of healthy omega-3 anti-inflammatory fats, low levels of antioxidants such as vitamin E, zinc, and vitamin A, and including an important anti-inflammatory omega-6 fat called evening primrose oil  may all be helpful in preventing and treating unwanted pimples.

I will explain how you can correct and incorporate all of these nutritional elements of your diet and outlines some supplements that will help you fight acne in a moment. But first it is worth taking a deeper look at milk and sugar.

It appears that anabolic or sex hormones in milk contribute to acne …

Stay Away from Dairy and Avoid Acne

One scientist referred to milk as a “complex aqueous, suspended fat, liposomal, suspended protein emulsion”. What we do know is that milk is designed to grow things – namely, babies – and in the case of cow’s milk, calves. It is naturally full of what we call anabolic hormones (the same ones that body builders and A Rod use to grow big muscles, and which cause bad acne).

These are mostly androgens (like testosterone) and growth hormones including insulin like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). There is no such thing as hormone-free milk.

Here’s a short list of the 60-some hormones in your average glass of milk – even the organic, raw, and bovine growth hormone free milk:

  • 20α-dihydropregnenolone
  • progesterone (from pregnenolone)
  • 5α-pregnanedione
  • 5α-pregnan-3β-ol-20-one, 20α- and 20β-dihydroprogesterone (from progesterone)
  • 5α-androstene-3β17β-diol
  • 5α-androstanedione
  • 5α-androstan-3β-ol-17-one
  • androstenedione
  • testosterone
  • dehydroepiandrosterone sulphate acyl ester
  • insulin like growth factors 1 and 2 (IGF-1 and IGF-2)
  • insulin

This is what our government suggests we drink in high doses—at least 3 glasses a day for me, a healthy adult male, according to the website. Those guidelines have been strongly criticized by many including leading nutrition scientists from Harvard such as Walter Willett and David Ludwig.

The famous Nurse’s Health Study examining health habits of 47,000 nurses found that those who drank more milk as teenagers had much higher rates of severe acne than those who had little or no milk as teenagers. If you think it is the fat in milk, think again.

It was actually the skim milk that had the strongest risk for acne. In other studies of over 10,000 boys and girls from 9 to 15 years old, there was a direct link between the amount of milk consumed and the severity of acne.

It appears that it is not just the anabolic or sex hormones in milk that causes problem but milk’s ability to stimulate insulin production. It actually may be the lactose or milk sugar in milk that acts more like a soft drink than an egg. Drinking a glass of milk can spike insulin levels 300 percent.

Not only does that cause pimples, but it also may contribute to prediabetes. This is true despite studies funded by the dairy council showing that milk helps with weight loss. The question is compared to WHAT diet – a diet of bagels and Coke, or a healthy phytonutrient, antioxidant-rich, plant-based diet with lean animal protein?

Stay Away from Sugar, Refined Carbs, and Pimples

If a glass of milk causes pimples, that may drive you back to your Pepsi. But not so fast. Recent studies also show that sugar and refined carbs (a high-glycemic diet) cause acne. More importantly, taking kids off sugar and putting them on a healthy, whole foods, low-glycemic load diet resulted in significant improvements in acne compared to a control group eating a regular, high-sugar American diet.

In addition to less pimples, the participants lost weight, became more sensitive to the effects of insulin (resulting in less pimple-producing insulin circulating around the blood). They also had less of the sex hormones floating around their blood that drive pimples. We know that women who have too much sugar and insulin resistance get acne, hair growth on their face, hair loss on the head, and infertility. This is caused by high levels of circulating male hormones and is called polycystic ovarian syndrome but is a nutritional, not gynecologic disease.

But the dietary influences don’t stop there. It is not just sugar, but the bad fats we eat that may also contribute to acne.

Get an Oil Change

Our typical Western diet is full of inflammatory fats – saturated fats, trans fats, too many omega-6, inflammatory, processed vegetable oils like soy and corn oils. These increase IGF-1 and stimulate pimple follicles. Inflammation has been linked to acne, and anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats (from fish oil) may help improve acne and help with many skin disorders.

Balance the Hormones that Cause Skin Problems

The link is clear – hormonal imbalances caused by our diet trigger acne. Our diet influences sex hormones like testosterone, IGF-1, and insulin, which promote acne. The biggest factors affecting your hormones is the glycemic load of your diet (which is determined by how quickly the food you eat increases your blood sugar and insulin levels), and the amount of dairy products you eat. The good news is that eating a healthy diet and taking a few supplements can balance those hormones. Exercise also helps improve insulin function.

How to Prevent and Treat Acne

Eight simple steps to help most overcome their acne problems:

  1. Stay away from milk. It is nature’s perfect food – but only if you are a calf.
  2. Eat a low glycemic load, low sugar diet. Sugar, liquid calories, and flour products all drive up insulin and cause pimples.
  3. Eat more fruits and vegetables. People who eat more veggies (containing more antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds) have less acne. Make sure you get your 5–9 servings of colorful fruits and vegetables every day.
  4. Get more healthy anti-inflammatory fats. Make sure to get omega-3 fats (fish oil) and anti-inflammatory omega-6 fats (evening primrose oil). You will need supplements to get adequate amounts (more on that in a moment).
  5. Include foods that correct acne problems. Certain foods have been linked to improvements in many of the underlying causes of acne and can help correct it. These include fish oil, turmeric, ginger, green tea, nuts, dark purple and red foods such as berries, green foods like dark green leafy vegetables, and omega 3-eggs.
  6. Take acne-fighting supplements.Some supplements are critical for skin health. Antioxidant levels have been shown to be low in acne sufferers. And healthy fats can make a big difference. Here are the supplements I recommend:
    • Evening primrose oil: Take 1,000 to 1,500mg twice a day.
    • Zinc citrate: Take 30 mg a day.
    • Vitamin A: Take 25,000 IU a day. Only do this for three months. Do not do this if you are pregnant.
    • Vitamin E (mixed tocopherols, not alpha tocopherol): Take 400 IU a day.
  7. Try probiotics. Probiotics also help reduce inflammation in the gut that may be linked to acne. Taking probiotics (lactobacillus, etc.) can improve acne.
  8. Avoid foods you are sensitive to. Delayed food allergies are among the most common causes of acne—foods like gluten, dairy, yeast, and eggs are common culprits and can be a problem if you have a leaky gut.

Following these simple tips will help you eliminate acne and have that glowing skin you have always dreamed of. And it’s much cheaper (and safer) than expensive medications and dermatologist visits. Improve your diet and take acne-fighting supplements and you will watch your pimples disappear.

For more information on how to optimize your nutrition and improve your skin, see

Now I’d like to hear from you.

Have you struggled with an acne or skin problem? Have you noticed any link between your skin? What seems to be a problem for you?

Why do you think we are encouraged to consume so much dairy when the risks to our health (and our skin) are so high?

What other steps have you taken to fight acne? What has worked? What hasn’t?

Please leave your thoughts by adding a comment below – but remember, we can’t offer personal medical advice online, so be sure to limit your comments to those about taking back our health!

To your good health,

Mark Hyman, MD


  1. F. William Danby, MD, Nutrition and acne, Clinics in Dermatology (2010) 28, 598–604
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