Does Food Cause Acne?

February 12th, 2011

Many people over the years have asked me if certain foods cause or exacerbate acne. I’m not a dermatologist, but I can go to pubmed and do a search. After reading for a while, these are my opinions about the topic.

Creative Commons License photo credit: moonshake

Yes, I’m a doctor, but don’t do anything without discussing it with your own personal doctor.

Most people have acne at some point in life. Over 80% of adolescents suffer with it at one time or another. In my life the pendulum over diet and acne has swung back and forth. When I was young, everybody said fat and chocolate made it worse. In college, the popular notion was that diet did not play a role. Now, it seems obvious that diet is an important factor in the control of acne.

Sugars and Fats–

In societies without refined sugar, acne basically does not exist. As societies become “more Western” and add more fats and sugars, acne starts to appear. Even in modern societies, people who have acne are more likely to eat high fats and/or high sugar foods. Studies have shown that changing diet patterns by decreasing sugar intake can decrease acne.

Interesting enough, I could not find any association with chocolate. Chocolate is unlikely to have a role–thank goodness.

In overly simplistic terms, sugars cause stimulates the insulin pathway which changes the hormonal balance and increases the likelihood of acne. Bad fats are pro-inflammatory and increase follicle stimulation which ultimately increase acne severity.


As much as a dairy fan as I am, good evidence exists that high daily intake can increase risks of acne. Both whole and skim milk seem to have this effect. It’s unclear if this is a hormonal or lactose effect.


The evidence is fairly strong that diet does affect acne. Multiple, multiple studies have now shown that refined sugars and dangerous fats are very bad for the body for multiple reasons. It should not be surprising that the skin shows these affects as well.

Milk is a tough one for me. Many studies exist that milk in a balanced diet is helpful; however, I can not argue that the research also suggests that it contributes to acne.

Many articles on pubmed are no longer free, but Ferdowsian has an article about diet and acne that is an easy, free read.

Imagine creating an unique, living organism as easily as writing software.

Craig Venter’s techniques build DNA from scratch. The DNA software package can be placed into an organism as a chromosome. The host organism boots the DNA software from the chromosome and virtually creates a entirely new organism.

If you want a program to do X, you most likely can pick your langauge and code it. Now if you want an organism to do X, one day you will likely be able to code that as well.

He plans to create organisms to convert CO2 back to fuel. However, this research will not stop there.

The creation of synthetic life will be more revolutionary than the invention of the computer.

Please watch the video. As a biology/medical type, I’ll be glad to try to explain any of the confusing issues…

OpenEMR is Ridiculous

March 18th, 2008

Having “open” electronic medical records (EMR) is absolutely ridiculous.

ReadWriteWeb believes that we should be able to control and transfer medical records personally. However, this is felt impossible because health care is “controlled by big business and government.” Furthermore, they state that “decentralizing this network and giving the power for each American to control their own medical record could ensure higher reliability, less poor diagnoses, and can handle scale.”

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

Yes, our current medical record system needs to change. As a practicing physician, I frequently see test duplication and delays in diagnosis due to our current closed system. Doctors at one hospital will likely not get results from other hospitals in a reasonable amount of time. Even if a physician knows to request the records, often the physician may not know specifically what to request. Worse yet, these records are usually faxes from one hospital to another.

With these problems, the brainstem reflex is to let each person control his or her own medical history. Let me, the patient, control who and what accesses my medical records. It is romantic. It is crazy and flawed.

Actually, if the patient was always YOU, then an open EMR might work. You are probably not crazy. You probably do not abuse the system, drugs, or your body. But you are the same person who actually accurately keeps up with medical history now. Any medical record system works well for you.

Let me a take common ICU admission for you. Young lady found down unresponsive and barely breathing. Maybe by searching her house or testing her urine we can estimate that she has overdosed. Maybe she has been in the hospital before and we know that she has been depressed or has a history of overdose. Maybe she also has a rare disease like adrenal insufficiency that can be fatal if not also concurrently treated.

Assume that we fix this lady up and forward her medical records to her EMR carrier of choice. If it is truly open, she can forward it to anyone. Perhaps she forwards it to a “lockbox” carrier who promises to keep it hidden from other systems. Her physicians will never know about her suicide attempt or her potentially life threating illness. Perhaps she forwards it to a “edit” carrier who promises to sanitize or grossly edit the medical record for her. She pays a little extra so her medical record will now show that she has a crippling pain syndrome and requires narcotic pain medications.

Open is open. An open medical record system is an untrustworthy medical record system. Now, I agree that people should have the ability to view and make comments about their personal medical records. Doctors and tests are not perfect, and a patient should have the right to make his/her opinions known.

Luckily, this is not complicated. Just get the EMR companies to come together a establish a universal document standard and communication API. The government would host and secure the common database that would store all the information. Patients could log in and make comments to clarify the record, but information could not be removed or edited.

Medical records are as essential as legal records. Should legal records be open too? Frequently life and death decisions are based upon these documents. A truly open EMR system allows for manipulation and abuse. A universal medical records system will save money and lives. It is vital and essential to insure that the record is inclusive and precise. In this circumstance, being “open” is not the solution.

I will be glad to detail and debate further issues in the comments below.

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Anticipation of Sickness

December 16th, 2007

I promise no gross details here, but my whole family has had a GI bug.  My son got it first who passed it off to my wife.

Yesterday around lunch, my daughter started having abdominal pains… about one hour later I started the same.  Otherwise, we felt well.  A couple of hours later, she started feeling tired and achy.  Once again, one hour later I felt the same way.

Early in the evening my daughter runs into the bathroom.  The nausea had finally won.  For next hour, I *knew* that it was coming.  The chills, the fever, the many hours of bathroom time — I was watching my poor daughter suffer through it and knew that a few minutes later it would happen to me.

I am not sure what was worse, the sickness or the anticipation.

The mind is a funny thing when it comes to nausea.  People receiving chemotherapy will often develop nausea even *before* their next treatment.  The mind knows that the chemo is coming… so the nausea comes early.

Many people have gotten sick while eating a particular food only to develop nausea when seeing, smelling, or tasting something similar.

Anyway, this morning everybody is better.  We are still a little achy and febrile, but most of the symptoms are resolving.  My daughter is feeling better than I.  Finally anticipation is working in my favor.

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Does Your State Have the Flu?

November 6th, 2005

Check the CDC’s web page for information regarding influenza this season. Their weekly map will keep you well informed for your risk of catching influenza this year. So far it looks like the east coast is doing better than the west coast thus far.

Sleep Well or Die. Part II

October 19th, 2005

Today’s post is a follow-up from yesterday’s Ubersleep? Hacking Sleep? Stupid! That posting was highlighted on digg and received a ton of comments there. As we here at tech-recipes are too busy discovering the end of comment spam to actually enable comments here on our own blog, I’ll respond to some of the (non personal-attack) criticisms of my post now.

I was the first to admit that I could not find any scientific papers on medline regarding polyphasic sleep in humans. Feel free to search for yourself; medline is a wonderful reference. That alone is an argument against polyphasic sleep. Would you take a medicine that hasn’t been studied? Then why screw with your sleep pattern in an untested way?

Although a self-reported military physician on digg disagreed, some people have suggested that polyphasic sleep has been tested and is frequently used in NASA and the military. NASA just released a review regarding sleep and performance in space. It does not sound like NASA is actively using polyphasic sleep at this time.

Polyphasic fans state that REM sleep is the only important phase of sleep and that the missed slow-wave sleep is not important. If so, then why does the body naturally try to catch-up on slow-wave sleep when it is missed? Lack of slow-wave sleep has also shown to decrease cognitive performance.

Enough with the medical talk… if you want to change your sleep patterns, I am glad you have the right to do so. As a sleep physician, I believe that the medical literature suggests that it might be bad for you — especially in the long run.

I think we can all agree that examining both the risks and benefits of anything we do to our bodies is very important.

I’ll have to take my geek hat off for a second and play doctor. One of the current hot topics in the blogosphere is polyphasic (or Uberman’s) sleep. The basic idea is by taking multiple small naps throughout a 24 hour period, a person can get by on less sleep. The experience suggests that these people immediately fall into REM sleep and will eventually become acclimated to an overall shorter sleep time. The idea is that less sleep time equals more productive time. The bull continues and continues.

Certainly a person can alter their sleep pattern in this method. I have no doubt. I see people with crazy sleep schedules all the time. Let me tell you why you should not do this.

You increase your chances of having a car wreck. tes says “I hit a wall” if staying awake more than 5 hours. The normal sleep pattern allows a person a good buffer of sleep time. A person is able to go several hours longer than expected if needed. Polyphasic sleep seems to take this buffer away. Obstructive sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that alters people’s natural sleep patterns. Thousands of car wrecks a year are attributed to obstructive sleep apnea. Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder characterized by sudden onset of REM sleep (sound familiar?). Untreated patients with narcolepsy have a ten times more risk of car accidents than normal subjects.

Your health will suffer. Sleep restriction in healthy volunteers causes multiple physiological abnormalities. This includes increased inflammation, activation of the sympathetic nervous system, hypertension, and glucose intolerance. Epidemiologic research suggests that people who report short sleep duration have more symptomatic diabetes, more ischemic heart disease, and decreased survival. Source.

Less sleep equals more fat. tes’s “appetite is substantially larger.” Lack of sleep is associated with abnormalities in the hormones that control food intake. If you want to
give up sleep for a bigger waistband, this is a good way to do it.

People who sleep normally, live longer. This abstract in sleep medicine discusses how “short sleep over a prolonged period may be associated with an increased risk of mortality.” Read the research; is it worth the risk?

Granted these are not the most hardcore research studies in the world; however, I could find no medline searches dealing with polyphasic sleep in humans. Searching for sleep deprivation, however, yields a few thousand articles for one to read through.

We do so much to try to prolong our lives and protect our health. In theory, slow wave sleep is when our cellular system best repairs itself. This sleep system takes away that restorative slow wave sleep. Please forgive the geek analogy, but… why would one overclock your life and burn out sooner?

What has been proven about second-hand smoke in children of smokers?


… conclusions were strengthened and reaffirmed in the Environmental Protection
Agency 1993 report, which stated, “the cumulative evidence is conclusive that parental
smoking, especially the mother’s, causes an increased incidence of respiratory illness from
birth up to the first 18 months to 3 years of life, particularly bronchitis, bronchiolitis, and

There is also strong evidence for concluding that passive smoking causes increased incidence
of otitis media, the most common reason of hospitalization of children for an operation. The
EPA report concluded that parental smoking influences the severity of asthma in children, and
suggested that mothers who smoke more than 10 cigarettes per day may increase the risk of
developing new cases of asthma in their children who have not previously exhibited

Source: SEEK Board Review