An investigation of the association between diet and occurrence of acne: a rational approach from a traditional Chinese medicine perspective


  • Conflict of interest: none declared.

Dr Michelle P M Law, 4th Floor, Department of Community and Family Medicine, School of Public Health, Prince of Wales Hospital, Shatin, NT, Hong Kong, China.


Background.  The association between diet and acne vulgaris has long been suggested but remains unproven in western medicine. In contrast, the diet–acne relationship is considered important in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).

Aim.  To investigate the association between diet and acne, using a TCM approach.

Methods.  Using a cross-sectional study of 322 entrants to a university in Hong Kong, China, we examined the participants’ clinical severity of acne using the Global Acne Grading System and the participants’ yin and yang scores using a quantitative method. We then divided them into two groups, a yin-predominant group (yin-PG) and a yang-predominant group (yang-PG) before the diet–acne relationship was investigated.

Results.  In total, 82 (25.2%) participants were in the clinical acne group and 240 (74.5%) were in the reference group. There were 155 (48.1%) participants in the yin-PG and 167 (51.9%) in the yang-PG group. No association of diet and acne was found when the participants were considered as a homogenous group. In yin-PG, intake of foods from street stalls (= 0.04) was significantly associated with a lower incidence of acne. In yang-PG, the intake of desserts (= 0.04) and fresh fruit juices (= 0.02) was significantly associated with a higher incidence of acne, whereas the intake of dairy and soy products (= 0.04) was significantly associated with a lower incidence of acne.

Conclusions.  The application of a TCM approach led to the detection of significant associations between diet and the incidence of acne.