Seems like every time we turn around, another scientist in a lab coat is wagging a finger in our face and telling us things we don’t want to hear. Soda gives us cavities. Alcohol gives us hangovers. And now that a new study from the Netherlands suggests that chocolate causes acne, we’re close to giving up and sticking our hungover, toothless, pimple-covered heads in a big fat sack of denial until the medical profession decides that we’re allowed to enjoy our favorite things again.
Sadly, denial won’t silence the Dutch scientists who claim that their study shows a definite link between chocolate consumption and the acne that plagues 80% of American teenagers. To investigate chocolate as a potential cause of acne, the researchers took blood from healthy adults before and after they ate 1.7 ounces of chocolate containing 30 ounces of cocoa. Then they exposed the blood samples to Propionibacterium acnes, a bacteria known to cause acne, and to Staphylococcus aureus, which aggravates acne.
In the blood samples taken post-chocolate consumption, the blood cells exposed to Propionibacterium acnes produced more interleukin-1b, a sign of immune system inflammation and a signal that chocolate is linked to the inflammatory response associated with acne. The cells exposed to Staphylococcus aureus produced more interleukin 1O, which is believed to lower the body’s defenses against microorganisms and thus could allow bacteria to infect and worsen pimples.
This research isn’t conclusive however, which is good news for those of us who like clear skin and chocolate-covered everything. For one, the Dutch scientists used a teeny tiny sample size (only seven people). For another, there are lots of things present in chocolate besides cocoa (like fat and sugar) that could have caused the blood cell reaction. And finally, while we might not have a perfect pimple cure, science has progressed enough to know that any single person’s susceptibility to acne has more to do with their genetics, hormones, and medications than their favorite junk food. Plus, even if chocolate is responsible for acne, it’s also responsible for this.