MONDAY, Jan. 16 (HealthDay News) -- Teenage girls who are
overweight or obese are significantly more likely to develop acne
than their normal-weight peers, a new Norwegian survey
Researchers looked at whether weight, and more specifically body
mass index (BMI, a ratio of weight to height), had any bearing on
the onset of the common skin condition among teens.
Teens' responses to questionnaires focusing on acne history and
weight suggested an association among girls but not boys.
The reasons behind the link aren't clear, one expert said.
Overweight girls "may perceive their acne as being worse than it
actually is, possibly due to self-image issues," said Dr. Robert
Kirsner, a professor and vice chairman in the department of
dermatology and cutaneous surgery at the University of Miami's
Miller School of Medicine.
On the other hand, biology could play a role, said Kirsner, who
was not involved with the study but is familiar with its
"It is possible, but not yet known, that in girls, but not boys, excessive androgens caused by obesity has a greater additive effect on acne," he said. "It may be also possible that the psychological effect of being overweight in girls is greater than boys and thus leads to a more pronounced increase in stress hormones in girls, with acne as a consequence."
The Norwegian team led by author Dr. Jon Anders Halvorsen, of
the department of dermatology at Oslo University Hospital and the
faculty at the University of Oslo, reports its findings Jan. 16 in
Archives of Dermatology.
The authors point out that between 10 percent and 20 percent of
teens struggle with moderate to severe acne, with many developing
serious psychological issues revolving around poor self-esteem and
difficulty socializing. At the same time, more and more children
are falling prey to the so-called obesity epidemic.
To explore whether a connection could exist between the two, the
investigating team conducted a survey involving roughly 3,600
Norwegians ages 18 and 19.
None of the participants was actively seeking out medical care
at the study's launch. All provided their weight and height, and
all reported on whether or not they had had pimples, and to what
degree, the week before the study.
All responded to questions about drinking or smoking, history of
mental distress and dietary habits -- especially concerning sugar,
sweets, chocolate, raw vegetables, fatty fish and potato chips.
Overweight was defined as having a BMI of 25 and up, while
obesity referred to a BMI of 30 and up. Just under 10 percent of
the girls and just over 15 percent of the boys were deemed
overweight; fewer than 40 of either gender were classified as
Overall, roughly 13 percent of all the girls were found to have
acne. When looking solely at girls who were overweight or obese,
however, this figure rose to almost 19 percent.
The story was different among boys, with between 13 percent and
14 percent having acne regardless of their weight.
After accounting for an array of other possible factors that
might affect acne risk, Halvorsen's team concluded that excess
weight is associated with acne risk among teenage girls, but not
It should be noted, though, that the study revealed an
association between excess weight and acne, but did not prove
Dr. Joel Gelfand, medical director of the department of
dermatology clinical studies unit at the University of Pennsylvania
in Philadelphia, described the effort as "very important," given
the paucity of research in the field.
"There's not a lot of work out there understanding what the risk factors are for developing acne," he said. "And we're talking about a disease that affects virtually everyone at some point, and can have a devastating impact on a person's quality of life. So any work to better understand why people develop it and ways of preventing it -- which we don't currently have -- is of substantial importance."
For more on acne, visit the
U.S. National Library of Medicine.
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