Dr Robyn Smith will graduate with a PhD from RMIT University this month for her pioneering nutritional science research, which helped formulate a ground-breaking anti-acne diet.
Dr Smith, of Cheltenham, Victoria, was part of a team that conducted the first randomised controlled trial on diet and acne in more than 40 years, and found that a protein-based, low-GI diet could have a dramatic effect on acne symptoms.
"Diet has long been thought to be the cause of acne, with chocolate most often named as a culprit, but I was surprised how little scientific research had been done in this area," she said. "My research found that a low-GI diet significantly reduced acne lesion counts when compared with the conventional high-carb, high-GI Western diet. A diet designed to fight acne should contain minimally refined carbohydrate-based foods and include a wide variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, lean meats, fish and seafood."
Dr Smith worked with RMIT's Associate Professor Neil Mann and staff from the Department of Dermatology at Royal Melbourne Hospital on the trial, which involved 43 teenage boys following two different diets over 12 weeks.
One group followed the typical Western teen diet of refined and highly processed carbohydrate foods while the other group ate a more natural diet higher in protein and low-GI foods such as wholegrain bread, pasta and legumes.
"Those on the low-GI diet reduced facial acne by 50 per cent, and showed improvements in their self-esteem and overall wellbeing," Dr Smith said.
Findings of the study were published in the prestigious Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology and the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The research was also compiled in a booklet, "The Teenage Anti-Acne Diet", which was distributed to more than 15,000 GPs, dietitians and dermatologists nationally.
Dr Smith said completing her PhD had opened the door to a remarkable and extremely rewarding career in the area of nutritional biochemistry. "It's been a journey of discovery from beginning to end," she said. "It wasn't all smooth sailing and I had my fair share of obstacles, but I've come to understand that this is all part the process and a PhD is more than just the big book that you produce at the end."