Articles, Blog

Do Sunflower Seeds Cause Acne?

August 25, 2019

“Do Sunflower Seeds Cause Acne?” A recent observational study
on acne reported a statistically significant relationship
between acne severity and dietary factors such as
chocolate and dairy products, both of which I have videos about. But this surprised me:
sunflower seed consumption? When I think sunflower seeds, I just think “good whole food
source of nutrition” found to lower cholesterol levels as
much as almonds, which is pretty good. There are, however, right
and wrong ways to eat them. If you sit down and eat a pound
of unshelled sunflower seeds, just eat them with the shell still
on, you can end up corked with a fist-sized mass of
shredded sunflower seed shells. How could a doctor
diagnose such a thing? By the “colonic crunch”
sign, of course. Sounds like a breakfast
cereal served in hell. But rather, it’s when you palpate
a large crunchy rectal mass. I’ve got a picture for you, of course. Can end up a sharp, thorny mass, which is why the so-called sunflower
seed syndrome has been described as a prickly proctological problem, lamenting that people who
consume health foods occasionally fall into the trap of believing
“if some is good, more is better.” It’s not the amount though;
it’s how they’re eating them: with the shells still on. That’s why the syndrome is uncommon, unless the patients are children
who don’t know any better, or adults who are either impaired or have no experience with
eating sunflower seeds. Most cases involve younger children, but here researchers describe a
psychologically sound 13-year-old, stressing the importance of the role
of the parents to guide their children about the potential
problems associated with the ingestion of too
many unshelled seeds. You can overdo even
shelled seeds, though, because of just the
nature of sunflowers. They’re good at drawing up the naturally
occurring heavy metal cadmium out of the ground, so end up with
higher levels than most foods, even if grown in relatively
uncontaminated soil, though people who consume
large amounts of sunflower seeds don’t seem to suffer
any untoward effects or even end up with detectably
higher cadmium levels. Here they defined large amounts
as greater than an ounce a week, which is like a handful,
about 150 seeds. The World Health Organization
recommends staying below about 490 micrograms of
dietary cadmium a week. Maybe if you ate a handful a day,
you’d be well below that, but you may get as much as 36
a day from the rest of your diet, so I think one handful a day is
a reasonable safe upper limit. Yeah, but will it give us acne? You don’t know until
you put it to the test. Yeah, but who’s going to do
a randomized controlled trial of sunflower seeds and acne? Nobody… until now. After all, consuming sunflower
seeds is a very enjoyable way of participating in a clinical trial. Fifty young adults were randomized to eat
sunflower seeds—or not—for a week. In the control group the acne severity index stayed about the same, but in the sunflower seed
group, they got worse. This translates into about 3 extra
pimples in the sunflower group versus about one extra
in the control group. They conclude that sunflower seed
intake appears to aggravate acne; however, further evidence
may be needed before banning sunflower seed
intake in patients with acne.


  • Reply Grcvgc Vcbh May 21, 2018 at 11:58 am


  • Reply FreeD00M May 21, 2018 at 11:58 am

    Haha always wanted to do that 🙂

  • Reply DateYana May 21, 2018 at 12:07 pm

    What… Who eats the shells of sunflower seeds? The insanity….

  • Reply FIELDS OF FARMS May 21, 2018 at 12:11 pm


  • Reply Daniel Nicklas V May 21, 2018 at 12:11 pm

    All the Slavs clenched their butt cheeks on this one.

  • Reply Yami May 21, 2018 at 12:13 pm

    Well what kind of sunflower seed were they eating? Roasted with lots of oil and salt or plain and raw?

  • Reply DateYana May 21, 2018 at 12:13 pm

    Interesting. I ate tons of sunflower seeds as a child and adolescent (it's an extremely common snack where I'm from) and didn't really have acne except for the occasional pimple every few months. Is it possible that sunflower seeds aggravate acne if present but don't necessarily cause it? Or did I owe that rare pimple every now and then to sunflower seeds…

  • Reply crarls27 May 21, 2018 at 12:18 pm

    ‘sounds like a breakfast cereal served in hell’ hahaha

  • Reply Eelke Aptroot May 21, 2018 at 12:19 pm

    High in cadmium and causes acne? -I've been eating about a tablespoon a day of sunflower seeds, but I guess I'm better off not buying them anymore, though I never noticed them to aggravate any acne….

  • Reply vegansoul May 21, 2018 at 12:31 pm

    I soak all the nuts and seeds before eating them, and since then I don't get acne from eating nuts and seeds. Maybe placebo, maybe not, but it works 😀

  • Reply Lichtblick May 21, 2018 at 12:35 pm


  • Reply Emo Gin May 21, 2018 at 12:40 pm


  • Reply David George May 21, 2018 at 12:41 pm

    I enjoy eating the whole seed with shells intact. Or should I say 'enjoyed'. Thanks mom and dad for your parental guidance, Dr. G is my new daddy 🙂

  • Reply Hamish Cooke May 21, 2018 at 12:41 pm

    Makes sense, because they’re high in omega 6 fatty acids

  • Reply Susanna Dick May 21, 2018 at 12:42 pm

    I don't know who would ever eat shells of any seeds. That's like eating hardened wood chips. 😶

  • Reply Johny40Se7en May 21, 2018 at 12:45 pm

    You really didn't need to show the picture, knob head, good thing I'm not that squeamish =P

    I have a tablespoon of raw sunflower seeds every other day in my muesli, make sure you crunch them properly. I don't have acne but I do have a lot of redness on my skin but I think that's more hormones than anything else.

  • Reply Maple Flavor May 21, 2018 at 1:03 pm

    they were touching their faces with their oily fingers from the raosted seeds

  • Reply Doug bananaboy May 21, 2018 at 1:20 pm

    Dairy = acne

  • Reply T gh May 21, 2018 at 1:22 pm

    I guess because they contain high amounts if omega 6 …

  • Reply Luís Miguel May 21, 2018 at 1:29 pm

    There was no interesting way to learn about nutrition. UNTIL NOW.

  • Reply Pickle Beaker! May 21, 2018 at 1:31 pm

    Whining about unshelled sunflower seeds? amateurs! Try eating unshelled walnuts and then send me a picture of your …

  • Reply M P May 21, 2018 at 1:40 pm

    My ex ate them with the shell as well as peanuts with the shell. But he didn't eat too many. Aww shucks.

  • Reply Harris 05 May 21, 2018 at 1:59 pm

    I eat 200 grams of them every day i hope thats not to bad.

  • Reply Vegan Rocker May 21, 2018 at 2:08 pm

    Large crunchy rectal mass is my new favorite insult. I'm gonna use it in traffic.

  • Reply Karen M. May 21, 2018 at 2:09 pm

    Picture. Of course😝

  • Reply Vladimir Lenin May 21, 2018 at 2:50 pm


  • Reply Jigglypoop97 May 21, 2018 at 2:58 pm

    Many claim that all high-fat foods can aggravate and even cause their acne. This increase in acne can be applied to all high-fat foods, even avocado, nuts, and other seeds. However, only in susceptible people of course. If acne is not in your genes than nothing will give it to you.

  • Reply A May 21, 2018 at 2:58 pm

    Please, could you do a video about rosacea? 🙏

  • Reply Falafelzebub's Den of Vegan Iniquity May 21, 2018 at 3:35 pm

    The Dr Greger Weight Loss Plan – look at photo of sunflower seed rectal bezoar before every meal and lose your appetite. 😛

  • Reply Filip Elfvin May 21, 2018 at 4:09 pm

    man, i better watch out with Nutritionfacts videos while eating from here on…

  • Reply Miranda Burke May 21, 2018 at 4:22 pm

    Hear I am eatting sunflower seeds for acne cause vitamin E

  • Reply Encho Enchev May 21, 2018 at 4:25 pm

    So how do i get my vitamin E intake if i can't eat sunflower seeds ?

  • Reply Leadmare.Libertad May 21, 2018 at 4:34 pm

    First chocolate, now sunflower seeds 😭

  • Reply Exotic Parallel May 21, 2018 at 4:36 pm

    High omega 6 to blame?

  • Reply Mark Schiefelbein May 21, 2018 at 4:40 pm

    Please a video about adaptogens !!!!

  • Reply Pervy May 21, 2018 at 4:45 pm

    Hmm, this makes sense of why one of my coworkers that is a huge sunflower seed eater has a lot of acne. His cheeks are always completely read and riddled with acne.

    I'd like to research more myself before correlating the to definitively though, but its worth keeping in mind. Haha being vegan myself perhaps the acne causing effects of sunflower seeds only trigger in a animal included diet. I'll have to test it myself. Will say I personally haven't noticed the effect from the little I've eaten at certain restaurant salad bars haha.

  • Reply Fire Shine May 21, 2018 at 4:45 pm

    Awesome another Awesome thing i cant eat….

  • Reply Simnett Nutrition May 21, 2018 at 5:13 pm

    Nothing like a big bowl of Colonic Crunch for breakfast! 🥣💩 You always deliver Dr. Greger! 😂

  • Reply LIFE STARTS NOW May 21, 2018 at 5:16 pm

    Tonight we dine in HELL!!!!

  • Reply Minimalist Vegan May 21, 2018 at 5:27 pm

    And I just ate 1/4 cup of sunflower seeds with My oatmeal for breakfast. ☺😋

  • Reply Ariel Yankovich May 21, 2018 at 5:29 pm

    Would sunflower oil have the same affect for acne ?

  • Reply Śūnyatā Eight May 21, 2018 at 5:34 pm

    They are also the easiest way to get 100% of your RDA of Vitamin E through diet without supplements.

    I eat an ounce a day of raw shelled unsalted sunflower seeds and I have the best skin I’ve ever had in my life.

  • Reply gdcat777 May 21, 2018 at 5:35 pm

    I can live without sunflower seeds. But now what about the sunflower oil in prepared foods like breads and salad dressings?

  • Reply johnny roe May 21, 2018 at 5:40 pm

    banning?? lol

  • Reply yourbeamofsunshine May 21, 2018 at 5:43 pm

    Were the seeds processed with oil and salt?

  • Reply Victoria Chii May 21, 2018 at 5:45 pm

    EVERY TIME I EAT SUNFLOWER SEEDS I GET SEVERE CYSTIC ACNE!! all nuts can break me out, but sunflower seeds and sesame like tahini are by far my biggest flare up foods

  • Reply Federico Ponzin May 21, 2018 at 5:54 pm

    Is it because the omega-6 to 3 ratio is 256?

  • Reply iCristalrose May 21, 2018 at 6:18 pm

    I've been eating 20-30g of sunflower seeds a day for a year. I've got no acne and no cadmium build up. My blood cadmium is way below the normal level and hair cadmium is x166 less than UL. My prior research showed that cadmium from seeds gets excreted when you go to the toilet.

  • Reply ClickToPreview May 21, 2018 at 7:10 pm

    Good info. I eat probably 4 oz. of shelled sunflower seeds a week mainly for the Vitamin E.

  • Reply Iago Borges May 21, 2018 at 7:12 pm

    best foods against acne then?

  • Reply Francis Hemeter May 21, 2018 at 8:04 pm

    Currently looking at reducing my daily dose of flaxseeds which I pre mix with steal cut oats. Maybe antidotal but ran out of flaxseed meal the other week (I normally eat a cup of steal cut oats and flax is 10% by weight). I might run a few trials 2 weeks at 10% 5% None.

  • Reply eric jones May 21, 2018 at 8:54 pm

    I like to make Sun Butter from Sunflower seeds

  • Reply Joseph1NJ May 21, 2018 at 9:57 pm

    What? Intermittent fasting may increase diabetes risk:

    OK, another "more study is needed" rat study, still:

    "Previous research has also shown that short-term fasting can produce molecules called free radicals, highly reactive chemicals that can cause damage to cells in the body and which may be associated with impaired organ function, cancer risk and accelerated ageing.

    In addition, cells of the pancreas that release insulin showed damage, while the presence of increased levels of free radicals and markers of insulin resistance were also detected."

  • Reply B12 blaze it vegan May 21, 2018 at 10:11 pm

    Oh well, acne makes me feel young anyways.

  • Reply TwoSnakes OneSword May 21, 2018 at 10:28 pm

    I'd question what type of sunflower seeds…organic, shelled, and only sunflour seeds or shelled sunflower seeds that have added salt and oils! I was buying sunflower seeds and having about 1/4 cup sprinkled on my salads and I had an acne break out. Come to find out I bought a bag(not reading the back, dumb move) and it had palm oil and peanut no wonder I broke out. They were also roasted, not sure if that matters but I usually buy unroasted and unsalted.

  • Reply Sarah Green May 21, 2018 at 10:33 pm

    They don't seem to bother me.. Dairy on the other hand 😖😖..

  • Reply Ana Hospital May 21, 2018 at 11:05 pm

    I'm from Spain but live abroad, and once I got sunflower seeds because I was having a get together with friends, and they are nice food to share and snake while talking and drinking. That's what we usually do in Spain. And that was the day I saw a grown woman, japanese, accepting them out of politeness and I saw her eating one with the shell. I had no words, I didn't know people didn't know how to eat them! And so I taught my japanese friend, a tunisian one and an indonesian how to do it properly; all the different ways that I know. They had refuse to eat them solely because they didn't like them since they didn't know how to. Of course they didn't, it must be disgusting! I have never tried eating one with the shell, must be terrible!

  • Reply Turbo Esther May 21, 2018 at 11:11 pm

    Did the study take into account whether the seeds were roasted, salted, or contained added oils?

  • Reply Daniel Matthews May 21, 2018 at 11:23 pm

    Got to watch your ω-3 and ω-6 fatty acid ratios. Better to have more flaxseed in your diet.

  • Reply Erin williams May 22, 2018 at 12:18 am

    I actually tried this myself. I was eating Sunbutter daily and breaking out. To find out if it was nuts and seeds causing my breakouts, I eliminated them from my diet for two weeks. Last night I ate a tablespoon of Sunbutter and this morning I had three small pimples on my chin. On one hand I'm relieved to know but, on the other hand bummed out because I love sunflower seeds and Sunbutter. I plan on testing other nuts and seeds too.

  • Reply Klaudia L May 22, 2018 at 3:30 am

    What about sunflower oil?

  • Reply Matty M May 22, 2018 at 10:17 am

    Super interesting to hear about even healthy foods that can cause acne

  • Reply Sleepy Sartorialist May 22, 2018 at 1:49 pm

    Hm, this might explain some recent, intense bouts of hormonal acne… Think I will do my own experiment to test the theory.

  • Reply Alex Surname May 22, 2018 at 2:59 pm

    Many "healthy" plant foods aren't very healthy after all. Many acne sufferers know that oatmeal can also aggravate the curse. In fact, all seeds are extremely high in leucine and methionine, and also in hard fiber, which is not a good thing. Oats are also very high in methionine, cystein, leucine, and in fiber. I do believe that fiber bacterial byproducts can make acne worse in many people.

  • Reply papparocket May 22, 2018 at 5:16 pm

    One would assume that both groups were on a standard acne promoting standard diet before and during the trial. What would be the result if neither group ate an acne promoting diet and one group added 25 g of sunflower seeds a day. My bet would be nothing. So until that study is done, I am not sure that people on a whole foods plant based diet have a whole lot to worry about. However, with all the millions of people who are now following a WFPB diet, it should be terribly hard to find enough subjects to put it to the test. The one criteria, that subjects had to start with acne, might have to change since it is likely that most who do follow a WFPB diet won't start with a lot of acne. To me that would be a better test since going from no acne to having acne would be a much clearer signal of causation. In fact if you started with a group of young plant eaters with no acne they could serve as their own control.

  • Reply Eat Food Not Animals May 22, 2018 at 6:01 pm

    So maybe it's the fat intake? I used to get really bad cystic acne when I was a carnist. I used to eat a lot of animals, that was really high in fat.

  • Reply Squeak's Buffeteria May 22, 2018 at 7:19 pm


  • Reply Squeak's Buffeteria May 22, 2018 at 7:23 pm

    Omega 666sssss HOLA

  • Reply Q. .Q May 22, 2018 at 7:50 pm

    Hmm what about sunflower seed sprouts?

  • Reply Sevey May 22, 2018 at 8:55 pm

    I use to eat sunflower shells as well as peanut shells. Most likely I was craving fiber from a poor childhood diet.

  • Reply Ark Silas/Sylvain Gourd May 22, 2018 at 9:00 pm

    Vegan pastor Robert Munro stand against carnists church's.He does outreach about veganism to other priest,support animal right activists.Stand is ground for Genesis 1,29.The perfect vegan plan.Vegan church's,1 to 2,2 to 4,4 to 8 etc.

  • Reply pug boi May 23, 2018 at 4:03 am

    Can you do a vid on Maca root, I saw online is "regulates" hormone levels but as everything on the internet people just make statements, any truth to this or any benefits

  • Reply Nikolay Nikolov May 23, 2018 at 4:45 pm

    But if they got enough omega 3, maybe it will negate the effect of the inflammatory omega 6 in the sunflower seeds 🙂

  • Reply Ellis tar Ceansa May 23, 2018 at 6:10 pm

    Who'd have thought!

  • Reply Vegan Buddhist May 24, 2018 at 6:02 am

    Has he ever done videos on the biotin/hair skin and nail pills? I’m curious due to the high levels of biotin being known to cause acne as well as the high levels of vitamin A from animal sources, which is toxic to your kidneys

  • Reply Playthrough & Review May 24, 2018 at 6:03 pm

    Sunflower seeds and canned tuna are the only 2 things that give me heartburn.

  • Reply kurtzcol May 25, 2018 at 1:59 am

    i eat bags of these things at work and i think they make my skin look better maybe from all the vitamin e in the seeds

  • Reply Maurizio Esposito May 25, 2018 at 3:20 pm

    I love you Dr. Greger but you have the most annoying voice 😂

  • Reply GreenVeganTeen May 25, 2018 at 6:23 pm

    Dude I was eating 😂. I wasn’t ready for that picture

  • Reply Nmethyltransferase May 26, 2018 at 3:30 pm

    Wait, wait… First chocolate, and now this? Dr. McDougall must be dancing the bhangra after watching these videos!

  • Reply Alexandra C May 30, 2018 at 2:30 pm

    I cannot eat the hulled ones; so i always use the raw without hull. I am one of those people who has difficulty opening them and many times i have eaten bits of shell over the years. also i've no patience for shells. I used to crave them a lot when i smoked heavily; i think on account of the high levels of zinc which is depleted by cigarette smoke. It is hard to say if they affect acne from this study, if we don't know what else the Iranians in the study were eating. They already had acne presumably, so that is probably caused by stress or hormone fluctuations. Or perhaps it was aggravated dairy, or something else in their diet; they would have to eliminate all other foods to be sure.

  • Reply Alexandra C May 30, 2018 at 2:30 pm

    I cannot eat the hulled ones; so i always use the raw without hull. I am one of those people who has difficulty opening them and many times i have eaten bits of shell over the years. also i've no patience for shells. I used to crave them a lot when i smoked heavily; i think on account of the high levels of zinc which is depleted by cigarette smoke. It is hard to say if they affect acne from this study, if we don't know what else the Iranians in the study were eating. They already had acne presumably, so that is probably caused by stress or hormone fluctuations. Or perhaps it was aggravated dairy, or something else in their diet; they would have to eliminate all other foods to be sure.

  • Reply SKPjoe Coursegold May 30, 2018 at 8:21 pm

    me? 1 teaspoon a day.

  • Reply Curiodities June 1, 2018 at 9:16 pm

    Hypothesis: if sunflower seeds have lots of cadmium (2:08) and glyphosate binds to metals, than they may also contain a lot of glyphosate, which leads to a leaky gut = toxins getting into the bloodstream => pimples everywhere!
    I know, it may look like a long loop, but could it be true?

  • Reply Strav S June 3, 2018 at 11:26 pm

    I EAT the SHELLS with the seed and do not suffer from crunchy stools. I also boil my sunflower seeds with the hull on in salt, then roast them until the shells are dry and very easy to chew. No acne or crunchy stool problems.

  • Reply seth chizmar June 8, 2018 at 11:03 pm

    Damit Dr.Gregor I was eating my beans!

  • Reply Agate Auzāne June 11, 2018 at 2:16 pm

    Jesus, who eats sunflower seeds with shells? o_O Didn't even know it was possible

  • Reply purpleblueunicorn June 12, 2018 at 4:24 pm

    My healthy breakfast had sunflower seeds and cacao powder 🙁
    No acne though, will keep this on watch 🙂

  • Reply Gewgulkan Suhckitt June 13, 2018 at 9:27 am

    When it comes to food causing acne, I think one important detail gets overlooked. Many of these foods are eaten in a manner that brings the food in contact with the fingers. I mean, you normally don't eat sunflower seeds or chocolate bars with a spoon. If you don't wash your hands well after this, inevitably you'll end up touching your face. So it may not be dietary sunflowers seeds so much as topically applied sunflower seeds.

  • Reply johnny roe June 15, 2018 at 2:13 am

    so it the cadmium something else or omega 6

  • Reply kellybelly274 June 30, 2018 at 3:55 am

    Could you please do videos on all seeds? Benefits, which is the better seed, comparence to seed butters, etc.

  • Reply Alex Delashmit December 11, 2018 at 1:29 pm

    I'm allergic to these. But not peanuts

  • Reply Brescalofrio April 2, 2019 at 12:41 pm

    What about sprouted sunflower seeds?

  • Reply Martin Conta Gets Banned June 16, 2019 at 4:50 am

    I eat a lot of sunflower seeds, and I do get pretty bad break outs, for someone my age.

  • Reply Hello All June 22, 2019 at 2:58 am

    was it indicated if the sunflower seeds were roasted with oil or not? that's very important…

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