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Pizza and your face: is there a connection?

Hey, Pizzaface! You've heard it before, though it's long been assumed to be an urban legend: junk food makes your face break out. Growing up, I knew plenty of people who ate whatever they wanted, and had skin like a Dove model's. I also knew people whose faces looked like the surface of Mars, seemingly no matter what they ate or didn't eat and despite taking prescription meds that made them act weird (Acutane, for instance). But now, after 30 years of scientists denying a solid connection between diet and pimples, Scientific American is reporting that some fatty foods -- particularly dairy -- may play a role, but not because the fat in those foods ends up in your pores. Rather, the hormones they contain can trigger testosterone surges in the body, and testosterone is a major contributor to acne outbreaks since it dials up the activity of both the sebaceous glands and the lining cells. Testosterone is also the reason that acne outbreaks tend to be worse in teenage boys than girls, though both sexes are vulnerable.

According to Scientific American, the reason for this is that "milk from pregnant cows contains hormones that oil glands can turn into dihydrotestosterone, testosterone's most potent form." Doctors who have asked acne-suffering patients to cut out dairy for six months often find that this change in diet has a dramatic impact on acne. But dairy isn't the only suspect in this case; researchers also think (but can't yet prove) that diets high in white flour and processed carbs contribute to acne, and that diets high in "good" fats like Omega-3 can help assuage pimples ("good" fats are anti-inflammatory). When all is said and done, though, it could turn out that pizza -- rich in dairy, white flour and processed carbs -- really does give you pizza face.

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Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington Library in San Marino, California
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History
The Concept of the American 'Backyard' is Newer Than You Think
A home in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
A home in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington Library in San Marino, California

Backyards are as American as apple pie and baseball. If you live in a suburban or rural area, chances are good that you have a lawn, and maybe a pool, some patio furniture, and a grill to boot.

This wasn’t always the case, though. As Smithsonian Insider reports, it wasn’t until the 1950s that Americans began to consider the backyard an extension of the home, as well as a space for recreation and relaxation. After World War II, Americans started leaving the big cities and moving to suburban homes that came equipped with private backyards. Then, after the 40-hour work week was implemented and wages started to increase, families started spending more money on patios, pools, and well-kept lawns, which became a “symbol of prosperity” in the 1950s, according to a new Smithsonian Institution exhibit.

A man mows his lawn in the 1950s
In this photo from the Smithsonian Institution's exhibit, a man mows his lawn in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington
Library in San Marino, California

Entitled "Patios, Pools, & the Invention of the American Back Yard," the exhibition includes photographs, advertisements, and articles about backyards from the 1950s and 1960s. The traveling display is currently on view at the Temple Railroad & Heritage Museum in Temple, Texas, and from there it will head to Hartford, Connecticut, in December.

Prior to the 1950s, outdoor yards were primarily workspaces, MLive.com reports. Some families may have had a vegetable garden, but most yards were used to store tools, livestock, and other basic necessities.

The rise of the backyard was largely fueled by materials that were already on hand, but hadn’t been accessible to the average American during World War II. As Smithsonian Insider notes, companies that had manufactured aluminum and concrete for wartime efforts later switched to swimming pools, patio furniture, and even grilling utensils.

A family eats at a picnic table in the 1960s
A family in Mendham, New Jersey, in the 1960s
Molly Adams/Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Gardens, Maida Babson Adams American Garden Collection

At the same time, DIY projects started to come into fashion. According to an exhibit caption of a Popular Mechanics article from the 1950s, “‘Doing-it-yourself’ was advertised as an enjoyable and affordable way for families to individualize their suburban homes.” The magazine wrote at the time that “patios, eating areas, places for play and relaxation are transforming back yards throughout the nation.”

The American backyard continues to grow to this day. As Bloomberg notes, data shows that the average backyard grew three years in a row, from 2015 to 2017. The average home last year had 7048 square feet of outdoor space—plenty of room for a sizable Memorial Day cookout.

[h/t Smithsonian Insider]

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