by Carol Milano

Eating the right foods can make you look years younger,declared Nicholas Perricone, MD. A million women bought his book. Is "The Wrinkle Cure" a work of fact, or fiction? This exclusive story probes the pro's and con's of his claims.

Dr. Perricone's Approach
"Low-grade invisible inflammation is behind the aging process and every major age-associated disease, including breast cancer, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and wrinkled skin," asserts Dr. Perricone, Assistant Clinical Professor of Dermatology, Yale University School of Medicine. "If inflammation is the enemy, I wanted to find a strategy to defeat it."

People with diets high in saturated fat or sugar seem to have more wrinkles than those consuming less sugar and fat, says Dr. Perricone. His research led to a three-part approach:

* anti-oxidants (such as Vitamins A, C and E)

* an anti-inflammatory diet

* anti-inflammatory agents applied directly to your skin
      The recommends DMAE, Vitamin C Ester, Alpha Lipoic Acid)

An anti-inflammatory diet brought his patients such great improvements that Dr. Perricone set out to develop what he now calls a "three-day nutritional face-lift, using foods. It always brings a 'Wow!'" His popular television programs feature the results.

So, can foods really cure wrinkles?

Pro ...
"Yes!" replies Wilma Bergfeld, MD, Director of Clinical Research, Department of Dermatology, Cleveland Clinic. Skin ages because of destruction of collagen and elastin, slower turnover of cells, a loss of nerves and blood vessels, and other factors. "No doubt inflammation plays a part, as do a number of insults, especially environmental: sun, wind, too little or too much humidity, and extreme cold," she explains.

Dr. Bergfeld has researched anti-oxidants to see whether fruit acids (lactic, glycolic, ascorbic, beta-hydroxy acids, and retinols) can be used topically to reduce wrinkles. "We put them ON the skin, but you could ingest them -- hypothetically, that should work." Some fruit acids, when applied to the skin, can rejuvenate it by enhancing collagen and blood vessels, and normalizing abnormal cells.

... And Con
"No!" exclaims Neil Sadick, MD, Clinical Professor of Dermatology, Weill-Cornell Medical College. "No food has been shown to slow down the aging process. There is no proof that any given nutrient can reverse wrinkling. Dr. Perricone has a big following, but there's no science behind it."

"The studies have not really been done," Dr. Bergfeld agrees. "The evidence is anecdotal, based on cross-over information." For example, since low-fat, low-carbohydrate diets are known to lower the risk of certain diseases (such as breast cancer), reduce abnormal cells, and make cells more youthful, "that crosses over to other tissues," she believes.

What You Should Consume
"To give your skin the best look, drink fluids," advises Dr. Sadick. Skin tends to lose more water as the epidermis thins later in life. "Drink a quart a day to keep your skin hydrated. More hydration gives the appearance of less wrinkling. And stay out of very hot showers," he adds.

Green tea is now being studied for its efficacy in sun protection and anti-aging, Dr. Sadick reports. Because many fluids have a negative ingredient, (sugar in juices, caffeine in coffee, etc.), he encourages patients to drink ample water and green tea.

Among the many proven harmful effects of fatty acids is promoting cancer. Since fats and sugars are somewhat related, Dr. Bergfeld advocates a low-fat diet, rich in anti-oxidants. "To enhance the tissue that makes you a healthier individual, it's reasonable to follow these nutritional guidelines. They can be helpful over time, and they certainly won't be harmful," she says.

Be sure you get a full complement of anti-oxidants, Dr. Bergfeld stresses. She recommends a daily supplement like Centrum, which is "affordable, with zinc and folic acid, etc. Conceptually, a diet that can help skin should include reduced carbohydrates and sugars."

In a nutshell, that's exactly Dr. Perricone's concept. He urges avoiding foods that raise blood sugar (bananas, breads, mangoes, papayas, corn, etc.) and choosing anti-oxidant rich produce like asparagus, broccoli, citrus fruits and leafy green vegetables. His "best bets" include berries, avocado, bell peppers, squash, salmon, and tomatoes.

A recent multi-center study of 453 subjects supports Dr. Perricone's view: researchers found less skin damage with a higher intake of vegetables, fish, olive oil and legumes, and a lower intake of butter, margarine, dairy and sugar products

Final Lines On Erasing Lines
If you want to reduce wrinkles, drink lots of water, and consider green tea, as well. Avoid hot showers, sun, wind and other strong elements. When it comes to food, "a low-fat diet with anti-oxidants is a no-brainer," concludes Dr. Bergfeld.

RESOURCE: THE WRINKLE CURE, by Nicholas Perricone, MD. Warner Books, 2000.

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