The Perricone diet is an anti-inflammatory and anti-aging diet that emphasizes salmon and nutritional supplements. It is designed to promote weight loss, maintain a healthy weight, and slow or reverse the visible aging process. The cornerstone food in the diet is fish, primarily salmon.
The Perricone diet is promoted for weight loss, improving physical appearance, and slowing the aging process. The diet is laid out in a series of books. In general, each book emphasizes a different aspect of the diet: the first book is about the diet's effect on diminishing wrinkles and slowing or reversing the visible aging process, the second book focuses on skin care, his third book targets acne, and his fifth book deals with weight loss. Regardless of what it is used for, the basic components of the Perricone diet are foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and antioxidants. Above all else, the diet emphasizes eating fish, especially wild Alaskan salmon. He suggests eating salmon at least five times a week but as often as two or three times a day. Other fish allowed on the diet include tuna, cod, shellfish, sole, flounder, swordfish, trout, and halibut. Among the other foods allowed on the diet are nuts, green vegetables, beans, berries, egg whites, low-fat milk and cottage cheese, citrus fruit, olives and olive oil, apples, cantaloupe, kiwi, honeydew melon, nectarines, peaches, pears, tomatoes and tomato juice, tofu, and yogurt.
Foods to be avoided include bread (and anything with flour), pasta, rice, cereal, popcorn, sugar, coffee, red meat, pizza, most cheese, butter and margarine, grapes, watermelon, bananas, carrots, corn, potatoes, and diet and regular soft drinks. The glycemic index (GI) is used by the Perricone diet as a basic guide for eating. Under the diet, foods that have a glycemic index of more than 50 should be avoided while those with a GI of 50 and under are acceptable.
The glycemic index measures the quality rather than the quantity of carbohydrates found in food. Quality refers to how quickly blood sugar levels are raised following eating. The basis of the GI is glucose, which is assigned an index value of 100. Other foods are compared to glucose to arrive at their ratings. The higher the GI number, the faster blood sugar increases when that particular food is consumed. A high GI is usually considered to be 70 and greater, a medium GI is 56–69, and a low GI value is 55 or less.
The following is the GI for a few foods:
But the GI in not a straightforward formula when it comes to reducing blood sugar levels. Various factors affect the GI value of a specific food, such as how the food is prepared (boiled, baked, sautéd, or fried, for example) and what other foods are consumed with it. For these reasons, the American Diabetes Association has adopted a position that there is not enough conclusive evidence to recommend the general use of a low-GI diet for people with diabetes. Not all physicians and endocrinologists (medical specialists who treat disorders of the glands, including diabetes) subscribe to the association's position.
Besides salmon, Perricone has developed a list of what he calls ten “super foods” that are high in essential fatty acids, fiber, or antioxidants, along with foods that help to regulate blood glucose levels. These foods are:
Perricone's anti-inflammatory diet is the cornerstone of his beauty and health program. Its core components are:
Perricone says these foods and beverages act as natural anti-inflammatories and help maintain normal insulin and blood glucose levels. The following excerpt is from the Perricone website and explains why his diet is anti-inflammatory and how it affects the aging process:
“Our cells use oxygen to produce energy and they generate free radicals as a byproduct of this and many other metabolic functions like circulation and digestion. Free radicals are also produced by sunlight, toxins such as pesticides, cigarette smoke and air pollution. Free radicals are without question the central players in the aging process. But there is another natural phenomenon that affects aging—inflammation. Not the redness, swelling or irritation you may think of but subclinical inflammation, which is not visible to the naked eye, and takes place at the cellular level. What is the relationship between free radicals and inflammation? When free radicals damage a cell, they cause inflammation. Antioxidants scoop up free radicals, preventing the cellular degeneration and production of chemicals within the body that cause further damaging.”
The basic Perricone diet consists of five meals a day: breakfast, lunch, dinner, and two snacks. Proteinrich foods must be eaten before the rest of the meal. It also recommends 20–30 minutes of exercise each day. A sample one-day meal plan from The Perricone Prescription is:
One of the biggest criticisms of the Perricone diet is the high cost of the more than two dozen dietary supplements and topical creams that Perricone says people need as part of his diet plan for a healthy and youthful appearance. The products can be purchased through his company, N.V. Perricone, M.D., Nutriceuticals. A 30-day supply of eight supplements for his weight management program cost $200 in 2012. Other brands of the supplements also can be purchased at health food stores, vitamin shops, and many pharmacies.
The primary function of the Perricone diet is to slow the aging process by counteracting the body's inflammatory process, resulting in healthier and younger looking skin and overall appearance. Its secondary function is as a weight-loss program that stresses a diet high in antioxidants and low in carbohydrates. Weight loss for overweight or obese people can lead to a lower risk for a number of diseases, including some types of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Diet specifics vary slightly among the books written by Perricone. Since the diet has a soy component, it can be adapted to a vegetarian diet but probably not vegan. Omega-3 fatty acids can be obtained from flaxseed oil rather than fish.
Benefits include living longer and looking younger, according to Perricone. Specifically, Perricone says his diet plan will reduce wrinkles, slow or reverse the visible aging process, clear acne, and eliminate bags and dark circles around the eyes. Perricone says this is because his diet plan reduces inflammation in the body, which he believes is the root of most of the physical appearance issues associated with aging. The Perricone diet and others like it can be beneficial in reducing the risks of many medical problems, such as heart disease and diabetes, since it emphasizes eating fish, vegetables, and fruit.
The Perricone diet recommends regulating blood sugar levels by eating foods that have a low glycemic index. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Diabetes Association, the American Heart Association, and the United States Department of Agriculture do not endorse low GI diets and do not support extreme intakes of fish. Such extreme intakes make the diet unbalanced. Since the diet advocates the use of numerous dietary supplements, people considering the Perricone diet should check with their doctor or pharmacist to see if any of the supplements interact with any prescription medications they are taking. People who are on a blood thinner, such as Coumadin (warfarin), should consult their doctor before going on the diet. Women who are pregnant or lactating should not go on the diet without consulting their physician or obstetrician. People with existing medical conditions, including heart disease and diabetes, should discuss the diet with their physician before starting it.
In the UK, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has set upper limits for oily fish consumption that are no more than two portions per week for girls and women of childbearing age and no more than four portions per week for boys, men, and older women due to the risk of contamination.
Although his books have been best sellers in the United States and elsewhere, there is not general acceptance of most of Perricone's philosophy and claims by the medical community. There is also very little scientific research to substantiate most of his claims regarding the anti-aging aspects of his diet. There is research that shows a diet low in carbohydrates can promote weight loss but it is not known how these diets affect long-term health.
See also Anti-inflammatory diets .
Perricone, Nicholas. Dr. Perricone's 7 Secrets to Beauty, Health, and Longevity: The Miracle of Cellular Rejuvenation. Rev ed. New York: Ballantine, 2007.
Perricone, Nicholas. Forever Young: The Science of Nutrigenomics for Glowing, Wrinkle-Free Skin and Radiant Health at Every Age. New York: Atria Books, 2011.
Perricone, Nicholas. The Perricone Prescription Personal Journal: Your Total Body and Face Rejuvenation Daybook. New York: HarperCollins, 2002.
Perricone, Nicholas. The Perricone Prescription: A Physician's 28-Day Program for Total Body and Face Rejuvenation. New York: HarperResource, 2002.
Perricone, Nicholas. The Perricone Weight-Loss Diet Personal Daily Journal: A Diet Journal to Keep You Focused on Your Weight-Loss Goals. New York: Ballantine, 2005.
Perricone, Nicholas. The Perricone Weight-Loss Diet: A Simple 3-Part Plan to Lose the Fat, the Wrinkles, and the Years. New York: Ballantine, 2005.
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Ken R. Wells