Wrinkle-free for life?
Nicholas Perricone claims that his diet, supplement, and cosmetics regimen prevents--and even reverses--wrinkles, sagging skin, and other signs of aging.
The Connecticut dermatologist seems to be popping up everywhere. His "The Wrinkle Cure" and "The Perricone Prescription" have spent time on the best-seller lists. His expensive line of supplements and even-pricier cosmetics have done well (sales for the cosmetics are expected to top $80 million this year). And his infomercial was one of the top fund-raising attractions for public television stations last year.
One place you won't see him any more is at Yale University. Although the jacket of "The Wrinkle Cure" identifies Perricone as "Yale University's dermatological and anti-aging expert," it turns out that he wasn't exactly teaching or researching up a storm there.
"Dr. Perricone held an unpaid appointment as assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Yale School of Medicine," said a university statement. "In that capacity, he provided oversight to medical students in a clinical setting several times per year. His appointment expired in June 2002."
Perricone quickly landed another academic title, at his alma mater, Michigan State University. Two months after appointing him an adjunct professor, MSU announced that Perricone had given the school $5 million. (The university denies that there was any connection between the appointment and the gift.)
What's so appealing about Perricone's message?
"The smooth skin that contributes so much to your youthful appearance does not have to be lost during mid-life and beyond...." he says in "The Perricone Prescription." "You can reverse and certainly prevent visible skin damage .... Being wrinkle free for life is achievable
But not everyone buys into Perricone's pitch.
"He proclaims these ideas, but he hasn't studied them at all, at least anything that's been published," says Sheldon Pinnell, former chair of the division of dermatology at the Duke University Medical Center. "You can say without any argument at all that Perricone has never done a credible experiment that proves his program does what he says it does."
"There's a retreat from hard data," says Barbara Gilchrest, chair of the department of dermatology at Boston University School of Medicine and Boston Medical Center. "There's lots of testimonials and hand-waving. Nick Perricone has made a fortune talking about this. I'm happy for him, but I'm not sure how much of a service it is to the consuming public."
So why was Perricone's untested program used to raise money by so many public broacasting stations during the past year? "He had good credentials, we didn't hear any criticism of his books, and our producers who watched the program thought it was good," says PBS vice president of programming Gustavo Sagastume. PBS never asked outside experts to review Perricone's claims.
Among those claims (Perricone never responded to our request for an interview):
* PROTEIN. "The contemporary American diet rarely contains protein in sufficient quantity to maintain and repair cell and skin health," says Perricone. That's why he recommends 10 to 14 ounces per day of high-quality animal protein like fish, egg whites, or skinless chicken and turkey breast.
The truth: Most Americans already eat about twice as much protein as they need, much of it high-quality animal protein. And no one has tested a high-protein diet on skin wrinkling.
* GLYCEMIC HORRORS. "Think twice before you reach for a carrot," says Perricone. Why? "When foods rapidly convert to sugar in the bloodstream ... they cause browning, or glycating of the protein in your tissues. ... Glycation can occur in skin as well, creating detrimental age-related changes to collagen--and that means deep wrinkles." Among Perricone's "Foods to Avoid": bananas, bread, cereals (except non-instant oatmeal), dried fruit, fruit juice, mango, oranges, papaya, popcorn, rice, and watermelon. Vegetables to shun include beets, corn, cooked carrots, and sweet potatoes.
The truth: "There are several missing links of scientific data that would be required to substantiate this claim," says blood sugar (glucose) expert Cyril Kendall of the University of Toronto. "As far as I am aware, no studies have looked at glucose in the diet and skin wrinkling. The claim just isn't supported by the scientific literature."
* SALMON. "Of all the foods that can keep you young," says Perricone, "fish tops the list." He singles out salmon, because of its protein, anti-inflammatory fatty acids, and (he claims) DMAE (dimethylaminoethanol). He calls the fish "your magic bullet for great skin tone, keeping your face firm and contoured."
The truth: While salmon and other fish may reduce your risk of heart disease, there is no evidence that they prevent wrinkles. What's more, there is no credible evidence that DMAE in food or supplements can smooth the skin. And none of the scientists we contacted (at the National Marine Fisheries Service, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the School of Aquatic and Fishery Science at the University of Washington) could even confirm that DMAE is found in salmon.
* ALPHA LIPOIC ACID. It's "one of the most powerful antiaging, antioxidant, anti-inflammatories available," says Perricone. "It blocks the production of enzymes that damage the collagen fibers, preserving a smooth skin surface. It is equally effective in preventing glycation, the harmful effects of sugar molecules on collagen fibers."
The truth: "Lipoic acid is an antioxidant and does have antioxidant powers," says Pinnell. "But there's no evidence that having extra lipoic acid in the skin is effective. It's not a bad idea. It just doesn't seem to work."
Then there's Perricone's daily vitamin regimen--a multivitamin and at least a dozen other supplements with breakfast and half a dozen more with lunch. You can conveniently order them from Perricone's Web site. Total cost for the "antioxidants, B-complex energy enhancers, macrominerals, lipotropic factors, enzymes, and herbal extracts" in Perricone's Skin & Total Body Nutritional Supplements: $120 a month. (You can also order a month's worth of Perricone's Weight Management Program supplements for $195, but that's another story.)
And don't forget the liquid cleansers, moisturizers, and morning and bedtime wrinkle-free skin care products you'll need. Perricone offers four "recommended" collections of "cosmeceuticals." Recommendation #3, for example, consists of "8 products designed to reduce the appearance of loss of tone, sagging skin, and fine lines." At $438, it's the least costly of the four.
Being wrinkle-free for life isn't cheap.
Wrinkle-Free For Life?
COPYRIGHT 2003 Center for Science in the Public Interest
COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group