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The Perricone Promise: Look Younger, Live Longer in Three Easy Steps
by Nicholas Perricone, M.D.
HarperEntertainment, 2004

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1  The Perricone Promise

The world is so fast that there are days when the person who says it can’t be done is interrupted by the person who is doing it.


The universe is full of magical things, patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.


WHAT IF I WERE TO TELL YOU that we are on the threshold of a revolution that can reverse the signs of aging? And that with this book in hand, by following just three simple steps, you can start reaping these benefits today?

When I wrote The Wrinkle Cure and The Perricone Prescription, I introduced the Inflammation-Aging Connection—the concept that inflammation at the cellular level is the single most powerful cause of the signs of aging. That’s not to mention the correlation between inflammation and such chronic diseases as arthritis, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, cancer, and strokes.

The extensive research and the resulting solutions I introduced still hold true today, and thousands of people have reported how much better they look and feel after following my program.

I could have discontinued my research there. But I knew there was more to learn. I knew that if inflammation was at the root of aging, something deeper must be able to mediate that inflammation. That “something deeper” turns out to be the biggest breakthrough in anti-aging medicine in years: protein-like substances in our bodies called peptides and neuropeptides.

Peptides are compounds consisting of two or more amino acids (the building blocks of proteins), chained together by what is called a peptide bond.

Neuropeptides are peptides released by neurons (brain cells) as intercellular messengers. Some neuropeptides function as neurotransmitters, and others function as hormones.

Peptides and neuropeptides, like many substances in our bodies (think cholesterol) can work both for and against us. The good news is that by following the program in The Perricone Promise, you can dramatically increase the positive effects of anti-inflammatory peptides and neuropeptides and greatly decrease their negative influences.

As a result, you will experience dramatic changes not only in the way you look, but also in the way you feel. In just twenty-eight days, you can erase what seems like ten years from your face and body. With The Perricone Promise, you’ll learn to help reverse the aging process and add many more youthful years to your life.

Look Better, Feel Better in Three Easy Steps

As a dermatologist, my primary interest and concern is how my patients look. Is your skin clear and healthy? Is your skin radiant and glowing, or is it dull and sallow? Is your skin heavily lined and wrinkled, or is it toned and supple? This concern does not stem from an obsession with youth or with looking like a model or film star. The answers to these questions are prime indicators of overall health. Your face and body are constant, visible monitors of how well or how poorly you are aging. Looking good and having a positive body image is not vanity; it is your road to a long, healthy, and happy life. This is one of the key reasons that I chose dermatology as a medical specialty—to be able to find new ways to achieve these highly visible goals regardless of chronological age.

My promise to you is that you can achieve these goals—looking younger and living longer—by following the three easy steps included in this book:

Step 1. DIET. A revolutionary nutritional program that includes the Ten Superfoods to help reduce inflammation and rejuvenate the skin and body.

Step 2. SUPPLEMENTS. In addition to eating well, these multipurpose and highly effective nutritional supplements will increase production of the anti-inflammatory peptides and neuropeptides, your body’s natural anti-aging weapons.

Step 3. TOPICALS. Working from the outside in, these newly formulated neuropeptide-based creams will have you looking younger almost instantly.

Throughout the rest of this book, you’ll find ways of unleashing the power of neuropeptides to:

•  Increase production of collagen and elastin.

•  Repair scars and wrinkles.

•  Increase circulation, resulting in breathtaking radiance and glow.

•  Experience rapid wound repair.

•   Develop a dewy, supple appearance to skin that you haven’t seen since your teens.

But this book is not just about the way you look. By following this simple three-step program, you can rejuvenate not only your skin, but also your brain, your emotional state, and your overall health. Increasing the power of positive peptides can result in such diverse effects as:

•  Decreased inflammation in every organ system.

•  Increased efficiency of metabolism, resulting in cellular repair.

•  Elevated mood.

•  A strong and healthy heart that is resistant to disease.

•  Denser bones as you age.

•  Decreased risk of certain forms of cancer.

•  Repair of the skin.

•   Normalized metabolism for losing weight while retaining youth.

•  A rejuvenated immune system.

The Brain-Beauty Connection

Each step I have taken in my career has led me to uncover secrets that go deep beneath the surface of the skin. When I began my research into peptides and neuropeptides, my goal was to help solve my patients’ skin problems. I wanted to find ways to help them look healthier and younger.

How exciting, then, to discover that my research had much greater benefit than I ever imagined. It turns out that boosting the positive powers of peptides and neuropeptides will not only help you look healthier and younger, but actually help you maintain the health of every system and organ in your body—and even give you an edge on reversing the aging process. And it’s all due to the Brain-Beauty Connection.

Prior to the discovery of neuropeptides, control of the brain and nervous system was thought to be accomplished through a complicated network of neurotransmitters (such as serotonin and dopamine), hormones (like adrenaline and cortisol), and enzymes.

Today, we know that matters are infinitely more complex. As brain researcher Dr. Steve Henricksen once put it, “We used to think the brain was like a computer. Now we think each cell is like a computer, a separate computer. And one single cell is like the whole brain.”

If the brain is at all like a collection of integrated, high-speed computers, neuropeptides seem to form the electrochemical communications web that keeps them balanced and working in unison.

There are cells in the brain that produce various neuropeptides, and these neuropeptides do just about everything. They can be either pro-inflammatory or anti-inflammatory. They are responsible for many functions: They control our mood, energy levels, pain and pleasure reception, body weight, and ability to solve problems; they also form memories and regulate our immune system. These active little messengers in the brain actually turn on cellular function in the skin. (It’s interesting to note that the immune system is an extension of the brain, and that the skin is an immune organ.)

Beauty Is Much More Than Skin Deep

When I was a medical student, we studied embryology. There I learned that three layers of tissue develop into every organ system in our bodies. One fact that particularly intrigued me was that the same layer of tissue that was responsible for the production of the brain also produced skin. That is why, when we eat a food or take a nutritional supplement that is therapeutic for the brain, the skin improves. This simple fact shaped much of my research into the role of peptides and neuropeptides in the Brain-Beauty Connection.

While manipulating the neuropeptides, neurotransmitters, and hormones that are in the brain to help create younger, more beautiful skin, increase longevity, and slow the aging process might seem more at home in a Michael Crichton or Robin Cook novel, believe me when I tell you that it is not only possible, but in fact the new reality.

Scientists now know that these neuropeptides, neurotransmitters, and hormones have a vast cellular communications system. Neuropeptides are nature’s “cell” phones. There is a trio controlling every aspect of our bodies, using neuropeptides as their messengers. That is, the brain signals the thymus, which is the master gland of immunity (more about this in chapter 2); the thymus signals the skin; and the skin talks back to the brain. Every messenger has a recipient for its message. These recipients are known as receptor sites. Think of it as “cellular communication”: The cells communicate in the same way as making a phone call from your phone (the messenger) to another phone, which is there to receive the call (the receptor site). There is no voice mail here—it is a world in which (for good or ill) every call is answered, instantly.

The message delivered at the receptor site depends upon the particular neuropeptide, neurotransmitter, or hormone making the call. If high levels of the potentially harmful neuropeptide Substance P (which you will also learn more about in chapter 2) are being released in the brain, for example, we will experience “psychic pain”—we will feel depressed and anxious. Substance P has receptor sites throughout the body, including in the skin, so the message or call sent to the receptors in the skin might be: “We’re depressed. Let’s turn on inflammation in our skin cells today.”

The result? Accelerated aging of the skin through abnormal cell turnover, loss of radiance and tone.

So the brain sends messages to the skin. But remember, this “phone system” circuitry goes both ways. We now know that just by touching the skin, we can actually change the circuitry in our brain! This is an amazing concept if we take a minute to think about it. Usually we think it takes a powerful drug or surgical or therapeutic procedure of some sort to make any kind of significant change in the body or mind. However, studies have shown that just fifteen minutes of daily massage help premature infants gain weight faster, enabling them to leave the hospital sooner than their counterparts. The massaged babies are more relaxed, active, and alert. Six months later, they continue to be more advanced.

Studies in orphanages and hospitals repeatedly tell us that infants deprived of skin contact lose weight, become ill, and even die. Infants who are held cry less than those who are not, their immune systems are enhanced, and they handle stress more efficiently.

The need for touch continues throughout our lives. When diabetic children were massaged for a month, blood glucose levels decreased and they were able to reduce their medication levels. Asthmatic children had fewer attacks. Massage helped children with autism, severe burns, cancer, and arthritis. These are perfect illustrations of how neuropeptides can be activated in the brain from touch receptors in the skin. And the neuropeptides released, such as endorphins, send a healing, positive message to the brain.

I recently spoke with Jim Parker of the Do It Now Foundation, who shared with me some fascinating information on the world of neuropeptides back when they were first known as endorphins. They were going to be the “magic bullets” of psychopharmacology, miraculous chemical keys to unlock the secrets of pleasure and pain, joy and sorrow, memory, intelligence, and behavior. They were supposed to explain everything from falling in love to falling asleep, and a full understanding of their actions and effects was going to cure drug addiction and mental illness, regulate mood and appetite, and even heighten creativity and sexual response. They were the endorphins, the internally produced morphine-like substances responsible for an array of drug-like effects in the body, and for a while after their 1975 discovery, everyone wanted to speculate about them. But the euphoria didn’t last. Life got complicated as research findings grew confusing, then contradictory. As the number of identified endorphins grew from month to month, and scientists’ understanding of their many effects broadened, they became known as endogenous opioids, and finally neuropeptides, of which endorphins form a small subcategory. Investigators continued to look hard and long at the powerful new body of chemicals and quietly went about the difficult work of figuring them out—or at least figuring out a way to figure them out. In the process, they linked them with a vast array of physical and emotional problems—as both possible causes and potential cures—and the prognosis is now good for at least some of the promised early magic bullets to hit their mark. In human terms, for the millions of people afflicted with a wide range of problems from alcoholism and obesity to chronic pain and schizophrenia, the study of neuropeptides holds great promise.

Botox? Notox!

One of the great joys of practicing dermatology is seeing immediate, visible effects when the right treatment is applied to a particular condition. This has been a great motivator for me throughout my career, and it continues to provide the inspiration for spending many hours in the laboratory looking for that next miracle ingredient that can truly deliver results to the skin.

For far too long, the beauty and skin care industry has focused on the look and feel of a product—its packaging and its perfume, as opposed to genuine efficacy. Since I first introduced topical formulations containing highly active ingredients such as alpha lipoic acid (ALA) and dimethylaminoethanol (DMAE), retailers have had a hard time keeping their shelves stocked with these products. A new generation of women and men is controlling the marketplace—a generation that not only wants but actually demands products that work overtime to keep them as young looking and as vital as possible. I think this is an excellent development, because it has now involved many major corporations in serious research aimed toward resolving the problems of aging skin.

However, there is a somewhat alarming trend toward obtaining serious (and very costly) surgical procedures at a younger and younger age. Just turn on the TV and you will see some young woman, still in her teens, vying for radical surgery to turn herself into a clone of the current hot actress, model, or singer. America seems to be gripped by manic, radical makeover madness. According to a New York Times article, “A Lovelier You, With Off-the-Shelf Parts” by Alex Kuczynski (May 2, 2004), Americans underwent 8.3 million cosmetic surgery procedures in 2003, an increase of 12 percent over the previous year.

In addition to all the surgery, new fillers designed to plump up facial lines are being rushed to market. Use of Botox, a neurotoxin (neuro means “nerve”; toxin means “poison”) that paralyzes muscles to smooth out wrinkles and expression lines, is rampant. The Kuczynski article reports that the number of nonsurgical procedures, such as Botox, rose 22 percent over the previous year to 6.4 million. These products offer a quick fix, but there are questions about their long-term safety, questions that won’t be answered for years to come.

My ongoing goal is to find the Notox solution to signs and symptoms of aging on the face and in the body. This has led me to develop what might be termed the next generation of skin and body care—the peptides and neuropeptides.

Reversing the Aging Process

In The Wrinkle Cure and The Perricone Prescription, I introduced a major theme of my research: the Inflammation-Disease-Aging Connection. Because inflammation is a great contributor to accelerated aging, it has been an important focus of my ongoing scientific research. And we now know that neuropeptides and peptides play an important role in mediating inflammation.

For those of you who may not be familiar with the Inflammation-Aging Connection, here is a quick review.

Inflammation exists as a spectrum ranging from the highly visible, such as bright red sunburn, to the invisible. It is this invisible inflammation that I am referring to when I use the term inflammation. You can’t see it and you can’t feel it. This invisible inflammation (also called micro-inflammation) exists in all of our cells and is responsible for their eventual breakdown. It is responsible for the aging process that gives us wrinkled, sagging skin as well as age-related diseases as diverse as Alzheimer’s, diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, and the autoimmune diseases.

Simply put, if we want to decrease our risk for age-related diseases and decelerate the aging process, then we need to control inflammation. And we can do that best by controlling two essential lifestyle elements: diet and stress.


There are many causes of the inflammation-aging process, but I believe the primary cause is diet. Foods that we eat can either be pro-inflammatory (they provoke an inflammatory response) or anti-inflammatory (they suppress the inflammatory response). Pro-inflammatory foods are those that cause a rapid rise in blood sugar, resulting in the release of insulin into the bloodstream. The chief culprits in the pro-inflammatory arena are sugar and foods that quickly convert to sugar in the bloodstream, such as potatoes, breads, pastries, juice, chips, and rice cakes.

We have to understand and accept this simple but painful fact of life: Sugar can be toxic. Ingesting sugar causes a rise in blood sugar, resulting in a burst of inflammatory chemicals that spread throughout our bodies. Even worse, from a dermatological point of view, is that sugar can permanently attach to the collagen present in our skin and other parts of our body through a process known as glycation. Where the sugar attaches, there is a little mechanism creating inflammation, and that attachment becomes a source of inflammation in its own right. This inflammation produces enzymes that break down collagen, resulting in wrinkles. In addition to creating inflammation, glycation results in the cross-linking of our collagen, making it stiff and inflexible—somewhat like a soft, supple leather boot that has been left out in the rain and is now hard and stiff and brittle.

But it’s not only glycation of the skin we have to worry about. The overconsumption of sugar produces stiff sugar-protein bonds, which accumulate throughout our bodies as we get older. The sugar or glucose molecule “glues” itself to our collagen, as well as to our veins, arteries, ligaments, bones—even our brains! We then suffer from stiff joints, hardened arteries, failing organs—basically, sugar contributes to the deterioration of every bodily function.

It’s easy to see why we must avoid foods that cause elevated levels of sugar. The Perricone Promise provides many excellent food choices, recipes, and meal plans that will prevent this age-accelerating, dietary inflammation.


A second very important mediator of inflammation is stress. There are two kinds of stress—physical and psychic—and both cause inflammation. Physical stress can be caused by trauma, wounds, even the stretching of the skin from normal gravity. There is pretty good evidence that the gravity pulling on your skin when you simply get out of bed in the morning can result in an inflammatory response in your skin (my son often used this line to avoid school).

Mental or psychic stress can be just as detrimental as physical stress. When you are stressed (regardless of the cause), you produce neuropeptides that exert a negative effect on your brain by triggering the production of cortisol, a hormone that can have dire consequences for your health when produced in large amounts.

Cortisol is made by the adrenal glands, which sit above the kidneys. Cortisol is needed to activate the body when it is under stress, enabling us to survive physically dangerous situations through what is known as the fight-or-flight syndrome. The release of cortisol allows our muscles to be fueled for action. Cortisol is an emergency hormone called into play in desperate situations.

However, when a high level of cortisol circulates in the body for long periods of time, it is toxic to our organ systems. It will actually destroy brain cells, elevate our blood sugar (resulting in diabetes), cause damage to the immune system (making us more susceptible to infection and cancer), elevate our blood pressure, decalcify our bones, and thin our skin.

The more stress you’re under, the greater the amount of cortisol produced. These stress-related neuropeptides and hormones also send messages to the immune system, effectively shutting it down. And that is not all. The same neuropeptides send signals directly to the skin and produce an inflammatory response. The more stress you have in your life, the greater the chance that inflammation will occur somewhere in or on your body.

Luckily, the two major causes of inflammation—diet and stress—are also the most controllable. In The Perricone Promise, you will discover a variety of strategies to suppress the release of pro- inflammatory neuropeptides (the “bad” guys), while encouraging the production of anti-inflammatory neuropeptides (the “good” guys).

•   In Step 1, I will talk about diet and much of the very latest research on foods that have great anti-inflammatory powers. You will learn, for instance, a color-coordinated system for choosing foods that have the highest amounts of natural peptide boosters and anti-inflammatories.

•   In Step 2, you will learn which nutritional supplements have significant anti-inflammatory activity and be introduced to special polysaccharide peptide “foods” that have great therapeutic potential for the skin, body, and brain.

•   In Step 3, I will add the topical products that include the latest scientific breakthrough on the anti-aging/anti-inflammation front. Research over the past twenty years has uncovered the critical role of small, hormone-like protein fragments called thymic peptides, which exert beneficial anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, healing, and anti-cancer effects in the body. You’ll learn which topical products contain these healing substances and how to apply them effectively.

To find out more about why peptides and neuropeptides are critical to the anti-aging/anti-inflammation process, read the next chapter. It will help you understand how and why the foods, supplements, and topicals I’m recommending will restore your looks and health. In the meantime, I urge you to start Step 1 of the program so you don’t spend one more unnecessary day prematurely aging your body and mind.

Excerpted from The Perricone Promise by Nicholas Perricone, M.D.. Copyright © 2004 by Nicholas Perricone, M.D.. All rights reserved. Posted with permission of the publisher. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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