The Perricone Weight Loss Program
By Nicholas V. Perricone, MD
SUPERSTAR SUPPLEMENT #3: ASTAXANTHIN
Astaxanthin comes from the microalgae Haematococcus pluvialis, found in abundance in arctic marine environments, and is a natural carotenoid (any of a class of yellow to red pigments, including the carotenes and the xanthophylls). Carotenoids are one of the most abundant molecules in the world and give nature its wide variety of colors—from carrots to flamingos. Astaxanthin is an amazingly powerful antioxidant and is often referred to as “red gold from the sea.”
Astaxanthin is one of the xanthophyll group of the carotenoid family. Xanthophylls help to protect vitamin A, vitamin E, and other carotenoids from oxidation. It is the most potent of all of the carotenoids—in fact, it is 10 times stronger than beta-carotene and 100 times stronger than vitamin E. Wild Alaskan salmon, lobster, rainbow trout, shrimp, crawfish, crab, and red caviar all owe their rich colors to their astaxanthin-rich diets—just one of the reasons wild salmon tops my SuperFood list. The variety of wild Alaskan salmon known as “sockeye” delivers the greatest amount of astaxanthin, with 4.5 mg per four-ounce serving. To put this in antioxidant perspective, 4.5 mg of astaxanthin is equal to 450 mg of vitamin E. Astaxanthin is also superior to many other antioxidants due to the unique role it may play in protecting the cell membrane.
One to two capsules, 2 mg each, per day.
SUPERSTAR SUPPLEMENT #4: CARNITINE
Carnitine is a nutrient that was once classified as an amino acid, but we now know that is incorrect. Carnitine is a water-soluble nutrient, very much like a B vitamin, that allows us to convert fat into energy. Carnitine and its derivative, acetyl-L-carnitine, are two of the most important nutrients for weight loss. However, for carnitine to have optimum effect, we must have adequate essential fatty acids (such as omega-3s) present in the diet. Carnitine is critical for energy formation and an active metabolism. Small amounts of carnitine can be obtained from foods such as meats and dairy products, but to get an adequate supply, we must take carnitine supplements.
You’ll remember that fats provide an important source of energy within the body, especially for muscles such as the heart, as well as vital organs such as the liver. In order for fat to be turned into fuel, it has to be carried into the energy-producing portion of the cell known as the mitochondria. It is the role of carnitine to transport the fatty acids from our blood into the cell for this energy production.
Carnitine also provides anti-aging benefits in that it enhances energy production in the cell, which is needed for cellular repair. Studies have also shown that carnitine helps prevent muscle loss during illness and also prevents the muscle loss associated with aging, known as sarcopenia. Carnitine is protective of liver function and enhances and protects the immune system, especially under stressful conditions.
The recommended dose for an adult under the age of 30 without ill health or obesity is approximately 500 mg per day. For those who are obese or have other health problems, the recommendation is 1500 to 2000 mg per day, taken in 500-mg doses three or four times per day.
SUPERSTAR SUPPLEMENT #5: ACETYL-L-CARNITINE
Acetyl-L-carnitine is synthesized from carnitine by the addition of an acetyl group to the carnitine molecule. While this synthesis means that it cannot be found in food, the good news is that this form of carnitine can pass through the blood–brain barrier, which separates the blood vessels from the central nervous system. The barrier has a protective effect, but it can stop the passage of therapeutic substances along with the harmful ones. Since acetyl-L-carnitine can penetrate this barrier, it has a particularly beneficial effect on the brain cells. In fact, acetyl-L-carnitine is extremely neuroprotective and should be used on a daily basis to prevent the neurological decline seen with aging.
Like carnitine, acetyl-L-carnitine improves mitochondrial function, but to an even greater degree, because it can pass through the mitochondrial membrane. And like carnitine, acetyl-L-carnitine functions best when there is adequate dietary intake of omega-3 essential fatty acids. Acetyl-L-carnitine is a natural anti-inflammatory that enhances the effects of antioxidant systems within the body. These anti-inflammatory properties protect the cell plasma membrane (the cell’s first line of defense) and prevent the conversion of arachidonic acid into inflammatory chemicals.
Acetyl-L-carnitine can also help repair the mitochondria, boost levels of the antioxidants glutathione and coenzyme Q10, and work synergistically with alpha lipoic acid, another powerful antioxidant/anti-inflammatory. Both acetyl-L-carnitine and carnitine have been known to actually improve the lipid profile within our blood by reducing the level of triglycerides and raising levels of HDL (good) cholesterol.
Both forms of carnitine are important in a weight-loss regimen because they act as natural anti-inflammatories, and they aid in transportation of fats into the mitochondria to be burned. They also enhance the sensitivity of insulin receptors, helping to decrease blood sugar and circulating levels of insulin. As we have learned, high levels of insulin are inflammatory and “lock” our body fat in place. Both carnitine and acetyl-L-carnitine help prevent glycation.
500 mg per day; however, individuals on a weight-loss program may take up to 1500 mg daily.
SUPERSTAR SUPPLEMENT #6: CONJUGATED LINOLEIC ACID (CLA)
CLA is a fatty acid that is found in many of the foods we eat. At one time, beef and lamb were exceptional sources; however, when their diet was changed from grass to grain, levels of CLA dramatically decreased in meat and dairy products. When CLA is present, it is found in the fatty portion of milk. Drinking skim milk prevents us from receiving the benefits of CLA.
However, since CLA levels are now so low in animal products, skim vs. full-fat milk is a moot point.
When taken in effective doses, CLA decreases body fat, especially in the area of the abdomen. There are several mechanisms of CLA’s activity that accomplish these feats:
1000 mg, up to a maximum of 4000 mg per day, taken in one or two doses.
SUPERSTAR SUPPLEMENT #7: COENZYME Q10 (COQ10)
Coenzyme Q10, also called ubiquinone, is a powerful antioxidant/anti-inflammatory with many benefits for treating and preventing obesity. It acts similarly to acetyl-L-carnitine in that it assists in energy production within the mitochondria. As we have learned, energy production declines as a cell ages, and that means that the cell’s ability to repair itself also declines. Working synergistically with acetyl-L-carnitine, carnitine, and alpha lipoic acid in the mitochondria, CoQ10 enhances the metabolism, giving us greater energy and endurance, and a greater ability to lose body fat, while preventing the energy decline seen in aging cells.
CoQ10 also works synergistically with other antioxidants to elevate cellular levels of vitamins C and E and glutathione and to help regulate blood sugar and enhance insulin sensitivity. CoQ10 also maximizes the burning of foods for fuel, helping to normalize fats in our blood.
Hundreds of studies document the effectiveness of CoQ10 in protecting all vital organs of the body, including the brain, heart, and kidneys. Because of its powerful anti-inflammatory effects, CoQ10 is extremely protective of the cardiovascular system. It keeps the heart muscle healthy and also prevents inflammation in the arteries, which leads to arteriosclerosis.
Although CoQ10 can be found in small amounts in fish such as sardines or salmon, as well as in nuts, I recommend supplementation for optimal anti-aging and weight-loss benefits. CoQ10 supplementation is of particular importance for women because they tend to have lower levels than their male counterparts.
I recommend a minimum of 30 mg per day. For those with health problems, under the supervision and recommendation of their physician, up to 300 mg per day. About three weeks of daily dosing are necessary to reach maximal serum concentrations of CoQ10.