Last month, Madonna, the ageless iconic superstar, announced to the world that she was embarking on a 'salmon retox' program to "knock 12 years off of her appearance."
While it might be ambitious to think we can knock more than a decade off of our looks, think again. If anything can do it, it is the anti-inflammatory lifestyle of diet, nutritional supplements and topicals. This is because inflammation is responsible for many of the internal and external signs of aging.
Madonna's truly inspiring sense of determination and commitment will go a long way in helping her achieve her goals.
Why eating salmon is anti-aging:
As many of my readers and viewers know, I am probably the single greatest advocate for adding wild salmon and other omega-3 cold water fish (think sardines, anchovies, halibut, sablefish, trout, etc.) to your daily diet. While it is now widely accepted, with gurus and experts all over the world writing books and visiting talk shows, the concept of inflammation and the anti-inflammatory diet was initially met with skepticism and ridicule. It all started with the publication of my first book and public television special, The Wrinkle Cure, almost a decade ago, where I introduced salmon as a superb source of anti-inflammatory, anti-aging nutrients, a recurring theme in all of my work.
Wild Salmon contains essential fats and powerful antioxidants such as the carotenoid, astaxanthin, that have important anti-inflammatory properties. My decades of research show that chronic, sub-clinical inflammation is the single greatest precipitator of aging and age-related diseases. These include heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, arthritis, certain forms of cancer, and wrinkled, sagging skin.
Salmon is also probably the world's most heart healthy source of protein. It is rich in long-chain omega-3 essential fatty acids -- the most beneficial kind -- which protect heart health, inhibit inflammation, act as natural anti-depressants, increase feelings of well-being, and help keep skin young, supple and radiant.
With the average age of menopause at 51 here in the US, at the age of 50, Madonna needs to be sure that her food choices are especially cardio-protective. This is because after menopause, the risk of heart disease in women becomes comparable to the incidence in men. As a physician, I was quite astonished to learn that heart disease kills 10 times as many women as breast cancer.
Unfortunately, this deadly heart disease risk receives little media attention.
Protein for Cellular Repair
Wild salmon and other cold water fish are great sources of protein which is necessary to maintain and repair the body--including the skin, on a cellular level. The lack of protein is first visible in the face, even in a young person, but especially as we age.
Like a Surgeon
It isn't only plastic surgery that can give us that sculpted look. Adequate protein is vital, because without protein, we lose contours and definition in our faces. This is another reason why a diet rich in salmon is important for Madonna if she wants to maintain that chiseled look of high cheekbones, well defined jaw line, eye contours, etc.
Hard Candy Blues
Avoiding sugary, starchy foods is also critical as these types of foods blur our contours, giving our faces a soft, doughy look. In fact, it is always easy to spot a person who is addicted to these type of carbs because they will not have the attractive facial contours.
Protein cannot be stored in our bodies. For optimum health and cellular repair we need to have a good source of quality protein at each meal. Women, however, are notorious for not getting enough protein. Unfortunately this lack of protein will show in their faces first. Men, on the other hand, do tend to gravitate toward protein and are more likely to go for a burger or a steak while the women choose a salad --or even worse, a cookie. This is one reason (but not the only one) why men appear to age better than women.
As a dermatologist, when it comes to their skin, I know that women will invest great sums for topical products, procedures and so forth. If it is the right product, with high, efficacious levels of anti-inflammatory antioxidants, they will see beautiful and gratifying results.
But there is a little beauty secret that is worth its weight in gold. If women understood that eating a simple inexpensive small can of sardines or salmon would give their skin an unrivaled radiance, softness and suppleness, like nothing else in this world, these foods would fly off the supermarket shelves. You would see a stampede toward the fish aisle. While the extraordinary multi-organ benefits of sardines and wild salmon almost sounds like a fantasy, it is very real. Try the canned salmon and sardines that also contain both skin and bones to experience just a few of the skin, brain, mood, and health and energy benefits of these amazing omega-3, protein, and calcium rich fish.
· decreased inflammation in all organ systems including skin
· decreased body fat
· provides ample quantities of high quality fat and protein
· beautifies skin
· elevated mood
· improved brain function
· increased energy
· improve athletic ability
· decrease puffiness
· decrease fine lines and wrinkles
· decrease sagging
· increased radiance and glow
· dramatically improve acne and decrease acne scarring
· improved attention span
· stabilized blood sugar levels
· lowered insulin levels
· healthy serotonin levels
· decreased appetite
· Increased radiance to skin
· healthier immune system
· Increased energy levels
· decreased symptoms and severity of rheumatoid arthritis
· reduced symptoms and severity of chronic skin conditions such as eczema
· decreased stroke and cardiovascular risk
· decreased pain and inflammation in joints
I am guardedly optimistic that Madonna -- ever the trend setter -- will inspire women everywhere to try the 'salmon retox.' I also highly recommend that you take before and after photos, which I will happily post on my website.
Follow the anti-inflammatory diet, which consists of the following:
· high-quality protein, like that found in fish, shellfish, poultry and tofu;
· low-glycemic (will not provoke a glycemic response when consumed in moderation) carbohydrates including colorful fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains such as old-fashioned oatmeal, legumes such as beans and lentils;
· healthy fats, such as those found in cold water fish (especially wild salmon, halibut, sardines, herring, anchovies, trout, etc.), nuts, seeds, and olive oil
· 8 -10 glasses of pure spring water per day.
· Anti-oxidant rich beverages such as green tea
You will notice a visible difference in as little as three days, with even more dramatic results by week's end. After four weeks, your friends and family will be commenting on how different you look. And, when you look in the mirror, you may begin to wonder "Who's that Girl?"
Salmon: Anti-inflammatory Extraordinaire
If we are rating a food group either pro-inflammatory or anti-inflammatory, we will find that protein, on the whole, is neutral. However, some sources of protein, such as the fish listed above, provide powerful anti-inflammatory benefits for two reasons:
· They are high anti-inflammatory omega 3 essential fatty acids which keeps skin radiant, supple and wrinkle free, moods upbeat and brain functioning at optimal levels
· Wild salmon's bright pink or deep red color, depending on variety, owes its pigment to the presence of astaxanthin, a super powerful carotenoid anti-oxidant with potent anti-inflammatory properties
Thus, wild salmon is anti-inflammatory. Beef and other forms of meat that are not grass fed, like most meat available in the supermarkets, tends to be high in saturated fats, making them pro-inflammatory.
Did you ever wonder what wild salmon, shrimp, lobster, caviar and flamingos have in common? Their brilliant red or pink color is a result of astaxanthin, the aforementioned unique and multi-talented antioxidant. Astaxanthin is another reason for wild salmon's status as a leading super star in the realm of anti-aging health and beauty foods. However, I also recommend taking astaxanthin as a nutritional supplement to ensure optimum benefits.
A short list of astaxanthin benefits:
· Protect the cells from the most damaging forms of free radicals.
· Protects against cardiovascular disease
· Improves Type II diabetic control; inhibits progressive kidney damage
· Reduces blood pressure
· Preserves pancreatic function and insulin sensitivity
· Reduces gastric inflammation and dyspepsia
· Reduces eye fatigue (asthenopia) reduction
· Improves skin elasticity and reduced appearance of fine lines, (important for someone at Madonna's age)
· Improves muscle endurance and recovery following vigorous exercise--key for Madonna who reportedly spends hours each day at the gym
The Borderline - Moderation is Key
Speaking of that last bullet point, Madonna has also reportedly started a more cardio-intensive gym routine. It is no secret that her rigorous routines are already legendary. But Madonna needs to be careful and not subject her body to too extreme a workout. She should exercise some restraint because over-exercising can produce inflammation-generating free radicals. It is not just pollution, poor diet, and the like that generate an abundance of free radicals; they also result from the metabolic process that takes place internally and can damage the cell's DNA.
I know, to a nation of couch potatoes, it seems hard to believe that it is possible to get too much exercise. However, typical Western forms of exercise are designed to make our heart and lungs work hard. The principal aims of this kind of exercise are building good muscle tone, burning fat and increasing endurance.
While these goals are worthy and important, we need to be careful when performing vigorous physical exercise. Too much exertion increases oxygen demand beyond the optimum level. This causes the production of inflammatory free radicals that accelerate cellular degeneration (and thus the aging process).
Ironically, the wrong type of exercise will backfire by accelerating the aging process. While there is a vital role for aerobic types of exercise, it is important they are not overdone.
The right exercise will strengthen our bones and muscles, improve and restore physical and emotional balance, promote cellular rejuvenation on all levels, relieve stress, increase strength and flexibility and improve physical, mental and emotional health. To achieve these goals we need to incorporate specific types of exercise. Disciplines such as Yoga, Tai Chi and Chi Kung for example, may not seem strenuous enough, yet they yield unparalleled physical, mental, emotional and spiritual benefits.
Madonna reportedly is an avid practitioner of Ashtanga yoga, (surprise!) a particularly strenuous form.
Exercise is vital for your health. It is also unsurpassed at lowering our blood sugar -- a key anti-aging strategy. There are mountains of studies proving that exercise can take off pounds, reduce incidence of heart disease, lower blood pressure, improve mood, solve sleep problems, and even cut risks of certain cancers. Exercise will also ensure that you have beautiful skin. Studies have indicated that exercise benefits the skin in much the same way it improves bone and muscle quality. Without regular activity, bones become fragile and muscles atrophy.
One look at Madonna's amazing physique and you can see that her muscles are far from atrophied -- quite the contrary.
Youthful Skin -- Naturally
When the skin of those who exercise regularly is examined under a microscope, the impact of their high fitness levels is clearly apparent. The skin is thicker and has more and healthier collagen, the fibers that give the skin its strength and flexibility. Exercise also increases circulation and gives the skin a healthy and radiant glow.
Having an exciting romance life is also a key to looking younger than our years. With the press reporting on Madonna's active love life with a series of younger, handsome and extremely fit men, we can again be assured that she is losing no stone unturned in her quest for the fountain of youth.
Enjoying a healthy and robust sexuality confers many health and potential longevity benefits. A White Paper published by the Katharine Dexter McCormick Library, Planned Parenthood Federation of America (and available at www.plannedparenthood.org), states what many of us have known intuitively, that sexual activity may enrich our well-being in many ways that include fostering happiness, enhancing immunity, promoting longevity, managing and alleviating pain, and improving reproductive health. Some studies even suggest that sexual activity may be associated with reducing the risk of the two leading causes of death in the U.S.: heart disease and cancer.
We wish this superstar much luck on her salmon retox regimen. Madonna's hard work and discipline have kept her at the top for more than two decades. While I can't promise that she can turn back time, the anti-inflammatory benefits of foods such as salmon, will guarantee that she can greatly slow down its negative effects, while emphasizing the positive. These include good health, ample energy, increased sense of well-being and radiant, glowing skin.
In other words, we can be sure that she will Live to Tell us all about it, in her own unique and inimitable way.