Anti-Aging: Beauty From the Inside Out

Dr. Sears Blog: Anti-Aging & Beauty

Last weekend, the 14th annual Aesthetic & Anti-Aging Medicine World Congress was held in Monaco. The conference focused on aspects of anti-aging medicine, including plastic surgery, dermatology and nutrition. Here at The Zone, we believe in anti-aging from the inside out using the latest science in anti-inflammatory nutrition. We’re excited that Dr. Sears was one of three key note speakers for the conference this year because it means that the world of aesthetic medicine is beginning to understand that beauty starts within, and can be maintained with proper nutrition for a lifetime. Below Dr. Sears writes about his impressions of the conference.

Beautiful Location, Beautiful People and the Zone

Sometimes you have to go where the love is. In this case, it was Monaco for the largest aesthetic medicine conference in the world. What better place to discuss beauty than beautiful Monaco? As one of the Honorary Presidents for this conference, I was to give the keynote lecture on Anti-Inflammatory Nutrition and Aging.

Let’s be frank, aesthetic medicine is really about making people look more beautiful, and of course, younger in the process. So to a certain extent as a research scientist, this is not the typical audience I usually speak to. It is exciting that this branch of medicine is beginning to see the advantages of educating patients on anti-inflammatory nutrition.

Besides, who in his right mind is going to turn down an opportunity to educate these professionals in Monaco for three days?

Arriving in Monaco, it was everything you would expect; a beautiful location overlooking the Mediterranean, lots of Ferraris, and of course beautiful people. It was like attending a photo shoot for Vogue magazine on every street corner.

Entering the conference hotel overlooking (actually overhanging) the Mediterranean, I was struck by the number of mirrors. Then it occurred to me that beautiful and confident people probably don’t try to avoid mirrors. It was clear that the people of Monaco were doing something right to maintain their level of health and beauty.

Hungry for Knowledge

Unlike most medical conferences where the scientific talks are the reason for attending, in this case it was the exhibits. I was struck by the hundreds of exhibits with beautiful sales reps explaining to the beautiful attendees how to become even more beautiful. Needless to say, I felt like a fish out of water. So when it was time to give my keynote address, I expected a rather empty lecture hall. Much to my surprise, it was packed.

Even more surprising was that when I began speaking, the cameras in the crowd started clicking furiously like paparazzi at the red carpet for the Academy Awards. I thought that maybe they had mistaken me for George Clooney or were impressed by my youthful glow in the darkened conference room.

No, the photographic activity was for the slides on the screen. I realized that after decades of continuing to hear about promises for more beautiful skin and a longer life (with even more beauty), they had come to the conclusion that scientifically-based nutrition practices instead of hype might be the answer they were looking for to keep their patients looking and feeling beautiful for years to come.

Much of the science I used to explain how anti-inflammatory nutrition controls the aging process may have been new to them since most doctors do not study nutrition beyond the basics in medical school, but at least they had pictures of every slide to refer to.

Even though I am planning to post the lecture slides on the Zone Diet website in the coming weeks, I let them shoot pictures of the slides to their hearts’ content so they could get a head start explaining the importance of Zone nutrition to their patients and clients.

When it was time to leave the winding streets of Monaco to travel to Italy to give scientific lectures to medical audiences, I felt like a child leaving a beautiful Disneyland. It’s always fun to visit, but eventually you have to come back to the real world.

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About Dr. Barry Sears

Dr. Barry Sears is a leading authority on the impact of the diet on hormonal response, genetic expression, and inflammation. A former research scientist at the Boston University School of Medicine and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dr. Sears has dedicated his research efforts over the past 45 years to the study of lipids. He has published 40 scientific articles and holds 14 U.S. patents in the areas of intravenous drug delivery systems and hormonal regulation for the treatment of cardiovascular disease. He has also written 14 books, including the New York Times #1 best-seller, The Zone, which have sold more than 6 million copies in the U.S. and have been translated into 22 different languages.


  1. BJ

    It’s surprising (well, maybe not so much) that doctors are still just “discovering” the benefits for the skin from following the Zone, which is 20 years old, and which you’ve lectured on extensively all these years. Perhaps I was fortunate in being a layperson who was not indoctrinated to the standard medical education orthodoxy, maybe I was more motivated by my own health challenges or, maybe, as you quoted in your first book, that “all truths are self-evident” that I embraced your heretical ideas (circa 2000: “grains are bad”, etc). Even though I was “youthful” at the time, I noticed improvements in my skin after a couple of months.

    My observations from working many low-income African Americans, at that time, were that despite their terrible diets (100% junk food) they still had smooth, radiant skin, even in old age, whereas if I had just one bad week (i.e., non-Zone) my skin would look like rubber. So I decided to regularly apply polyphenols to my skin, and the simplest, easiest method I could think of was to use extra virgin olive oil. And it has made a difference over the past 15 years. Of course, Italian women have known this for a long time, but I didn’t, it just seemed like commonsense. I used your olive oil when it was available, and when I could afford it, but I’ve consistently used the best quality that my budget would allow (I’m glad that I bought a case of your recent batch, it’s terrific).

    However, I still think there is a place for advanced topical approaches as well. I’ve used your hydrophobic GLA a number of times of the past 15 years, and I’ve consistently noticed the same thing: that after just a couple of days my skin will start flaking badly, which I interpret as a sign of inflammation. Yet, I thought that one of the advantages of hydrophobic GLA was that it would not have the “spillover” effect, since skin lacks the delta-6 desaturase enzymes? Can you explain this? Do you think this is representative of something specific to me? My AA/EPA is consistently under 1.5, so cellular inflammation (as defined by you) is not the problem.

    I feel that following the Zone diet is the most important aspect of maintaining good skin health, but environmental factors need to be addressed as well (i.e., UV radiation, which is a significant factor here in southern California), so I’d still like additional support. I’ve found that most topicals just sit on the skin, so I’m reluctant to waste money on the latest and greatest “breakthrough” prodcuts. Hydrophobic GLA still interests me because it should be beneficial, theoretically. Something is amiss though, in my case, so if you have any ideas or suggestions I would love to hear them.

    Many thanks.

    • Dr. Sears

      Your positive experience with applying polyphenols to the skin via olive oil is not to be unexpected since the polyphenols can activate anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory genes in the skin to reduce free radical damage. In addition, the olive contain squalene (not squalane) that is the molecular precursor to cholesterol synthesis in the skin. This is why I am excited by the maqui polyphenols for skin care since they are more water-soluble than any other polyphenols so they can enter into the blood from the diet at higher levels compared to other polyphenols.

      Relative to the hydrophobic GLA, the flaking off the skin is similar to what is observed with the use of retinoic acid, the only truly evidence-based skin care product. The epidermis is composed of dead skin cells and the reason it is flaking is because new skin cells in the dermis are be generated and as they start moving toward the surface of the skin the dead cells in the epidermis begin to flake off.. Our next generation of hydrophobic GLA is being developed to minimize that flaking effect by moderating the production of new skin cells. Your present combination of controlling the AA/EPA ratio along with topical polyphenols remains an excellent approach that can only be enhanced by the next generation of hydrophobic GLA along with using the MaquiRx as an oral supplement.

      • BJ

        Thanks for taking time to respond. I’ve somewhat followed news on delphinidins for the past couple of years, since you’ve spoken so highly of them, but I haven’t seen the sort of data that I’d like for an oral supplement. One of the nice things about omega-3s, and even vitamins and minerals, is that they can easily be quantified in the blood in a relatively short period of time after supplementation has begun, so that progress can easily be measured, and their specific intake is linked to specific benefits. I like quantifiable data. Even following the Zone dietary principles I still regularly test my postprandial glucose levels with a glucometer. I don’t think a person can have too much data on oneself.

        I have some reservations about delphinidins since I don’t know how much AMPK activation is too much. As it is, since I follow a calorie restricted diet, a la the Zone, and engage in periodic interval exercises, I’m fairly confident that I’m keeping my AMPK levels up (of course, it would be nice to actually measure this). But is there a limit to what’s beneficial? And, do delphinidins favorably alter gene expression in ways that are not already addressed by calorie restriction? As the case has turned out to be so many times with other things, a minuscule quantity of something works wonders while a larger quantity does not, or is even detrimental.

        You’ve said that 150-300mg of delphinidins inhibit inflammation, and 300mg and above activates AMPK, but isn’t this what the Zone + omega-3s already accomplishes? How much is necessary for skin health (has this even been established yet)?

        I guess my primary interest in maqui extract is its effect on gut microbiota. Speaking from personal experience, having had dysbiosis and leaky gut (due to hypochlorhydria, likely from a chronic H.pylori infection) I believe that controlling gut bacteria is as important as maintaining an ideal AA/EPA ratio. In my case it was actually a little more extreme, as I also developed fermentation syndrome, and both the antibiotics I was given as well as polyphenols were totally ineffectual.

        After having tried loads of polyphenols, from many different sources, the most effective that I found to help me, and that I still take, is an olive leaf extract standardized to 25% hydroxytyrosol (a product called Olea25, in which all of the oleuropein has been converted to hydroxtyrosol). I didn’t have an objective way of measuring the olive leaf’s benefits, but the lactic acid produced by the fermenting bacteria had made my bones soft and painful, yet within an hour of taking the olive leaf supplement I could walk pain free again, which I hadn’t been able to do for months (however, olive leaf supplements standardized only for oleuropein did nothing for me). Hydroxytyrosol, which is water soluble, is not only antioxidant, but also bactericidal, fungicidal and virucidal (whereas cocoa, coconut and so many other over-hyped “superfoods” are not), as well as stimulates mitochondrial biogenesis.

        Your endorsement of delphinidins carries a lot of weight with me, but I’m not sure that the cost/benefit ratio makes the MaquiRx a sensible investment for me. If the science becomes defined enough so that a specific intake can be allied to a specific benefit that can be quantified with a simple blood test, as is done for vitamins and omega-3s, I wouldn’t hesitate, but right now it seems like it would just be an expensive form of insurance. On a scale of “good, better, best” I prefer best, so I’ll keep an eye out for emerging research on delphinidins (I’m sure you’ll have more to say on this in your next book).

        • Dr. Sears

          You are correct, you can never have too much clinical data. However, it has to be meaningful data that is often obtainable using research-validated, but not common blood tests. Measuring blood levels of AA and EPA using a capillary finger prick is easily. Measuring the levels of the eicosanoids they produce is not. Furthermore, it is only when you have therapeutic level of EPA and DHA will you see significant clinical benefits. This is why there are so many null results in the omega-3 clinical literature because they use placebo levels of EPA and DHA. Polyphenols are even more difficult to determine. The best marker is reduction of oxidative stress as measured by isoprostane levels in the blood. A secondary marker is the reduction of oxidative of LDL particles (a primary driver of heart disease) also measured in the blood. Neither of these tests is simple to do and therefore are not done in clinical labs. A recent paper was published last year in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition on the use of 450 mg of MaquiRx (this would be 1.5 capsules) on the statistically significant reduction of both isopropanes and oxidized LDL in smokers. The effect took place in 30 days and was totally reversed after stopping the supplementation. The reduction of these parameters is not due to delphinidins acting as an anti-oxidant, but due to the polyphenols acting as gene activators of Nrf2 to cause the expression of anti-oxidant enzymes. With this new human data coupled with unpublished cellular assays on activation of AMP kinase, I have to increase my recommendaions of the amount of maqui extract to activate the SIRT-1 gene that expresses AMPK to be be in excess of 1 gram per day (or more than four MaquiRx capsules). You simply can’t over-express AMPK as it is master switch that controls metabolism. Both calorie restriction and therapeutic levels of polyphenol activate SIRT-1, but they are synergistic. Furthermore when combining the two approaches, it provides maximum stimulation of AMP kinase. This is also true for skin health as I discussed in the recent Anti-Aging conference in Monaco last month.

          Gut health is important because of its impact on metabolic endoxemia that causes systemic inflammation. However, the AA/EPA ratio is more important because it indicates your potential for the resolution of inflammation, whatever it causes initial cause. Hydroxytyrosol is not a polyphenol (it has only one phenol group), and therefore has little if any effect on AMP kinase activity but does have anti-inflammtory properties like other small molecules such as aspirin. All of this will be detailed in my next book, The Skin Zone.” But until that is published, I stand by my contention that delphinidins are the “best of the best” of polyphenols.

          • BJ

            Thank you for your insight, Dr. Sears. It’s good to know that AMPK cannot be over-stimulated. At 1+g/day of MaquiRx I would need 4-5 bottles per month, which is a little steep (at least for me). I already consume 1-2 lbs. of frozen wild blueberries/day (imported from Quebec and purchased at Trader Joe’s), and since Canadian wild blueberries have twice the ORAC of American ones, is it safe to say that they also have twice the delphinidin content? If so, do you think I can derive the AMPK-activating benefits with just one capsule per day? Also, is there a dosage you would suggest strictly for antimicrobial benefits?

          • Dr. Sears

            The ORAC values are usually (but not always) a good indicator of polyphenol levels. However, the maqui (considered the Patagonian blueberry) has 14 times more delphinidins than do blueberries. The AMP kinase stimulating ability comes from the total of amount of polyphenols that enter into the blood. The polyphenol extracts have the advantage of delivering the polyphenol content without the added sugar of the fruit. If you calculate the the sugar intake from the frozen blueberries, it’s about 40 grams of sugar per pound, That more than a can of Coke Classic. That extra sugar will eliminate some of the benefits of the polyphenols. One capsule of the MaquiRx is too low for its AMP kinase stimulating benefits, but one or two capsules per day would have gut health benefits and anti-oxidative benefits from the delphinidins that easily enter into the blood.

  2. David Ledoux

    Dr. Sears, thanks for your tremendous contribution to changing the world’s health over the years. I’m a Crossfitter, and your Zone Plan is the foundation of what so many of our top athletes follow. I’ve dropped 12 pounds of bodyfat as a side benefit of eating 14 blocks a day.

    This past winter we had massive food inflation sweep through Canada. In January a head of cauliflower was nearly 8 bucks! Broccoli, brussel sprouts and kale all were nearly double the price. My wife and I have a backyard garden, and have decided to increase it by 50% in size this season just because of food insecurity and the ever-rising price of quality produce.

    I was curious if you grow any of your own food? Thanks for all you do, keep leading wisely!


    • Dr. Sears

      Thank you for your kind comments and great personal success. Your concern about the future of food (especially vegetables is justified. Since I live in a condo in Florida, my farming prospects (plus a lack of skill) are limited. However, I do go to the supermarket every other day to purchase about 2-4 pounds of vegetables for my refrigerator.

  3. Tony Cardinale

    I’m a long time practioner of the Zone life style and food products, and of course the zone fat and polyphenol supplements.
    I do have a question that is bothering me.
    In the Zone cereal you use Maltodextrin, I find this odd since this is nothing but a cheap supplement to add to your cereal and zone bars and the FDA doesn’t make you label it as sugar?
    Why use it when its been considered an unhealthy additive.
    Also are you using regular or resistant Maltodextrin? please explain?
    Also the soy grits are they processed from wheat rice or corn?

  4. Nanette Johnson.

    Hello Dr.Sears!
    It’s always been my dream to visit Monaco! I also wanted to Be just like Princess Grace. God rest her soul. I have about 30 extra pounds to loose and some lumbar ruptured discs, do you think the zone diet can help my back?

    • Dr. Sears

      Since the Zone Diet is an anti-inflammatory diet, it has the potential to reduce back pain by reducing the production of inflammatory mediators.


    Dr Sears since being on the Zone Diet for at least 5 years , I have had quite a few comments about my skin and what do I do to keep it looking healthy. I tell them its mainly my diet from following the Zone. Thank you for all your hard work and dedication you truly make a difference in the World of Health and Wellness.

  6. Paulette Matson

    You lucky dog. How much fun to be in Monaco . I look forward to viewing the slides.

  7. Mark McGinn

    Barry, you’re skin care products are the best, especially combined with Omega RX.

    The more understanding you provide to people, through the slides,
    the more they can benefit from your unique products and dietary strategy.
    good idea posting the slides.

  8. Owen Moore

    Call me healthily cynical, other than SPF in sun cream, what is the ACTUAL evidence that nutritional habits alter or halt the degeneration of collagen in the skin (epi- or dermis levels)?
    Changing the outward appearances of skin aging has long been a nonsense field full of pharmaceutical creams and smoky mirrors. Do you have any published papers I can read? Kind regards, Owen


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