Caution Cellulite: Bumpy Road Ahead: Part 1

Cellulite is a complicated and controversial topic with no agreement among researchers as to exactly what it is physiologically or which treatments, if any, can have a positive effect. The only two things about cellulite everyone agrees on are what it looks like and if you have it, you hate it and you want to get rid of it.

Regrettably, most of us (women that is) have it to one degree or another. According to statistics, and this is really shocking, cellulite shows up on the thighs of more than 85 percent of females past the age of eighteen regardless of ancestry, although it is somewhat more common for Caucasian and Asian women. To make matters worse, for women, cellulite represents stored, hard to metabolize fat that is interdependent on estrogen. And any amount of fat (and we all need some in our bodies) can show up as cellulite on women’s thighs. (Source: Cosmetics & Toiletries magazine, October 2004, page 49)

As the anti-cellulite product and treatment market increases, research regarding efficacy remains at a bare minimum and is often obscured by self-serving studies from those who peddle these cures. Sadly, the lure of these supposed remedies is hard to fend off because fighting cellulite is an uphill battle. For lots of women the mere hope or illusion that something may work is a powerful temptation, and that weakness is something the cosmetics industry counts on and exploits to the max. (Source: Journal of Cosmetic Science, November 2005, pages 379-393)

Myth Busting:_Let’s start by straightening out some popular myths about cellulite:

Men don’t get cellulite: To some extent this is true. Physiologically, women are far more prone to accumulating fat on the thighs and hips while men gain weight in the abdominal area. Plus, for women, the connective tissue beneath the skin has more stretch and is vulnerable to disruption, which is the perfect environment for developing cellulite. Some men do get cellulite-just statistically not as much as women. (Source: Journal of Cosmetic Science, March-April 2005, pages 105-120)

Drinking water helps: Drinking water probably is beneficial (although there is really no research showing how much is healthy versus unhealthy), but there is no research showing water consumption impacts fat anywhere on your body, let alone the dimples on your thighs. (Source: American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative, and Comparative Physiology, November 2002, pages 993-1004)

Water retention causes cellulite: It’s ironic that low water intake is considered a possible cause of cellulite, and the polar opposite “retaining too much water” is thought to be a factor as well. There is a lot of speculation of how water retention can affect cellulite but there is no actual research supporting this notion. Further, fat cells actually contain only about 10 percent water, so claiming to eliminate excess water won’t make a difference. And any measurable result would be transient, at best, as the water lost would soon be replaced. (Source: Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. November 2003, pages 817-821)

Eating a specialized diet can help: A healthy diet encourages weight loss and may help your entire body look better. However, because weight in and of itself is not a cause of cellulite, dieting won’t change the skin structure of your thighs. For some, cellulite is made worse by the accumulation of extra fat. In those cases, weight reduction may decrease the total area and depth of cellulite. (Source: Clinical Dermatology, July-August 2004, pages 303-309)

Cellulite is different from fat on the rest of the body: Theories abound about how cellulite differs from regular body fat. However, few studies show how cellulite clumps differently than other fat on your body. But overall, most researchers feel cellulite is just fat, plain and simple. Besides, even if cellulite is different in how it congregates, what you can and can’t do about fat on any part of the body remains the same. (Source:

Exercise can help: Exercise helps almost every system in the human body, but it won’t necessarily impact the appearance of cellulite. Exercise doesn’t improve skin structure and it can’t affect localized areas of fat. In other words, you can’t spot reduce fat accumulation in a specific area. (Source: British Journal of Plastic Surgery, April 2004, pages 222-227)

Detoxifying the body reduces the appearance of cellulite: Detoxifying the body in popular culture has taken on the meaning of purging it of pollutants or any other problem substances within the environment or in the foods we eat. In terms of the way this concept has been mass marketed, there is little research showing credible efficacy as to whether or not detoxification of the body is even possible. However, “detoxifying” the body as it is used in the scientific community describes the process of reducing cellular damage. Antioxidants, enzymes, and proteins can prevent certain abnormal or undesirable cell functions from taking place. There is no doubt this is helpful for the body. Whether or not this reduces cellulite is completely unknown because skin structure and fat accumulation are not caused by toxins in the environment or the food we eat. Furthermore, there are no studies showing toxins of any kind prevent fat from being broken down. (Sources: Journal of Endotoxin Research, April 2005, pages 69-84 and Journal of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, May 2003, pages 258-264)

What We DO Know
There are three leading theories about cellulite formation:
1. Women have unique skin structure on their thighs, which causes cellulite to easily form.
2. The connective tissue layers on the thigh are too weak or thin to maintain a smooth appearance — allowing fat contour to show through.
3. Vascular changes and possible inflammatory conditions may be to blame. (Source: Journal of Cosmetic Laser Therapy, December 2004, pages 181-185; Journal of Applied Physiology, April 2002, pages 1611-1618; and Skin Research and Technology, May 2, 2002, pages 118-124)

Next week part 2 of this article
For original article visit Paula Begoun’s site. Reprinted with permission. (c) Copyright 2005, 2006, 2007 by Paula Begoun and Bryan Barron. This publication is the property of Paula’s Choice, Inc. (“Paula’s Choice”), and/or its owners or affiliates.


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