Cellulite is one of the “dirty” words in the health, fitness or beauty industry. Nobody wants it, nobody talks about it and those who do suffer with it are infuriated that not everyone has the same problem. Why does it appear on some women more than others, and why do some men actually get it as well? The research on cellulite - including what causes it and how to treat it – has remained very vague, until recently. There seems to be endless treatment options but which ones work and why?
First of all what is cellulite?
Cellulite occurs when the deeper layer of the dermis breaks down and the fat is allowed to bulge towards the superficial layer of the skin, causing a dimpling effect. The irregular, orange peel type dimpled skin surface is characteristic of cellulite and is reported to appear in the thighs, abdomen and buttocks in 85 percent of post adolescent women. The hips and thighs are areas more under the control of hormones in women as they are reserved for pregnancy and lactation. This is why these are the most common sites for cellulite in women and in rarer cases men. The main culprit for the formation of cellulite seems to be estrogen.
Basically estrogen starts a process that causes the walls of fat cells (collagen strands) to break down, this leave the fat cells to move freely towards the surface of the skin where they multiply and push against the surface leaving the appearance we call cellulite.
There are so many treatments out there from personal trainers, doctors and beauty therapist but which one work? Here are the most common treatments and my opinion on their value:
Packs and wraps - The basis of these methods is a mechanical action used to “break up” or “burn up” fat or cellulite. They do neither. These treatments only serve to move a small amount of interstitial water around, which provides a psychological benefit for the client but no physiological change.
Suction, rolling and pressure devices - This is probably the most dangerous of all cellulite treatments as these mechanical devices can actually make the condition worse by inflicting damage on an already weakened support structure within the skin.
Topical herbal treatments - This concept is similar to wraps. For these herbal treatments to be effective, they must be formulated properly so that the active ingredients reach the fatty layer or at least penetrate down to the superficial layer. There is a certain technique involved here because, if not formed properly, the water soluble ingredients will not penetrate the skin and therefore will not
work at all. Typical ingredients you find here are caffeine, theophylline and coleus forscholii.
Circulation enhancers and lymphatic drainage - Cellulite severity is increased by interstitial fluid retention or congestion. So it makes sense that reducing water retention could help the appearance of the skin. This treatment method does not treat cellulite! It does not reduce the fat cells but can give a temporary better appearance and feeling.
Vitaminns-Vitamin A and retinoic acid have a small effect on cellulite, but they don’t cure it. Vitamin C is also helpful as is citric acid due to their ability to restore collagen, but they don’t stop the destruction of it.
Liposuction - Liposuction is not to be used and can actually make cellulite worse by causing damage to already weak skin structures. Liposuction does reduce the fat in the body and therefore can possibly reduce the appearance of current cellulite however, the process damages so much tissue and cells within the body that it can actually increase the percentage of cellulite in the future. After liposuction you will reproduce cellulite and mostly likely at a faster and worsened rate.
Phytoestrogens - By far the most exciting dietary research and information involves the use of phytoestrogens. Asian populations who consume the most phytoestrogens have the least amount of cellulite in their population. sians consuming 100 grams of soybeans a day were getting isoflavone protection in the form of daidzein and genistein. Compared to Western populations, scientists found that Asians had a lower rate of breast, uterine and endometrial cancer, a lower rate of prostatic and colon cancer and a lower rate of cardiovascular disease. When Asians switched to Western-style diets high in fat and protein and low in fibre and soy, their risk for hormonally related diseases increased. So a change in diet can have a very positive effect on fat and cellulite.
Exercise- I shouldn’t need to say how important exercise and healthy lifestyle is. Its important to reduce the amount of stored fat in the body and to STOP your body producing more fat cells. A balanced diet containing high fibre, soya, vitamins A & C and increasing cardio vascular exercise will help reduce the cellulite production.
Estrogen levels start the process that causes fat cell walls to breakdown
The fat cells are free to move to the surface and ‘push’ against the skin to give dimpled effect
A reduction in water retention can help appearance
Most treatments are only temporary
Reduction in animal fats, processed sugars in diet helps
Increase in fibre and soya can help block the estrogen working to breakdown the fat cells
Increase in exercise will reduce the amount of fat stored in the body