From the monthly archives:

April 2010

The term cellulite refers to the dimpled appearance of the skin that some people have on their hips, thighs, and buttocks.

This appearance is much more common in women than in men because of differences at, muscle, and connective tissue are distributed in men and women’s skin.  The lumpiness of cellulite is caused by fat deposits that push and distort the connective tissues beneath skin, leading to the characteristic changes in appearance of the skin.

Cellulite is not related to the condition known as cellulitis, which is a spreading bacterial infection of the skin and tissues beneath the skin.

What causes cellulite?

Some factors can  influence the extent to which cellulite is present or visible, such as:

  • Heredity
  • Skin thickness
  • Gender
  • The amount and distribution of body fat
  • Age
  • Lifestyle

While cellulite is more common in women than men, men can also be affected. Cellulite occurs in people of all races living all around the globe. Although female hormones may play a role in contributing to this pattern of fat distribution, cellulite is not treatable by hormone therapy.

Cellulite is caused by irregular patterns of connective tissue beneath the skin, and as the adipose (fatty) tissue, which forms in compartments of little honeycombs, pushes into the skin, it causes the dimpling of cellulite.  It has been shown that people who have cellulite have different patterns of connective tissue than people who don’t, and men tend to have this pattern much less than women.  Cellulite is not directly a function of excess weight, but a genetic difference in the way adipose tissue and connective tissue form.

Cellulite affects people whether they are overweight or not.

Biochemically, cellulite does not behave any differently than other fat, and there is no health risk from cellulite (some evidence even suggests that lower extremity fat is protective against chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease).

Most people dislike the appearance of cellulite and prefer to have skin as smooth as they possibly can.  Therefore, much has been written about cellulite, and many treatments have been promoted, such as:

  • Dietary changes
  • Weight loss
  • Weight loss supplements
  • Fat burner
  • Cellulite creams
  • Mechanical treatments
  • Methylxanthines: Methylxanthines are a group of chemicals that include aminophylline, caffeine, and theophyilline. These chemicals are present in many cellulite creams and are promoted as treatments for cellulite because of their known ability to break down fat stores. However, skin creams cannot deliver the required concentration of these chemicals for the length of time required for significant fat breakdown. While studies have shown a small reduction in thigh measurements with some of these preparations, they do not promote significant loss of cellulite.
  • Dietary supplements: Several of these products have been marketed and contain a variety of ingredients  such as: ginkgo biloba, sweet clover, grape-seed bioflavinoids, bladder wrack extract, evening primrose oil, fish oil, and soy lecithin. These preparations claim to have positive effects on the body such as boosting metabolism, improving circulation, protecting against cell damage, and breaking down fats. Such claims are difficult to evaluate. Furthermore, there are no valid clinical studies to support the use of these dietary supplements for the treatment of cellulite.
  • Massage treatments: Several machines have been introduced that massage the areas affected by cellulite. These machines use rolling cylinders to gather areas of skin and massage them inside a chamber. This technique uses an electrically powered device that suctions, pulls, and squeezes affected areas. Treatments are expensive and typically last for 30-45 minutes, and 10-12 treatments are typically required before results are noticeable.  While a temporary decrease in the appearance of cellulite may occur, the technique appears to redistribute fat rather than permanently alter its configuration under the skin. Regular maintenance treatments are required after the initial effect has been achieved or the appearance of cellulite will return.
  • Laser or light therapy: The FDA has approved two light-therapy devices that combine suction or massage with light therapy for the temporary reduction of the appearance of cellulite. TriActive is a treatment that combines a low-level laser treatment with suction and manipulation of the skin, while VelaSmooth is a treatment combining laser and massage therapy. Like Endermologie, both treatments require multiple treatment sessions and maintenance treatments to keep up the improved appearance. Laser/massage treatments are even more costly than massage treatments; the complete program generally costs thousands of dollars.
  • Mesotherapy: Mesotherapy is a controversial treatment for cellulite that involves injecting drugs or other substances directly into affected tissue. Herbs and vitamins are often used as well in the injection cocktails. Multiple injections over multiple (typically 10 or more) sessions are administered. Although this procedure is offered by some physicians, most experts feel that this treatment is unproven and risk.
  • Collagenase: Collagenase is a naturally-occurring enzyme in the body that breaks down collagen, a component of connective tissue (the tissues that bind our cells together). A small study of 10 women with cellulite conducted in 2006 suggested that injections with this enzyme may be beneficial in improving the appearance of cellulite. The long-term effects of these injections are still unknown, and studies have not yet been carried out to determine the extent and duration of the improvements, if any. The treatment is considered experimental and is not yet routinely available, but research is underway to determine if collagenase injections may become an option for the treatment of cellulite.
  • Cellulite diets: Arguments for these diets claim that the combination of foods in the diet can reduce inflammation and improve circulation in affected areas and diminish cellulite.

However, no studies published in the medical literature have supported these claims.

Experts note that eating a healthy diet can decrease fluid retention and improve the overall health and appearance of skin, but specific diets designed to target cellulite are unnecessary.

  • Wraps: Many salons offer herbal or other types of body wraps as treatments for cellulite. Like cellulite diets, their effects have not been proven or reported in controlled studies in the medical literature. While wraps may decrease fluid retention and improve the overall appearance of skin, these effects are temporary. It is also not possible to “detoxify” the body by the use of herbal or other wraps.

As a lifestyle personal trainer and nutrition consultant, I can recommend you the “cellulite guru” Annuska.

She will help you to  improve the overall health and appearance of your skin.

She is located in West Palm Beach, Florida. 

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