What is cellulite, exactly?
A. It's basically pockets of excess fat that have squeezed between the bands of tissue connecting muscle to skin. Unfortunately, we don't know why it happens or how to stop it before it starts.
Why do women get cellulite more frequently than men?
A. Estrogen plays a role, plus women typically have more body fat than men. But the main reason is that the bands connecting skin and muscle are different on men than they are on women. Men have thicker bands, there are more of them, and they form a crisscross pattern (as opposed to the vertical pattern on women's bodies). That keeps the fat in place so it doesn't pucker.
Why do even skinny women have it?
A. Unfortunately, you don't need a lot of body fat to have cellulite. Even the thinnest women have some layer of fat between their muscles and skin, and everybody has the bands that the fat can push through.
Why is it mostly on the legs and butt?
A. That's where most women store fat!
Does cellulite increase with age?
A. Not necessarily. After puberty, anyone can get cellulite. But as you age your skin loses elasticity and you're likely to reduce muscle and gain fat, all of which will increase cellulite.
If your mom has it, are you doomed as well?
A. Genetics definitely plays a role, both in how likely your body is to store fat and how much the bands of tissue pull down on the fat. If you stay fit, you're more likely to have less fat on your body and more muscle, which means you'll develop less cellulite.
Getting Rid of It
Can the foods you eat decrease or increase cellulite?
A. Diet plays a role only in affecting how much fat you carry around, so avoiding high-calorie foods will prevent weight gain, which means you'll have less body fat and therefore less cellulite. But there are no magic foods that will banish cellulite once you have it.
If you lose weight, will you automatically lose cellulite?
A. Dropping pounds will make your fat cells shrink but not disappear. So while your cellulite may look better, it won't vanish completely. And if you gain the weight back, expect those dimples to reappear in the same spot.
Does the supplement CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) reduce cellulite as claimed?
A. No. Despite some animal studies showing that CLA-a supplement derived from trans fats found in grass-fed beef and dairy-can minimize body fat and probably cellulite, the only thing it will likely slenderize is your wallet. In human studies, results have been inconclusive. Many people not only saw little or no weight loss, they also reported adverse health effects, such as insulin resistance, systemic inflammation, and a decrease in HDL (good) cholesterol. The danger: CLA destroys fat-storing cells; this can cause fat droplets to circulate in the blood and end up in vital organs such as the heart and liver.
However, new research indicates that a diet high in soy protein and the amino acid L-leucine may play a key role in the fight against cellulite by stimulating fat burning and maintaining lean muscle mass during weight loss. You're much better off getting these nutrients through foods such as tofu, lean meats, beans, and nuts than in a pill; and you need to eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly to achieve lasting results.
What Really Works
Products and potions aside, exercise is the most effective way to reduce the appearance of cellulite. We put together the perfect 30-minute workout to target your most common problem areas and help you banish cellulite for good.
Sources: Cheryl Karcher, MD, an assistant clinical professor at New York University Medical Center and an associate at Sadick Dermatology in New York City; Matt C. Cave, MD, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Louisville in Kentucky (for CLA information).