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What is Cellulite?

Cellulite, also known as orange peel skin: A flood of products and procedures promise to track down and destroy the lumpy fat on thighs, buttocks, arms and bellies, but a miracle cure for cellulite has yet to be discovered.

It may stand to reason that in our fat-phobic culture, such pronounced jelly deposits are so abhorred. It hasn't helped our obsession with celebrities like Jennifer Lopez and Kim Kardashian.

And cellulite doesn't just affect the rounder among us. Young and athletic women suffer from it too. Despite the enormous amount of time and money spent trying to find ways to dissolve these pesky nodules - from lasers to caffeine creams - researchers and doctors are still scratching their heads.

So what helps - other than a serious overhaul of our beauty standards? Here's some background to help understand cellulite more deeply.


What exactly is cellulite?

It is a condition that affects 90 per cent of women and 10 per cent of men, mainly in developed countries. As women approach menopause, oestrogen decreases. Many women first notice signs of cellulite between the ages of 25 and 35. Oestrogen also affects the blood vessels. When oestrogen decreases, people lose receptors in blood vessels and thighs, so blood flow is reduced. With reduced blood flow, they get less oxygen and nourishment in that area, and so we see a decrease in collagen production. As a result, the fat cells get bigger, protrude through the collagen and lead to cellulite.

Women tend to get cellulite on their legs and buttocks because they have three layers of fat in those areas instead of just one. Women also have three levels of fat on the abdomen and triceps area.



Does cellulite occur more today than in the past?

We suffer from lack of exercise in our industrial society. Many of us sit at our desks during the day, walk as phones and type on computers. We often ditch the bike and instead drive to the supermarket and park in the spot closest to the building. So we have become more sedentary as a culture.

The bulk of articles on cellulite in the scientific literature started around the late 1970s. In old photo albums in the 1950s and 1960s, women had perfect legs. And there was no Photoshop to retouch those photos back then.


Why do women get more cellulite than men?

The structure of collagen, the main protein of connective tissue, looks more like vertical struts in women, while in men it looks more like a net. The reticulated structure is stronger and seems to hold fat better.

Another reason why women get cellulite has to do with the two types of adrenergic receptors. When alpha receptors are stimulated, they produce fat cells (and trigger constriction of blood vessels and the release of sugar into the bloodstream). When beta receptors are stimulated, they break down fat and increase heart rate and blood vessels. In women, there are nine alpha receptors for every beta receptor in the thigh.

Cellulite is part of a natural process, and can be reduced by cosmetic intervention to a limited but visible extent. Our bestseller Fight Cellulite is appreciated by thousands of women and used every day. In the long term, the "problem" can only be solved by working as a society to make the term "beauty" inclusive of all people in all body shapes.