Author Christian Finn looks at the facts on...How to get rid of cellulite.
Cellulite is a term coined to describe deposits of fat found on the thighs and buttocks of many women.
It has a characteristic orange peel or cottage cheese appearance.
According to some, cellulite is a combination of fat, water, and "toxic wastes" that your body has failed to eliminate. Others contend that cellulite is no different from regular fat.
So, who's right? Can you really get rid of cellulite? Can you lose thigh fat?
Researchers from New York's Rockefeller University have discovered that cellulite is simply fat under the skin that has a dimpled look. It looks this way because women have a layer of irregular and discontinuous connective tissue immediately below the skin.
Publishing their findings in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, the research team — led by Dr Michael Rosenbaum — used several methods to examine both the affected and unaffected areas of the thigh.
They found that the layer of connective tissue is more irregular and discontinuous in women affected with cellulite. But the fat cells themselves aren't different from other fat cells in the same area of the body.
In men, the same layer of connective tissue is smooth and continuous. That's why cellulite is more common in women than men.
This hasn't stopped an entire industry being built around the concept that cellulite is a different type of fat requiring a special diet or unique (and usually expensive) form of treatment. For example, some claim that caffeine and spicy foods contribute to the formation of cellulite because the toxins they produce are trapped in the fatty tissue.
This is not true. In fact, caffeine and spicy foods can actually contribute to the loss of stored fat.
You'll also see many products promoted as a miracle cure for cellulite. Cellasene is one of the best examples.
Cellasene contains a blend of herbs and other ingredients, including dried ginkgo biloba extract, seaweed and evening primrose oil.
Apparently, these blend of plant extracts are "known for their natural action against cellulite and fatty deposits."
Distributors of the product also claim that the ingredients in Cellasene increase blood circulation, reduce fluid buildup, and strengthen collagen. Cellasene is also supposed to increase your metabolic rate.
This, of course, is complete nonsense. Yet, despite the fact it doesn't work, Cellasene was a huge commercial success.
In 1999, Rexall Sundown — the company marketing Cellasene — launched a national public relations campaign heralding the introduction of Cellasene as a major news event. The company hired an agency to distribute a "video news release" describing the Cellasene clinical studies as "impressive."
News stories on Cellasene appeared throughout the country.
(News releases are written purposely in a news format. They save journalists the time and trouble of researching the subjects on their own.)
Entire sections of a news release can be simply "cut and pasted" with little or no editing. Sometimes as many as half the stories appearing in your favorite newspaper are based on news releases. Usually, they're mixed right in with other stories.
This is just one good reason why it's never wise to accept what you see in the newspapers or on TV at face value. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission announced on March 11, 2003 that it won a settlement in a U.S. District Court against Rexall Sundown.
The eight-week Cellasene regimen cost consumers almost $200, and Rexall sold more than $40 million of this product. Despite being forced to pay up to $12 million to consumers throughout the United States who purchased Cellasene, Rexall Sundown is still left with a tidy profit.
However, they're not allowed to make any unsubstantiated claim that Cellasene will improve the appearance of cellulite.
What surprises me is that Cellasene made so much money despite the fact that research showing it doesn't work was available some time ago.
The trial was published in the November 1999 issue of the journal Phytotherapy Research.
Twenty-four women, aged between 25 and 45, took part in the study. They were split into two groups. One group received Cellasene, while group two was given a "fake" supplement, known as a placebo.
The results show very little difference between the two treatments, although the Cellasene users did lose almost one inch more than the group using the placebo.
In truth, it's more likely that the changes were due to measurement error. Tape measures are a highly unreliable way to assess inch loss.
More relevant is the opinion of the test subjects using the supplement — only three of the 11 women using Cellasene noticed an improvement. Seven of them actually gained weight!
The fat cells contributing to cellulite aren't any different from other fat cells in the same area of the body. However, fat cells in different areas of your body do respond differently to the same program of diet and exercise.
Many women want to lose fat from their hips and thighs. But that's often the last place it goes from. One of the main reasons concerns the ratio of beta- and alpha-receptors on fat cells in different parts of your body.
Just like a car, your fat cells have a series of brakes and accelerators. The parts of a fat cell that accelerate the release of fat are called beta-receptors. The parts of a fat cell that put the brakes on fat loss are known as alpha-receptors.
The distribution of brakes and accelerators on each fat cell explains why certain parts of your body lose fat faster than others. Women have more brakes (alpha-receptors) on the fat cells in their thighs than their stomach. That's why some of them have such a hard time losing fat from their thighs.
What's more, there are at least three different patterns of fat accumulation in young women in their early twenties :
(1)The trunk and upper arm accumulation pattern. Fat tends to gather on the whole trunk — chest, waist and back — and the upper arm.
(2) The waist accumulation pattern. In this pattern, fat gathers around the waist.
(3) The abdominals and hip accumulation pattern. Fat gathers evenly at the abdomen, side abdomen, hip and lower hip.
What this all means is that the speed and location of fat loss will differ from person to person. You might do hundreds of exercises for your legs. But there's no guarantee that's where you'll lose the fat.
A good example of this comes from a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology.
A group of 31 women took part in a six-month training program. At the beginning and end of the study, body fat levels were measured using a sophisticated technique known as dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA for short). This allowed the research team to establish precisely where the women were losing fat.
The training program consisted of 90 minutes of training, five days each week. Because the routine was designed to enhance the performance of military-specific tasks, much of the program involved various military drills, running, and multi-joint exercises (such as the squat, bench press, and barbell press).
The women exercised for almost nine hours each week for six months. Yet they lost just under six pounds of fat.
This highlights the importance of getting your diet right if you want a faster rate of weight loss. Roughly half of the lost fat came from the trunk. The rest came from the arms, even though the women did no so-called "toning" exercises for their arms.
Despite all the exercise the women did for their legs, their thighs were just as fat at the end of the study as they were at the start. Not only do women have a harder time getting rid of fat stored in their thighs, it's also more likely to be deposited there after a meal.
In a trial published in the American Journal of Physiology, test subjects (12 men and 12 women) were given a liquid meal containing carbohydrate, protein, and fat. The research team used a sophisticated technique known as fatty acid "tracing". This allowed them to establish precisely what happened to the fat in the meal.
The results show that women store more fat in subcutaneous tissue (the fat stored under the skin) than men.
For every 10 grams of fat in the meal, women stored nearly four grams in subcutaneous tissue. Men, on the other hand, stored just over two grams in subcutaneous tissue.
This doesn't mean that the men got off the hook! It appears that men store more visceral fat. Visceral fat is the stuff that surrounds and protects your internal organs, and is linked to an increase in the risk of heart disease.
The loss of subcutaneous fat is far greater when you use exercise, rather than dieting alone, to help you lose weight. There's also a link between exercise frequency and the loss of subcutaneous fat. In other words, the more often you exercise, the more subcutaneous fat you'll lose.
What's really interesting is that after the meal, the flow of blood to fat in the thighs increased in women, but not in men. Variations in blood flow could be another reason some women store more fat in their lower body than men do.
The greater blood flow could deliver more chylomicrons to fat tissue in the leg, increasing fat storage. Chylomicrons (pronounced kile-o-my-krons) are packages of fat wrapped in protein. They carry fat in the blood after a meal.
Almost any diet or exercise program, as long as you burn more calories than you consume, will promote the loss of subcutaneous fat (the fat stored under the skin). This will also help to get rid of cellulite.
And one of the best ways to lose subcutaneous fat is with a combination of aerobic and resistance exercise.
A Korean research group tracked a group of 30 obese women for six months. The women were assigned to one of three groups.
Group one did nothing. The second group followed a program of aerobic exercise six days per week for 60 minutes. Group three also exercised six days per week, but replaced three aerobic workouts with weight training.
Both groups lost fat, with the aerobics-only group losing 16 pounds, and the combined-group losing 20 pounds. However, the combined group also gained over 10 pounds of muscle.
More interesting still, the combined group lost almost three times more subcutaneous fat than the aerobics-only group.