Combating Cellulite With Food

By Dr. Erin Gilbert, MD, PhD

Posted on | By Dr. Erin Gilbert, MD, PhD

You have it. You hate it. And you are not alone.

What is cellulite? It is a topographical change in the skin’s surface that has been likened to an “orange peel” or “dimpled” appearance. Cellulite is not always associated with being overweight – it is often genetic and is present on underweight, average and overweight people.

An estimated 85% of adult women have cellulite. Although it is such a common condition, cellulite is surprisingly complex. We doctors don’t know everything about what causes it, and research into its causes and treatments is an active area of investigation. There is also no agreed upon cure for cellulite.

We do know that cellulite can respond to various environmental factors, including diet and hormones. In my personal experience with patients, different approaches work for different people. You can start by experimenting with the following tips:

Don’t Cut…Paste!

Tomato paste, or ketchup, can be more than a condiment. It contains high doses of lycopene, more than what you would get by eating a fresh tomato. In a recent study in the British Journal of Dermatology, tomatoes (in the form of tomato paste) were shown to reduce UV-induced sun damage, as well as prevent collagen breakdown (by inhibiting collagenase). By preserving collagen in your skin, you are keeping a healthy thick top layer of skin overlying your fat layer, which reduces the out-pouching of underlying fat cells, making cellulite less visible.

It’s Stressful, but Don’t Stress

Cellulite is a source of anxiety and impacts quality of life. Not stressing is oft-heard advice, but science suggests that the hormones of stress, particularly insulin and cortisol, change the way that fat cells function. This is yet another reason to eat whole grains rather than processed high-glycemic index foods and suffer the consequences of blood sugar and insulin spikes.

Interestingly, a family of molecules called catechins, found in green and white teas, decrease fat cell insulin resistance. So when you are on edge, take 5 minutes to sit quietly and have a cup of tea. It may in fact have a synergistic effect.

Put Out the Flame

Inflammation is a source of many diseases, including heart disease, and reducing it can have benefits on cellulite as well. Bromelain, a complex mixture of enzymes found in pineapple, is anti-inflammatory. This is found in highest concentrations in the pineapple stem, but is also present in the fruit. You can buy stem cell bromelain extract over-the-counter at health food stores. Bromelain can also promote fat cell metabolism, which is an extra perk! Be careful not to choose high-sugar sources for bromelain (like pineapple juice). This will spike your insulin levels and leave you hungry and tired later.

Hydration Nation

Foods with higher water content will improve skin hydration. Drinking water is an obvious but often neglected habit! Fresh fruits and vegetables, particularly melons, cucumbers and leafy greens, are high in water content and low in calories which will aid in weigh control and, thus, fat stores. A simple way for you to check your hydration level is with skin "turgor." Simply pinching your skin together (for example, on the back of your hand) and observing the time it takes to return to normal is a quick-and-dirty measure of hydration. Skin with normal turgor snaps back rapidly. Skin with decreased turgor remains elevated and returns slowly to its normal position. Although considered a late sign of dehydration, skin turgor demonstrates the profound effect water has on the skin.

Buyer Beware

Numerous devices have been introduced into the marketplace for the treatment of cellulite. Invariably, women run out and spend a lot of money to have a physical or mechanical treatment for their cellulite. Whether it is laser or ultrasound, within a few years the device is on longer "en vogue." Why? In my experience, it is because the results often didn’t live up to the expectations. Although device-based treatments are very promising – and one day could very well be the cure we all want – there is no contemporary device that guarantees the eradication of cellulite.

Conclusion: Even if cellulite impacts your quality of life, at least you know that you’re not alone and can try out some of these simple tips at home!

Article written by Dr. Erin Gilbert, MD, PhD
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