The Main Cause of Cellulite
What are cellulite?
We all know those pesky dimples on our legs and bums. Although causing no harm, we intensely hate them because we do not like how they look. They get so much attention there is actually a medical scale to grade the cellulite. They occur when fat deposits are pushing through layers of connective tissue under the skin. This usually becomes visible in areas with a lot of fat tissue such as the thighs and buttocks. We have been advised to exercise, drink a lot of water, apply cellulite creams, massage the area, and wear lose underwear to rid ourselves of cellulite. Unfortunately most interventions have very little effect if any.
We have been told to eat mainly unsaturated fats such as canola oil, soy oil, rapeseed oil, corn oil, and olive oil rather than saturated fats found in butter or lard. The main difference that you can see immediately is that saturated fats are solid at room temperature. Our arteries have been compared to drains which become blocked when you pour solid fats into them and therefore you should avoid these fats to reduce your risk of heart disease. There are a few problems with this analogy. First of all we are not room temperature; saturated fats are not solid at body temperature. Secondly, we metabolise the fat that we eat. The fat is actively broken down, transported, and used where it is needed. Thirdly, saturated fats are much more stable than unsaturated fats, which mean that they are less likely to cause inflammation in our bodies. As a result of the dietary recommendations the average person today is composed of far more polyunsaturated fats than ever.
In the picture on the left you can see the difference between a saturated and a monounsaturated fatty acid. Polyunsaturated fatty acids have several bends which makes them even more unstable and “bulky”. If you have a diet mainly consisting of unsaturated fatty acids, these will be incorporated into your cell membranes. This will lead to two things: increased fluidity of the cell membranes which means that they do not retain their shape as easily when put under pressure, and increased inflammation. The increased inflammation is due to the bends in the fatty acids. These are places in the chain where a reaction is much more likely to take place. When the unsaturated fatty acid comes into contact with oxygen it can oxidise at this bend and form free radicals. This whole process, when in excess, leads to inflammation. The problem with localised inflammation when it comes to cellulite formation is that collagen will be broken down. Collagen is part of the structure in your skin, it is important to keep the fat cells organised and to allow the skin to stay smooth. When there is not enough collagen your fat tissue will become much more flimsy and dimple. So now we have two ways in which primarily polyunsaturated fats can cause cellulite. Add excessive or prolonged exercise (long distance running for example) on top of this and you will actually get more oxidation with following inflammation and therefore risk making the condition worse, or in best case no change at all.
How to reduce your cellulite
I will start with the bad news. There is a special type of protein called elastin that is found in your connective tissue. The production of elastin declines rapidly after puberty and you are most likely not producing much if any at all as an adult. Unfortunately you will most likely not be able to replace the elastin. The good news is that you can stop the degradation of whatever elastin and collagen that you have left and you can reduce the inflammation. You can also produce more collagen and make it stronger by making sure you consume the building blocks.
Building blocks for collagen
Vitamin C is absolutely needed for efficient collagen production. When there is not enough vitamin C, production of collagen slows down or stops completely. This is what happens when a person has scurvy. Their cartilage production stops, the joints fail, tendons become brittle, blood vessels burst and teeth are falling out because the gums are no longer maintained. The recommended daily dose of 60 mg per day is to prevent the development of scurvy.
Collagen is made of several amino acids of which glycine, proline, hydroxyproline, and arginine and most important. To produce sufficient amounts of collagen you want to make sure that you have enough of these. A good way of providing plenty of glycine, proline, and collagen is to have a cup of homemade bone broth each day.
Supplementation for efficient collagen production
Supplement daily with vitamin C. Any excess vitamin C you consume will come out again without causing you any harm. Nobel prize winner Linus Pauling used to take doses of up towards 100 grams per day with no ill effect. However, I do not recommend you to do that; you will most likely end up with stomach pain and diarrhoea. I think 1000 mg two or three times a day is plenty to have your collagen production covered, unless you suffer from some other illness. If you want to experiment taking higher doses, go slowly up to bowel tolerance.
Consider taking a collagen supplement. Collagen type 1 and 3 are the main types present in most of your collagen. Type 2 is mainly included in cartilage and may improve other conditions such as aching joints due to loss of cartilage. You can also get hydrolysed collagen which means that it is broken down into amino acids which are easily used and absorbed by your body. Roughly 5-10 grams of collagen per day is enough to provide all the amino acids you need for optimal collagen production.