The combination of excessive sugar consumption, hormonal contraception and computer work is primarily responsible for the prevalence of cellulite today
Cellulite has existed in overweight or genetically "unlucky" women for millennia since the advent of agriculture. However in today's western world cellulite has reached epidemic status, even in very young women. There are many reasons for this sudden increase in the prevalence of cellulite today, including excessive drinking, fat consumption, smoking and the pervasiveness of endocrine disrupting chemicals/xenoestrogens in foods, food packaging and the environment in general.
However, as we will see below, the strongest cellulite-causing factor is the combination of sugar consumption, sedentary living revolving around the use of computers for work and "play", and the use of hormonal contraception (in the form of pills, patches and injections). These three factors exert synergistic and complementary effects on the pre-cellulite tissues of female thighs and hips, stimulating their conversion to "cellulite proper".
[Note: For this article we will use the collective term "sugar" for all the different types of sugar (sucrose/white sugar, brown sugar, glucose, maltose, fructose, honey, agave syrup, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), dextrose and maltodextrin, among others), as well as foods that contain high amounts of those sugars, such as desserts, muffins, cup cakes, croissants, ice cream, chocolate, cakes, doughnuts, biscuits, cookies, milk shakes, fizzy drinks, fruit juices, juice drinks etc. In addition, the phrase "contraceptive pill" will also apply to hormonal contraception based on injections or patches, which are nothing else but different vehicles for the absorption by the body of cellulite-causing artificial estrogenic chemicals.]
How sugar causes cellulite, weight gain, inflammation and skin ageing
Sugar, the number one cause of cellulite today, directly or indirectly causes cellulite in three different ways:
- Sugar floods the bloodstream with excess glucose (which if not immediately used, is stored in your cellulite fat cells as fat/triglycerides) and fructose (which is directly converted into fat/triglycerides in the liver and is consequently also stored as fat in the cellulite fat cells)
- Through glycation and low grade inflammation sugar degrades your connective tissue of your skin, blood and lymph vessels and the collagen strands/septae found in your cellulite tissues
- Sugar also stimulates the proliferation of adipose cells (fat cells) in the body
How the pill (= excessive, artificial estrogens) causes cellulite, weight gain and water retention
The pill (excessive artificial estrogens) also causes cellulite via three mechanisms
- Estrogen/the pill ensures that fat/sugar have enough storage space to be deposited in, by stimulating the proliferation of adipocytes specifically on the thighs and buttocks, and even more particularly on the surface of the thighs and buttocks (i.e. the so called cellulite tissues)
- Estrogen/the pill also ensures that these fat cells act as fat magnets, by altering the expression of specific proteins on the walls of those cells (alpha-2 adrenoreceptors, adenosine receptors)
- Finally, because excessive estrogen/the pill makes blood cells stickier and blood and lymph vessels weaker, it also negatively affects micro-circulation and lymphatic drainage, leading to water retention, a major cause of cellulite
Obviously receiving medication that contains an excessive amount of artificial estrogens, as is the case with hormonal contraception and hormone replacement therapy (HRT), makes the situation much worse.
How sedentary living causes cellulite, weight gain, loose skin and water retention
Being extremely sedentary, as when stuck in front of the computer all day for either work or leisure, also has a triple-whammy effect on your cellulite:
- Computer work reduces calorie expenditure to a minimum, ensuring that a large proportion of calories you ingest are deposited into your fat cells, instead of being used for energy
- In addition, sedentary living reduces fibroblast (collagen cell) output and gradually stimulates the replacement of collagen cells with fat cells, thereby replacing your god-given firmness with fat and "flabbiness"
- Finally, sedentary living severely reduces blood circulation and lymphatic drainage, also leading to water retention.
How sugar, the "pill" and office work conspire together to accelerate the development of cellulite
Up to this point in this article we explained how each one of the above lifestyle factors causes cellulite on each own. Below we will see how those three factors conspire together to create the "cellulite epidemic" we are experiencing today, and we will also offer practical advice on what you can do to reduce or eliminate the development of cellulite related to those or other factors.
How Chloe finds it impossible to avoid the development of cellulite
Imagine the typical scenario of Chloe, a young woman who is "on the pill", works all day in front of the computer and when she goes home she logs on the internet to email, "Google" and meet her friends on Facebook.
Since Chloe's teenage years, her natural estrogen worked in the background to increase the number and alter the function of fat cells on her thighs and bottom - and still does the very same thing today. The pill that she has been taking for a few years now, has further increased that effect and it still exerts the same influence every single day today.
Because Chloe sits down all day, spending a minimal amount of calories and providing minimal mechanical stimulation to her thigh and buttock fibroblasts (collagen cells), her body is further inclined to replace her fibroblasts with adipocytes (fat cells). This replaces firmness with fat on Chloe's thighs and buttocks, making the skin loose and "squishy".
Chloe keeps eating sugary snacks to help her focus throughout the day or to fight the boredom that computer work causes her. The sugar from the sugary snacks quickly floods her bloodstream with glucose and fructose. Sitting on her bum all day ensures that a large amount of that glucose and fructose has no other option than to be absorbed by her cellulite fat cells, whose proliferation has been stimulated by her sedentary lifestyle and the contraceptive pill.
Furthermore, the daily consumption of sugars slowly leads to inflammation and protein damage (glycation) of her skin and other connective tissues, ultimately leading to skin looseness and skin aging.
Finally, sugar, artificial estrogens and sedentary living, all have a detrimental effect on her blood circulation and lymph drainage, causing her to suffer from water retention on her thighs, hips, calves and feet.
All in all, if Chloe continues like this, she will find it impossible not to develop cellulite: connective tissue deterioration, water retention, superficial fat accumulation, inflammation, skin looseness, glycation, together comprise what we call cellulite and they all simultaneously occur in her body.
What you can practically do to avoid cellulite
To avoid Chloe's fate you must reduce one, two or ideally three of the above main cellulite-causing factors (and if possible work on reducing all other cellulite risk factors: smoking, exposure to endocrine disrupting plastics, drinking etc.).
Obviously, I do not expect you to quit your job and become a personal trainer, fruit picker or gardener in order to avoid the effects of sedentary occupation. An hour of swimming, running or fast walking, in addition to three sessions of 20' vibration training per week, should be enough to "undo" the damage that working in front of the computer causes. Unfortunately Yoga, Pilates and other static, non-vigorous methods of exercise will not be enough.
Cutting down on sugars (and refined carbs that behave in your body like sugars, such as bread and white rice) is much simpler but not necessarily easier. The best solution is to quit sugary snacks "cold turkey", and after a period of about one month reintroduce them in your diet in small amounts and only immediately after one hour of vigorous exercise.
Regarding oestrogen and the pill, I do not expect you to change sex in order to avoid cellulite, but quitting the pill and replacing it with other methods of contraception is not a bad idea. Moreover, quite often doctors prescribe contraception for reasons that have nothing to do with contraception, such as acne, fibroids, polycystic ovary syndrome, period regulation, PMS etc. However, you do not need to be on the pill in order to reduce or eliminate those symptoms. In most cases these conditions are caused by lifestyle factors (typically inactivity combined with sugar, alcohol, fat and high GI starch consumption which upsets your overall hormonal balance). Therefore, a change of diet, nutritional supplementation and loads of exercise may be what is needed to fight those conditions, and return to optimal health. However, it is unadvisable to make these changes on your own. A good nutritionist that specialises in female hormonal problems should guide you through this process, ideally working together with your doctor.
In summary, the more of the above factors you reduce, the smaller the risk of developing cellulite will be. If you cannot fully eliminate all three factors, try to work with two or at least one of those factors, and make up for the difference by receiving a good cellulite treatment and applying a quality, concentrated cellulite cream.