Why does caffeine cause cellulite?

  • Well, it doesn't really. The idea that caffeine causes cellulite is one of those urban myths propagated by misinformed beauticians and journalists.
  • The theory that caffeine causes cellulite is based on caffeine's ability to potentially cause water retention if consumed in excessive doses, such as 5x or even 10x cups of coffee a day. Caffeine acts on the kidneys producing a diuretic effect and with such excessive consumption some people's kidneys may become dependent on their caffeine fix and if they do not get it, they develop some water retention.
  • However, most women drink 2-3 cups of coffee or tea a day and that is not enough to cause water retention. Furthermore, most women develop much more severe water retention by taking the contraceptive pill or by living a sedentary life, than by overdosing on caffeine. Sugar, alcohol, smoking and constipation are other important causes of water retention.
  • Water retention is one of the aspects of cellulite, but fat accumulation, skin looseness, inflammation, free radical damage and glycation are equally important aspects - and none of them are caused by caffeine. Those aspects are directly affected by the other causes of water retention (hormonal contraception, sedentary lifestyle, sugar/carb/fried food consumption, alcohol and smoking) and NOT by caffeine.
  • Furthermore, it is well known that the effects of caffeine largely depend on the ease by which someone's liver neutralises caffeine. Personally I get jittery with just one cup of coffee, so I would not even dream of having 3 or more cups of coffee a day, as this would exhaust my adrenal glands and nervous system in just a few days. On the other hand, some people can actually fall asleep with a cup of coffee in their hand. Clearly these people can consume large amounts of caffeine with no side effects., because not much active caffeine metabolite makes it to the different body organs and tissues. Women who are more sensitive to caffeine will be affected more by it, while those who are resistant to caffeine's effects, will not feel any negative side-effects.
  • In summary, in women who do not consume more than 3 caffeinated drinks (coffee, energy drinks such as "Red Bull", tea, green tea etc) per day, caffeine is not a cause of cellulite, whatsoever. And in women who consume something like 10 caffeinated drinks a day, caffeine is indeed a factor, but I would worry more about the sugar that is found in those cups of coffee or energy drinks, the biscuits that consumed concurrently or in the overall lifestyle imbalance that such a high caffeine consumption betrays, rather than caffeine itself. For women who consume 5-6 caffeinated drinks per day and suffer from cellulite I would say that caffeine could potentially be 10% responsible, with inactivity, unhealthy diet, hormonal contraception, smoking and drinking comprising the remaining 90%.
  • To close, I would like to mention that caffeine has both a lipolytic (fat releasing) and circulation-enhancing effect if applied locally, hence the use of caffeine in anti-cellulite creams. Furthermore, the antioxidants contained in coffee, tea and green tea have an anti-cellulite effect, due to their anti-glycation, antioxidant, anti-adipogenic and anti-inflammatory action, so we are not even sure that even high doses of coffee or tea can cause cellulite on it's own.

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