Although most people think of “fat” when they hear the word “cellulite”, it is really a disorder of connective tissue and Type I collagen. Type I collagen is the main type of structural tissue in the body, and is a protein. Ever wonder why men don’t get cellulite? It is related to estrogen and progesterone, aren’t we the lucky ones…
Cellulite is normally found in the thighs and buttocks, where the fat is difficult to remove, and is stored by the body for use during pregnancy. Fat cells have 2 receptors, one causing it to be used (lipolysis), or the beta receptor, and one for storage , or the alpha receptor. Only in this area do fat cells contain 2 alpha receptors and one beta receptor, which makes mobilization of this fat by diet and exercise difficult, and some Dermatologists say, not possible. So stop being hard on yourself!
The development of cellulite has to do with intricate hormones and enzymes that basically breakdown collagen. Until science intervenes with a compound that can block the MMP enzymes (matrix metalloproteinases) and rebuild collagen, we wait!
Xanthines, like Theophylline can mobilize fat on a small scale and topical firming agents like DMAE help to smooth the appearance of cellulite.
With the formation of new fat cells and cyclical estrogen and hormone level fluctuations, it becomes a negative feedback loop of cellulite production. Genetics play a key role as about 5% of American women (mainly of Asian backgrounds) do not get cellulite.
Diagram 1: Cellulite Anatomy
If you are interested in the physiology, here is a great article by Peter Pugliese, MD.