Cellulite: Can You Beat Cellulite? (cont.)

While dieting to lose weight may not help, a diet that "feeds" skin just might, according to Murad -- whose book details such a diet. He says foods rich in nutrients such as lecithin, essential fatty acids, amino acids, and antioxidants reduce cellular inflammation, reduce fluids, and increase circulation deep in skin cells. All this, he says, works to strengthen cell membranes and keep cellulite from migrating to the surface.

"The idea is to encourage collagen production to build the middle layer of connective tissue -- and improve the circulation," Murad tells WebMD.

The foods he recommends include eggs, soy, cauliflower, and peanut butter (for lecithin); flaxseed, olive and canola oils, ground flax, and raw nuts (for essential fatty acids); berries, pomegranates, goji berries (a type of berry found in Central Asia), and citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruits (for antioxidants, polyphenols, and amino acids).

Murad says that diet alone can help. But if you're not a conscientious eater, he suggests high-potency supplements, plus an herbal skin serum that he says helps burn fat cells.

In independent -- and unpublished -- studies a combination of the diet, supplements, serum, and some professional exfoliation treatment was shown to lead to a 78% increase in firmer skin, and a 47% reduction in stretch marks in 12 weeks. Results first became apparent in eight weeks, according to the research.

The cost of the Murad Cellulite Serum, book, and vitamins for one month is $210. Newburger says Murad's dietary approach makes sense, but adds that any eating plan that increases our intake of fruits and vegetables and cuts down on junk food is bound to help our skin look better.

"A healthy diet will also help reduce fluid retention, and that immediately improves the appearance of cellulite," says Newburger.

Option 3: Light Devices

The idea here: Use light energy to melt cellulite while mechanically massaging the skin to increase circulation and encourage drainage of lymph vessels. To this end, the FDA recently approved two devices. The first, called TriActive, relies on laser light.

Katz, who tested the device, says: "It works by first cooling the skin so the laser can penetrate deep without harming the top layer, then a combination of suction and laser beams treat the cellulite."

He says the device works because it increases circulation on a cellular level, removing fluids and putting pressure on fat cells, while the suction aspect loosens the septa bands to diminish the dimpling effect.

In a study presented by Kathryn Frew, MD, at the 2004 annual meeting of the European Academy of Dermatology, the TriActive laser removed cellulite in 83% of patients. So far, a three-month follow-up has shown that the results last. TriActive is a nonmedical device, and is available in both doctor's offices and skin care centers.

A second light device, approved by the FDA in June, is VelaSmooth. It uses a combination of radio frequency energy and infrared light to heat up and then release cellulite from cells. At the same time, it rolls over skin in a massaging motion, using suction to soften and release septa bands. Because it emits a high level of energy, VelaSmooth is classified as a medical device, with treatments available only through a doctor.

Either way, gorgeous thighs don't come cheap or fast. TriActive is sold in a package of 16 twice-weekly, 40-minute treatments for about $1,200. VelaSmooth can run as high as $2,000 for 10 treatments, with results lasting at least six months.

Option 4: High-Tech Massage

The procedure is known as endermologie -- a deep mechanical massage that combines cylindrical rollers and suction to affect the skin's connective tissue, stimulate blood flow and lymphatic drainage, and trigger what the developers say is the body's natural system for eliminating fat from cells.

While experts say the procedure has a visible impact on cellulite, Newburger says it's only temporary. "You're not changing anything except how you are going to look for the next couple of days -- and at 150 to 300 bucks a pop, temporary can be pretty costly," says Newburger.

Endermologie experts say that 14 to 20 of the 45-minute treatments will give results that last from several months to several years. However, they recommend twice-monthly maintenance, at a cost of $300 to $500 a month.

Option 5: Mesotherapy

Among the most controversial cellulite treatments is mesotherapy. Developed in France in the 1950s, it combines a mixture of off-label, FDA-approved medicines (that is, medicines approved for other purposes) with herbs and vitamins. The goal is to break up fat cells and dissolve rigid septa bands.

The medication "cocktail" (which can vary widely among practitioners) is administered in a series of rapid injections over a 30- to 60-minute session. Practitioners say that it usually takes 10 sessions for optimal results.

While a reported 5,000 U.S. doctors now offer mesotherapy for cellulite (since it uses pre-approved medicines; the treatment doesn't require FDA approval), a recent report published in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery cautions physicians not to experiment with this treatment until more is known. The report also questions the safety of the drugs when used in the injected cocktails, and questions their power to dissolve cellulite. Also of concern is what happens to the fat that melts -- and whether it may end up in the liver.

In an accompanying editorial, Rod J. Rohrich, MD, a plastic surgeon at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas writes: "It is mind boggling to think that a physician would inject patients -- or that patients would allow [it] -- with unknown, unproven substances based on hearsay and unsubstantiated clinical findings."

However, some practitioners, such as mesotherapy pioneer Lionel Bissoon, DO, report great success with the treatment, declaring that in the right medical hands, it is safe, effective, and has a 90% success rate.

The cost for mesotherapy in the United States runs between $800 and $1,500 for six to 10 sessions. Results are said to be long-lasting.

Published July 2005.

SOURCES: Dermatologic Surgery, 1999; vol 25: pp 445-62. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, April 15, 2005. Murad study conducted by Clinical Research Laboratories, Piscataway, N.J., Allendale Investigational Review Board, Robert J. Staab, Ph.D. Frew, K., presentation, annual meeting European Academy of Dermatology, November, 2004, Florence, Italy. Howard Murad, MD, associate clinical professor of dermatology, University of California-Los Angeles; and author, The Cellulite Solution. Bruce Katz, MD, medical director, Juva Skin and Laser Center, New York; clinical professor of dermatology, Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, New York. Amy Newburger, MD, director, Dermatology Consultants of Westchester, Scarsdale, N.Y.

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