Diet & Cellulite

Can Cellulite Be Treated With Diet?

Two theories about the build-up of subcutaneous fat, involving the chemical spermine and the hormone adiponectin, suggest a plant-based diet may help with cellulite.

Gynoid lipodystrophy, known colloquially as cellulite, is the orange peel-type or cottage cheese-like dimpling of the skin on the thighs and tushes of the majority of women. Since it basically results from excess fat storage, attention has turned to spermine and spermidine as potential culprits, since a study found that rubbing a spermine-trapping molecule on one’s thighs apparently results in a significant drop in thigh volume, circumference, and cellulite scores.

Spermine was first discovered in human semen back in the 1600s, but only recently quantified in food. The top sources in the American diet were found to be ground meat and lunch meat such as ham, turkey, bologna and salami; green peas, which are also the primary source of spermidine; and cheese such as American and cheddar. So would eating some cheesey peesey meat casserole make cellulite worse? It’s never been tested, but if it did, that could be one of the mechanisms. The reason the food study was funded by the National Cancer Institute is because of a concern that this whole class of compounds may increase cancer risk. For example, polyamine intake was recently associated with increased risk of colorectal polyps.

For more on the adverse health effects associated with the intake of “biogenic amines” (chemical compounds of decay such as spermine and cadaverine) see my videos New Corpse Smell and Carcinogenic Putrescine.

The other cellulite theory has to do with the hormone adiponectin. If you biopsy the fat in the gluteal region of women with and without cellulite, there seems to be less adiponectin expression in the cellulitic butt fat, so maybe adiponectin is protective. How do you keep adiponectin levels from dropping? Don’t eat a sausage and egg breakfast, which a study showed can lead to a drop in levels within hours (compared to a vegetarian meal). Additionally, switching to a vegetarian diet appears to increase adiponectin levels 19 percent.

A meat-free, egg-free diet of vegetables, grains, beans, fruits, and nuts with animal products limited to a maximum of one portion of low fat yogurt a day was compared to the conventional diabetic diet. Though all study participants in both groups were made to eat the same number of calories, the vegetable-heavy group lost more weight, lost more waist, lost more cholesterol, more subQ fat, and more belly fat. The subcutaneous fat is what makes up cellulite, so a plant-based diet could potentially decrease cellulite, but we won’t know for sure until it’s experimentally tested directly. Watch my 3-min video Can Cellulite Be Treated With Diet? to see the graphs.

Ideally, you want to keep your Waist Circumference Less Than Half Your Height. If you’re having trouble with abdominal fat, check out my videos:

More on diet and physical appearance can be found at:

-Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here and watch my full 2012 – 2015 presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, More than an Apple a Day, From Table to Able, and Food as Medicine.

  • Angela

    I would have to agree I’m a Nutritionist and I have put a few of my clients on a lower animal product eating plan and they have had great results of cellulite showing less.

  • Ann

    I developed some cellulite around my ass area, although it goes away when I pull on my skin a little , so maybe it are more stretchmarks? Anyway, you only see it in certain lighting and it came about when I was an omnivore. But even after 10 years of being a vegan with the diet described on this website which is healthiest, its still the same.

    • Hi Ann are you on a low fat vegan diet? 10% or less of your diet?

      • Ann

        I used to be but that diet made me sicker and sicker, it also fucked up my blood. My total protein became too high and my glucose too low. I normally never had any problems like that. So I lowered fruit intake, upped healthy fat intake to about 15-20%, more vegetables and cooked food, and I cured all my complaints, even my eczema.

        • If you are referring to the 80/10/10 diet I am very curious how your total protein became too high and your glucose too low, when the diet is a low protein and high carb diet. If anything it should have lowered your protein levels and increased your glucose levels. Strange? Any how I am glad you are OK and I wonder if your higher fat intake is what stops you from being able to get rid of the cellulite.

          • Ann

            Yes 80/10/10 specifically the fruitarian one. I am also curious how that could happen :S. Never in my life had I experienced that, and after I stopped the fruit diet my blood returned to normal. It happened both the times I went to take a bloodtest while on fruitarian diet.

            I know someone who eats quite some fat and has 0 cellulite so I don’t think it has anything to do with the fat, maybe more of a hormonal thing. It however doesnt botter me since its not really visible anyway, just in certain shades. But I dont mind.

          • I wonder if your case has anything to do with the hormone adiponectin referred to in this post?

          • Ann

            Speaking of hormones, I have had elevated androgen levels since being about 15 and also my testosterone is quite high. It remains high no matter what I do with my diet, even on the fruitarian diet. I was tested for PCOS and I don’t have it.

          • Toxins

            The fruitarian diet is not the healthiest approach. Dr. McDougall’s starch based diet is highly satiating and is base on sound science. It is also very low fat.

          • Ann

            I eat a higher carb diet, with lots of starch but I do eat abit higher fat which I seem to do better with. I think everyone has to experiment and find out for themselves.

    • Cristina

      Very good advice! I tried it already and it works!

  • Denise

    I have been a vegetarian for 35 years and I have plenty of cellulite. While I love promoting plant-based diets for many important reasons, I don’t think reducing cellulite will be one of them.

    • Hi Denise are you on a low fat vegan diet? 10% or less of your diet?

    • Guest

      Denise I have to say that I agree with you their. I’ve been plant-based now for 6 years and my cellulite is no different than when I started!
      Boy I wish it was that easy to get rid of it! lol

      • Losing fat… common goal for many of my patients and most of the physicians I know. If you have been following you know there are many factors and of course the media and diet industry adds new found layers of confusion on a regular basis. I have found two resources to be valuable for long term success. First, Jeff Novick’s DVD, Calorie Density: Eat More, Weigh Less and Live longer. Can be ordered off his website. The second is Doug Lisle’s presentation, How to Lose Weight without losing your mind.. which can be ordered off John McDougall’s website or one version is available for free on YouTube. It is a journey and by keeping calorie density low enough given relative activity and exercise you can achieve your goals.

        • Dan

          Yes I agree. I have started to be much more careful. If I eat out and have a large meal, next day I eat much less. I also take the stairs wherever I go and park in the furthest possible parking space to walk to a store. Every single calorie counts. If I exercise, I do not use it as an excuse to load more calories – that would be overcompensation and defeat one of the purposes of exercise. We tend to store fat in certain areas of the body, which differs greatly between individuals, but the calorie in calorie out model works very well. Also, avoiding very caloric foods helps too.

  • ick.

    I’m sure this article was fascinating but I couldn’t get past the third paragraph without vomiting. Shame.

  • Guest

    It would be great to do a video or article on spider/varicose vein treatment/prevention through diet and lifestyle, since most women and some men have them later in life and they can also be considered a lifestyle disease. I would say it is an even more ”important” (and visible) esthetic problem than cellulite, because it is more visible and can be associated with other vascular disease.

  • Ligia

    It would be great to do a video or article on spider/varicose vein treatment/prevention through diet and lifestyle, since most women and some men have them later in life and they can also be considered a lifestyle disease. I would say it is an even more ”important” (and visible) esthetic problem than cellulite, because it can be associated with other vascular disease.

  • Barbora

    Hello, I’m 19 and I’m high carb vegan for almost 2 years. I am a runner, swimmer, yogi and I do crossfit as well. I always ate healthy, even as a child. But I have cellulite anyway and I cannot get rid of it. It even seems to get worse and worse and I really don’t know what to do about it. I’m not super skinny, but I still weight about 60kg in compare to my height, which is 170cm, so I don’t consider myself fat. I feel really desperate and helpless. Can you please give me a piece of advice what to do about it?