Can Cellulite be Treated with Diet?

Can Cellulite be Treated with Diet?
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Two theories about the buildup of subcutaneous fat, involving the chemical spermine and the hormone adiponectin, suggest a plant-based diet may help with cellulite.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

“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. And, indeed, rubbing a spermine-trapping molecule on your thighs apparently results in a significant drop in thigh volume, circumference, and cellulite scores.

This potential culprit, spermine, was first discovered in human semen back in the 1600s, but only recently quantified in food. Top sources in the American diet: ground meat and lunch meat, such as ham, turkey, bologna, salami, as well as green peas—which is also the primary source of spermidine, along with 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, this could be one of the mechanisms.

The reason this study was funded by the National Cancer Institute is not because of cellulite, but because of a concern that this whole class of compounds may increase cancer risk. For example, recently, intake of polyamines, like spermine, was associated with increased risk of colorectal polyps.

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 leads to a drop in levels within hours, compared to a vegetarian meal. And, switching to a vegetarian diet appears to increase protective adiponectin levels 19%.

They compared 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,” compared to the conventional diabetic diet. Though they were made to eat the same number of calories, the veg group lost more weight, lost more waist, lost more cholesterol, more subcutaneous fat, and more belly fat.

And subcutaneous fat is what makes up cellulite. So, a plant-based diet could be expected to decrease cellulite. But, we won’t know for sure until it’s experimentally tested directly.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Lanzi and Sunbeam Vision via Wikimedia

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

“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. And, indeed, rubbing a spermine-trapping molecule on your thighs apparently results in a significant drop in thigh volume, circumference, and cellulite scores.

This potential culprit, spermine, was first discovered in human semen back in the 1600s, but only recently quantified in food. Top sources in the American diet: ground meat and lunch meat, such as ham, turkey, bologna, salami, as well as green peas—which is also the primary source of spermidine, along with 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, this could be one of the mechanisms.

The reason this study was funded by the National Cancer Institute is not because of cellulite, but because of a concern that this whole class of compounds may increase cancer risk. For example, recently, intake of polyamines, like spermine, was associated with increased risk of colorectal polyps.

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 leads to a drop in levels within hours, compared to a vegetarian meal. And, switching to a vegetarian diet appears to increase protective adiponectin levels 19%.

They compared 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,” compared to the conventional diabetic diet. Though they were made to eat the same number of calories, the veg group lost more weight, lost more waist, lost more cholesterol, more subcutaneous fat, and more belly fat.

And subcutaneous fat is what makes up cellulite. So, a plant-based diet could be expected to decrease cellulite. But, we won’t know for sure until it’s experimentally tested directly.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Lanzi and Sunbeam Vision via Wikimedia

Doctor's Note

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.

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

More on diet and physical appearance can be found at:

For further context, also check out my associated blog posts: The Anti-Wrinkle Diet and Diet & Cellulite,

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

59 responses to “Can Cellulite be Treated with Diet?

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  1. “may help”, but not always. I’ve been on plant based diet for years and still have some on my ass. You cant see it in all lighting, but in some lighting you do see it. And I am slender.

    1. I’ve read that even rail-thin supermodels suffer from cellulite. It seems to be a result of something other than being overweight- although being overweight would certainly contribute to it.

        1. Vitamin D from the Sun should fix the hormonal issues however men or most men don’t have cellulite. Maybe its caused by the tight jeans, the skin not getting any fresh air.

            1. I don’t have cellulite when I don’t eat grains. I’m mostly raw vegan so I was experimenting with effects of different foods. Grains usually sap all of my energy.

              1. If people who are doing everything right or close to still have cellulite, this leads me to think it’s normal and not a problem. We shouldn’t view it as a health issue or “something some women are suffering from”. It’s not the cellulite making you suffer, it’s living in a world of unrealistic beauty standards, it’s constantly seeing ads featuring pore-less women air-brushed to plastic that are making you suffer.

      1. In the past, I have read more than once cellulite is caused by the uniqueness of female muscle fibers. They are slightly different than those of men and create a crosshatch pattern which small fat deposits bulge through and therefore appear dimpled. This is also why even thin women have cellulite.

    2. Hey Amanda, as a man I can sympathize with what your feeling. Even though I don’t have cellulite, I still haven’t lost much weight on a
      plant based diet for the past few months. I was considering going
      completely whole food plant based for a month to see what happens.
      Something in line with Dr. Esselstyn and Dr. Greger’s no salt, sugar,
      oil policy with just fruits, vegetable, seeds, nuts, grains, and greens.Also I was going to start a workout regiment like P90X or Insanity to see building muscle will help as well. I’ll figure this out eventually.

      1. I too am slender and have been on a vegetarian/vegan diet for awhile now. The most effective weight loss for me has come via proper food combining. I started doing green smoothies for breakfast (instead of whenever I could) AND made a diligent effort to not miscombine carbs and proteins at all other meals, and in a month the weight literally just fell off! AND it has stayed off following this regimen. But I still have some cellulite, SO I will now add green peas to my green smoothies and see what happens!! Best info ever: The Beauty Detox Solution by Kim Snyder. Read up!!

          1. Food combining is a myth. All veggies, beans, fruits and whole grains have proteins so she is obviously not speaking with knowledge here. Eat whole grains instead of simple carbs. Eat a larger % of veggies compared to grains. Keep sugars down and calories under control, eliminate added oils and eat fats as they naturally occur in foods (use avocado and olives, not olive oil, or coconut oil…. see Dr. McDougall) Good luck.

      2. Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s Eat To Live is an essential read and will most likely help. Even though people switch to plant based diets, they still go heavy on the dressings, and processed foods. The 6 week, whole foods plant based approach really helps get you down to your ideal weight. I believe I lost 20 pounds in the six weeks…

  2. Interesting video. I write as a vegetarian/vegan for 25 years and having
    consumed at least 50% raw foods for the previous 10 years. I am a woman who had cellulite and I cannot say the amount increased or decreased as a vegetarian/vegan. I say “had’ because it almost entirely dissolved by using a far-infrared mat for seven years that I also sell. Puckers of fat can MELT away through FIR heat but i would not trust creams to do the same thing.
    I do witness so many teenagers and those in their early 20’s who have obvious acne that surely is directly related to their animal food consumption and fried food diets….namaste’, rachel

    1. I have a FIR sauna at home and I also noticed a reduction in cellulite using it, BUT it was not a slam dunk, maybe a 60% reduction. I’m hoping inundating my diet with green peas will finish it off.

  3. Same for me Amanda. I don’t eat any meat or dairy. I exercise daily as well. My thighs have the darn stuff and won’t go away.

    1. Propriety aside, your comment is quite ignorant. Spermine and spermidine are implicated in causing cellulite and cancer, not treating it.

  4. How can green peas be in the same category as cheese and meat? Sorry, but peas are incredibly healthy and i dont see how they can cause cellulite. I see more people with cellulite who eat tons of meat and cheese vs those who eat tons of peas.

    Cherry picking

    1. Polyamines (like putrescene, spermine, and spermidine) are ubitquitous in foods of both animal and plant origin, and they’re vital to our own metabolism. Peas were singled out in the cited study (Zoumas-Morse et al 2007) because there was SOME published data on the content of cooked peas at the time.

      Here’s a more recent survey of published polyamine food contents:
      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3022763/
      The discussion therein of the beneficial attributes of polyamines will put even the horror-ibly named putrescene in a better light.

      From Table 1, the range of spermidine content found in 14 samples green peas in Czechslovakia varied from 2.9 to 88.4 mg/kg, with a huge standard deviation. Whether real or lab technique, who can say. And that paled in comparison with the amount found in soybeans in Japan.

      About all I can tell from the collected data is that polyamines are in everything, content varies markedly between samples, and there were two food groups that stood out (table 2): fruits (with high average putrecene), and cheeses (with high average spermidine).

  5. Although I am a few kilos overweight, I only noticed cellulite on my thighs after I turned 50, when suddenly it seemed I had developed dimply ‘old ladies’ legs.’ I have read that the skin thins as you age, making the fat filled pockets more visible. For the last 5 years I have been on a mainly vegan+ seafood diet and it seems that although I still have some dimpling, my thighs look a lot smoother and this is without losing weight.

    1. A few questions…

      1) What sort of cardio exercise do you do (also, how much and how frequent)?
      2) How much potassium do you get daily from whole foods, on average?
      3) Roughly what percentage of your calories (average) comes from fats?

  6. I have to call a quick BS on this. I have been Vegan for 18 years and I still have it on my thighs and butt. Yes, I am active. I run 5x a week and do core/strength training. I know women who eat the worst diets ever, full of junk, not a veggie/fruit in sight, and they don’t have a simple dimple. Cellulite is more hereditary than anything. Thinking that eating a plant based diet will magically make your thighs as tight as Beyone’s nylon clad ones is fooling yourself.

  7. I think my cellulite has decreased since going vegan, mixed with moderate exercise. Either that, or I just haven’t noticed it in a long time.

    1. My wife turns 60 in a few months and has no cellulite anywhere on her body. However, regular exercise and healthy eating have been a part of her regime for most of her life.
      I do not think that you can let your body go, and then after, become a vegetarian/vegan for a few years and expect that you can un-do many years of irresponsible living.
      It is my deduction that there are three (3) numbers that will give you the best indication of just about 89% of your health. They are:
      1. Resting Heart Rate (50 bpm or less)
      2. Blood Pressure (115/65)
      3. Body Fat (12-14% or less)
      Work for these numbers and the rest will take care of itself.

      1. I wouldn’t be so certain; if heart disease is reversible, and type 2 diabetes is reversible on a vegan diet, I see no reason why cellulite would not be reversible. Cellulite is the herniation of subcutaneous fat. Reduce the fat, then the herniation may resolve. I’ve always been very lean and fit – sometimes too physically active – and I used to have cellulite. I can’t find cellulite on me now. In my case, diet has reversed the cellulite.

        I also think a heart rate of 50bpm may not be reasonable for everyone. Trained athletes have heart rates from 40-60bpm, and most people don’t have the time to become professional athletes. I see no problem with heart rates of 60-100bpm in adults. Children usually have higher heart rates. (I also knew a guy who had a giraffes blood pressure – the highest I’d ever seen. He was 90 and going strong, not that I would advise high blood pressure).

      2. Unless you’re an elite athlete, a low resting heart rate usually equals a slow metabolism or low thyroid. The slowly really it is the he close this one death because enzymes can’t work in slow and cold body.

  8. Dietary spermidine may have benefits that far outweigh thigh cottage cheese. It stimulates autophagy, a cellular mechanism that recycles unneeded, misfolded, and aggregated proteins, reducing their accumulation associated with aging. In animal models, spermidine increases lifespan.
    Induction of autophagy by spermidine promotes longevity. (2009)

    Polyamine-rich food decreases age-associated pathology and mortality in aged mice. (2009)

    Best vegan sources of spermidine, per Polyamines in foods – development of a food database (2011) include:
    serving (g) mg/serving
    Soybean 190 9.7
    Green peas 140 9.1
    Pear 125 6.6
    Lentil soup 250 5.5
    Mushroom 50 4.4
    Red beans 190 3.7
    Broccoli 100 3.6
    Cauliflower 100 3.0
    Popcorn 50 2.1
    Potato 150 1.8

    And, no, semen is not a dietarily significant source (5 ml would contain 0.1 mg spermidine)

    1. An important paper came out today. Eat your peas and pears:
      Cardioprotection and lifespan extension by the natural polyamine spermidine (2016)

      We show that oral supplementation of the natural polyamine spermidine extends the lifespan of mice and exerts cardioprotective effects…In humans, high levels of dietary spermidine, as assessed from food questionnaires, correlated with reduced blood pressure and a lower incidence of cardiovascular disease.

  9. Hi! I eat a lot of green peas several times a week. Would spermine/spermidine be an issue. Should I cut back on my intake, or is there simply not enough data at the moment?

  10. I looked around and found that it seemed to, if anything, be a good thing as darryl has pointed out. But I also found that green peas contain m-xylohydroquinone, which seems to promote infertility. The fact that tibets population has remained so stable some people claim is because of their pea consumption. I also found some alarming animalstudies on the subject, where a 30%(?) pea diet left the mice infertile. As peas make up a large part of my diet, I would really appreciate if anyone has got any more information on the subject.

  11. Oh, weird… I’ve been maintaining my weight pretty steadily for a couple of years now (before that it was dropping), and over the years as a vegan my cellulite pretty well completely disappeared, until more recently I’ve been noticing it’s come back, despite weighing only 106-108 lbs. at 5’4″, and despite the fact that I’m eating healthier than ever and even exercising a bit more, including doing squats. Another thing I’ve been doing differently, though, is getting lazier about cooking my dried beans, and instead as something more convenient, have substantially upped my consumption of frozen peas, which are easier to cook up as a last minute legume to add to my meal.

    You’ve got me thinking to experiment with this now! Lots of peas, vs. none for awhile, etc. :)

    1. Someone else is mentioning glycemic load as an issue, so I figured I’d mention I’ve been eating higher-carb, and for awhile was doing a lot of smoothies and lots of maple syrup and coconut sugar on my oats (I’m sticking more with whole fruits and less sweeteners now). So that could obviously be a factor as well…

  12. Hi. I would like to know if anyone knows if Coleus forskohlii is effective against celolite and what is the way to consume it

    1. Hi Galit, Coleus forskohlii is an Indian herb that has been used for centuries for a number of different conditions. I did not find any literature that specifically looked at it’s affect of cellulite however I did find this study that looked at its effects on body composition in mildly overweight women. It was a relatively small study that only looked at 23 women over a 12 week period. They took an oral supplement that goes by the brand name Forslean that provides 250mg of a 10% Coleus Forskohlii extract. The study was examining the safety of the extract and the effect on body composition. They found no detrimental effects produced by the herbal extract but found it also had no effect on body composition. However the results did suggest that there was some alleviation in weight gain among the overweight subjects.

  13. I have read with interest the comments on cellulite in the buttocks/thigh area of women. I am a 30 year breast cancer survivor with lymhodema in my left arm which the doctors refer to as cellulitis. Can the same plant based diet of zero deli meats, green peas and sausage biscuits help with the issue in my arm? I am fairly new to plant based diet, and would like to have your thoughts about this because I have suffered for 28 years with numerous infections in my arm as well as wearing the compression sleeve and trying not to get the arm in a binding state. If this can be helped by this, I will definitely make a complete change in my diet for this reason. Thank you for your comments.

  14. Congratulations, Ann, on your efforts to eat a healthier diet. Because you mentioned numerous infections, I’d encourage you to check on the many videos Dr. Greger has created on building up your immunity through a whole food plant-based diet. (Use search box on upper right). Since you mentioned being a fairly new to the plant-based diet, you may also want to check out the many videos on how your new diet will help minimize risk of breast cancer recurrence. Hope this helps. Joan-NurseEducator.

    1. Thanks for your question,

      As per the answer of Darryl Roy above:

      “Polyamines (like putrescene, spermine, and spermidine) are ubitquitous in foods of both animal and plant origin, and they’re vital to our own metabolism. Peas were singled out in the cited study (Zoumas-Morse et al 2007) because there was SOME published data on the content of cooked peas at the time.

      Here’s a more recent survey of published polyamine food contents:
      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3022763/
      The discussion therein of the beneficial attributes of polyamines will put even the horroribly named putrescene in a better light.

      From Table 1, the range of spermidine content found in 14 samples green peas in Czechslovakia varied from 2.9 to 88.4 mg/kg, with a huge standard deviation. Whether real or lab technique, who can say. And that paled in comparison with the amount found in soybeans in Japan.

      About all I can tell from the collected data is that polyamines are in everything, content varies markedly between samples, and there were two food groups that stood out (table 2): fruits (with high average putrecene), and cheeses (with high average spermidine).”

      It seems the benefits outweigh risks as green peas are an incredibly healthy legume.

      Hope this answer helps.

  15. I am really confused, because everything I had heard about Spermidin so far was ver positive (supposedly that it slows down aging, and that the body produces it itself especially if you are fastening, and that this is one of the reasons why it’s so healthy to be fastening).

    Besides, spermidin was supposed to be much more abundent in wheat germs (24 mg per 100 g), king oyster mushrooms (as long as they are fresh: 6-12 mg Spermidin per 100 g), other mushrooms like (button mushrooms, almond mushrooms, natto), soybeans (ca. 12 mg per 100 g) and chickpeas (3 mg pro 100 g) compared to peas with just 2 mg per 100 g.

    What I heard so far is that the question wheather spermidin in your diet has the same effect as when you are fasting (i. e. if the body produces spermidin itself) is still unanswered, but I heard that there are signs that this might very well be the case. So are you saying that spermidine in your diet is not healthy?

    1. By the way: if it slows down fat break-down in tissues, it makes sense that this is a healthy body reaction if you are fastening. But couldn’t this be a positive sign? A sign that you slowed down your metabolism and therefore slow down the aging process. (At least Dr. Joel Fuhrman said, that that’s what you want to do – to slow down your metabolism.

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