Cellulite isn't about being overweight, nor is it the uneven distribution of fat. Britney has been known to have it even on slim days. So what is it? I once had a co-worker who announced that toxins in coffee, meat and alcohol were responsible for cellulite and that she was giving them all up for good. I think I looked at her with a mixture of pity and disgust, ordered another glass of wine and promised to increase the number of leg squats in my workout. It turns out that we were both a little bit right.

Cellulite is an accumulation of toxins and waste in our cells. It occurs when circulation is sluggish, which can be caused by a number of things including sitting on your bum all day and not doing your leg squats. Because very few men get cellulite, hormones are thought to have something to do with it. There are four stages:

1. Accumulation of fluids and clumping of fat cells. Blood vessels begin to break down

2. Collagen and elastin break down

3. Fat cells move upwards towards the surface and become surrounded fibrous bands called septa. Connective tissue breaks down.

4. Hard nodules form.

Exercise can help prevent too much of stages one and two. Dehydrating treatments help too, but weight is soon put back and fluid retained again. By the time stage three and four have been reached, treatments need to affect connective tissue, circulation and the lymphatic system.

So do some of the popular remedies work? Caffeine is often promoted as a cellulite buster, but it just helps reduce fluid, but doesn't increase circulation. In fact, it decreases circulation. This took me quite a bit of time to establish, since if you do a search on cellulite and circulation the results are all over the show, but without any data to back them up. A deeper search pulled up a lot of research showing that caffeine slows down blood flow and narrows blood vessels.

Cat's claw is the new cellulite botanical du jour, favored by Murad, but since it is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory (both useful in the greater scheme of things but not specifically relevant to the treatment of cellulite, I'm not sure how it is supposed to help.

On the other hand, niacin, part of the vitamin B family is a peripheral vasodilator, which in plain English means that it widens blood vessels (the opposite of caffeine). As a matter of fact and a boon for gym rats, so does exercise.

Although its early days, I think that the marine botanical chlorella vulgaris may soon be making waves. There is one study that I found that concluded it improves lymphatic drainage as well as boosting collagen production. Other algae are less convincing. For instance, laminaria digitata is called a "fat melter", yet the only connection that I've made is that it contains iodine that might stimulate the lipases, thereby eliminating fluids.

As for treatments, endermology (a sort of deep massage with rollers) reportedly works. However, it can get expensive as 20 sessions are needed followed by regular top ups. Good results with liposuction require patients to be only a few pounds overweight and no strangers to exercise. The only thing that I've personally tried that seemed to work was BEAM, which stands for Bio Electrical Acceleration Management. The system works by imitating the "body's natural bio-electric processes by sending customized electrical pulses through the nervous system via a set of electrodes". It's like a microcurrent treatment on steroids and it stimulates lymphatic drainage.