Cellulite is more a descriptive term than a medical one, and refers to the localized, irregular-appearing patches of skin that, according to Informa Health, appear in anywhere from 85 to 98 percent of post-pubertal females. Roundly deemed unsightly by those affected by it, cellulite--also called gynoid lipodystrophy--is characterized by its nodular or "aged" appearance and its propensity to appear in areas such as the thighs, buttocks and belly.
An individual's propensity for accumulating cellulite on the stomach and elsewhere is largely determined by hereditary factors. A study of 400 healthy women--200 with cellulite and 200 without--demonstrated that variants in two genes, called ACE and H1F1A, were are associated with the presence of cellulite. Because ACE produces an enzyme with effects on blood pressure, the researchers theorized that differences in blood flow near the surface of the skin could account for greater levels of cellulite in women with the ACE variant, resulting in higher levels of the enzyme as well as a greater proliferation of cells and unusual tissue structure in affected areas.
Diet and Weight
Although cellulite on the belly and elsewhere affects women of any body size and type, individuals find that their cellulite deposits are more pronounced at higher weights. A study published in 2006 in "Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery" used various assessment tools and methods to demonstrate that heavier women taking part in a medically supervised weight-loss program generally experienced a reduction in cellulite, whereas those who began the study at lower weights often experienced a worsening of their cellulite in terms of both quantity and severity.
Hormonal and Sex Differences
Some research has underscored the role of sex hormones in the formation of cellulite, shedding light on the reasons almost all women display it while men do not. In males, the layer of skin just beneath the surface layer is thinner than that in women, and has a "criss-crossing" pattern of septae, or barriers, dividing fat deposits into smaller units and thus protecting against dimpling. Furthermore, estrogen has direct effects on fat storage, which occurs differently in women and men--mainly as a result of factors related to lactation and pregnancy--and predisposes women to anatomical and physiological states that encourage cellulite formation.