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Expert Opinions

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I'd like to try the herbal cellulite remedy, Cellasene. What do you think of it?

N.N. Phoenix, AZ



In the never-ending battle to banish cellulite, the dimpled build-up of fatty tissue beneath the skin of the thighs and buttocks, consumers worldwide have been snapping up Cellasene, the latest quick-fix cure. Take a pill a few times a day, the ads promise, and cellulite disappears. No need for the expensive thigh creams or fancy European massages that, other ads tell us, end the cellulite problem.

First made in Italy, Cellasene arrived in U.S. drug stores last year with a lot of fanfare. A shrewd marketing campaign told people not to panic, for enough Cellasene would be available. Sales kicked off with a bang. A year later, they remain robust.

Cellasene contains, among other things, the herbs ginkgo biloba and sweet clover, grape seed extract, and a type of seaweed called bladder wrack. The makers of the formula claim that these ingredients increase blood supply to the puckered areas of the thighs and buttocks, an effect they claim helps to flush away fatty buildup. But research on fat and cellulite physiology shows that blood flow does not play a significant role in the development, or reversal, of the condition.

Does the oral formula really work? Unlike many herbal cosmetic products, there have been a handful of studies on Cellasene in the U.S. and Europe. However, all the studies were small, short-term, funded by the maker, and unpublished except on the company's Web site (www.Cellasene.com).

In one, 25 women took the remedy for eight weeks, and it appeared to reduce the circumference of the hips, thighs, and ankles and increase blood flow near the skin's surface. But to prove whether the product works, more rigorous trials would be needed.

Some believe the product may even be dangerous. Women's health expert Phuli Cohan, M.D., of Cambridge, MA, notes that it may inhibit the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, as well as the healthful omega-3 fats found in fish.

Concerns have also been raised because the formula contains high amounts of iodine, which may be hazardous for those with thyroid problems.

"It may even contribute to bacterial imbalances in the gut or to food allergies," says Dr. Cohan. "There is nothing good about Cellasene. It will end up hurting people in the long run."

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