Is Mesotherapy a Safe Treatment for Cellulite?

In The Cellulite Cure, this month’s cellulite BOTM, Dr. Lionel Bissoon explains how mesotherapy works on cellulite.  The treatment involves multiple injections of small doses of pharmaceuticals, homeopathic medications, and vitamins into the mesoderm, the layer of tissue under the skin.

Mesotherapy is sometimes considered controversial because it’s not FDA approved. Usually when I hear a phrase like “not FDA approved” I immediately move on.  I am inclined to err on the side of safety but, once again, the matter is not as straightforward as it first appears.

Why Mesotherapy Is Not FDA Approved

Chapter Ten in Dr. Bissoon’s book is entitled “Mesotherapy and the FDA.”  Now you know how much you mean to me, dear CI readers, because I actually read this whole tedious chapter in order to summarize it here for you.

The entire chapter takes the form of a 13-page interview with former FDA Chief Counsel Peter Hutt. The opening question is “What was the origin of the Food and Drug Administration?” followed by “When did federal regulation of pharmaceutical products begin?”   Riveting reading, for sure.

I will spare you all the details, and just tell you that mesotherapy is not FDA approved because the FDA is not responsible for approving medical techniques and procedures. The medications and devices used in mesotherapy are FDA approved, but the technique of injecting them into the skin to treat cellulite is not. Here’s a quote from Mr. Hutt to explain further:

FDA adopted a policy in 1972, and has reiterated it many times since then, that a physician has the lawful right to prescribe any FDA-approved drug for an unapproved use, as part of the practice of medicine.

How Media Bias Affects Our View Of Mesotherapy

This is where the media bias towards fast and uncomplicated news stories comes into play again.  When a journalist wants to write an article on mesotherapy, they usually include a section about safety. Dr. Bissoon has had to explain the FDA issue many times, but the media usually cuts out the details of his answer and reports that mesotherapy “does not have FDA approval.”

This simple phrase conjures ideas of strange and experimental treatments with untested results and mysterious side effects.  Yet mesotherapy has been used in Europe for over fifty years without any serious mishaps.  According to Dr. Bissoon, only ten cases of mesotherapy-related infection have ever been reported in the medical literature.

Let me be clear, this post is about the issue of safety and FDA approval for mesotherapy.  I am not recommending mesotherapy as an effective treatment for cellulite (that is a subject for a separate post altogether).

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Comments

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Elizabeth Walling says:
4/27/2010

I take the FDA approval with a grain of salt these days. After all, look at all the drugs which *were* FDA approved and then had that revoked because they were killing people. And the FDA rarely officially approves any natural/herbal treatment. I think that's where you have to take your health into your own hands and do your own research to determine whether something is safe and/or effective.

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Good point, Elizabeth. I think it's misleading for a journalist to say "mesotherapy is not FDA approved." It implies that it was nominated for approval but then rejected. It's like saying "dry brushing is not FDA approved." It's a true statement, but insignificant.

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Lionel Bissoon says:
4/27/2010

Thanks for reviewing my book. Mesotherapy is a medical specialty with an
incredible safety record. As a medical specialty it does not need FDA approval.
But as Melissa points out, my comments are always censored when I do
interviews, which is very frustrating to me. This was the main reason I
interviewed Peter B. Hutt, former FDA Chief Counsel for my last chapter.

Lionel Bissoon, D.O

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Hi, Dr. Bissoon! Thanks for stopping by the Cellulite Investigation! Your book is this month's selection for our Cellulite Book-of-the-Month (BOTM) research group and it's prompted some interesting discussions, especially the underwear theory.

I'm intrigued by the photos you included of the women from Peru. Since launching the Cellulite Investigation, I've wondered if cellulite would be considered a "disease of civilization" as described by early 20th century medical travelers such as Albert Schweitzer, Weston Price, and others. They reported that disorders such as varicose veins were completely absent from non-industrialized societies, but there is no mention of cellulite in their accounts (of course, there wasn't an accepted term for cellulite at that time which, to me, is another clue that cellulite was not nearly as common then as it is today). In your research, have you come across any other non-industrialized societies that are cellulite-free?

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Lionel Bissoon says:
4/29/2010

Hi Melissa, You pose an interesting question. During my research, I have studied thousands of old photographs and old paintings. The early photographic evidence of nudes from around1839 to the late 1950's showed very little to no cellulite. Paintings from form the 14th century to early 20th century shows very little evidence of cellulite.

When, I travel to third world countries I spend a lot of time taking photographs of local women, such as in Peru. The tribal women in the jungles of Peru let me take their pictures-you can notice they are posing for the photographs. I have never seen women in the jungle or the mountains in Peru with cellulite.Interestingly, when I show tribal women pictures of American women with cellulite they are shocked by what they are seeing, because they have never seen this condition. It is an interesting response to observe. The flip side of this is tribal women who move to the big cities and change their lifestyles start to develop cellulite. My website http://www.cellulite.md has a lot about evolutionary changes and cellulite. So in answer to the first question, the answer is yes, cellulite is a recent development and it is an industrial disease. I refer to cellulite as the plague of the modern woman.

I have seen women from multiple tribes in Peru with no cellulite. I have not seen cellulite on women in Cambodia and Bali. Rarely have I seen Oriental women with cellulite. In non industrialized countries cellulite is rare, only the wealthy develop cellulite-an interesting mark of social status.

The one of the first and most important published medical description of cellulite was in the 1920's by Alquier and Paviot. These 2 Frenchmen are given credit for the word cellulite. I am sure every woman is thankful.

My underwear theory gets lots of attention. I did a pretty long segment on The Rachael Ray SHow where we talked a lot about underwear and cellulite (www.rachaelrayshow.com/show/…/view/a-cure-for-cellulite/ ) . If you want to send me some questions about underwear and cellulite I will be happy to provide you and your readers with my insight.since

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Lionel Bissoon says:
4/30/2010

You are right about Peter being dry. He is just "the facts" sort of a guy.
I will be happy to answer your questions.

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That would be great! Is there an email address I can send the questions to, or should I use the contact form on your website?

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Thanks for this additional information, Dr. Bissoon! I was not aware of your other website and it is a wealth of information.

So many women assume cellulite is an inevitable part of being a woman, it is important to understand that non-industrialized societies are completely cellulite-free. I never thought about what women from these cultures must think when they see pictures of cellulite. How interesting!

Thanks so much for offering to answer our questions about your work. I will start gathering questions from Cellulite Investigation readers. Please let me know the best way to contact you and I will send them over. Or you can email me at:
Analyst (at) CelluliteInvestigation (dot) com

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Lionel Bissoon says:
5/2/2010

The best way to contact me is info@mesotherapy.com
I did a google search on my name and your blog up
about #5..impressive.

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I'll work on collecting some questions from CI readers and send them to the email address you specified. Thanks again for the opportunity!

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Debbie says:
5/7/2010

This is awesome Melissa…so my question was not so dumb after all. I just wonder if there is something in our American diets of course linked to the increase in our cellulite. As you mentioned thinner women tend to have it as well, this is so true…my sister who is at least 20 lbs thinner than me, and never had kids has cellulite bad…she does have a high fat diet yet does not gain weight either…..thanks for your continued investigations! And thank you to Dr. Bissoon as well!

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Kristi says:
5/3/2011

I tried mesotherapy in desperation. It didn’t do a thing except lighten my wallet by over $2000 (I have blocked the actual amount from my memory), and give me gigantic bruises on each thigh. Maybe if I had gone for more sessions I would have seen results, but I could’t afford it. As it was I had no business spending anything near that on this problem.

Personally, I don’t believe it works on anyone, not just me. If it did EVERYONE would be doing it. Like botox. It works and 1/2 the women (and men) in this country are doing it. Injecting toxins straight into their faces. Madness.

But you know what, if it got rid of cellulite I’d be the first one in line to inject it into my thighs, so I can’t judge.

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That is tragic, Kristi! They always get you with the disclaimer that you didn’t go for enough treatments in order to see results. When is enough enough? How is $2000 and legs full of bruises not enough? You make a good point about the botox. You could say the same about most cellulite treatments. If they worked, more people would use them.

In the earlier stages of The Cellulite Investigation, I received offers to test expensive cellulite creams and review them on the site. None of them worked at all. I suppose once they realized I was writing real reviews they stopped asking me to test their products. I wasn’t going to sugar coat anything just because they were giving me a “$60” cream for free. No way!

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