Benefits, Uses and Side Effects of Garcinia Cambogia

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A growing mound of scientific evidence suggests that global epidemic of obesity – globesity – is getting worse with each passing year, but in the race of obesity, no one wants to win.

If you are among those 650 million adults who contribute to the global obesity statistics, I am sure you have tried various methods to shed those extra pounds. (1)

Amid thousands of weight loss diets, supplements, exercises, and natural remedies, garcinia cambogia extracts remain a popular focus for those in search of “weight loss miracle remedy.”  

Read on to find out what is garcinia cambogia, what benefits of garcinia cambogia are backed up by science, how it is used, and what are the potential side effects?

What is Garcinia Cambogia?

Garcinia cambogia is a small fruit that resembles pumpkin in shape. It grows in the forest areas of Southeast Asia, India, coastal Kerala, and some parts of Africa. (2)

Garcinia gummi-gutta, Malabar tamarind, and Assam fruit are a few other names of this fruit in its native areas. However, garcinia cambogia is a globally recognized name.

Extracts of the fruit are also marketed as weight loss supplements usually under the same name, i.e., garcinia cambogia.

Benefits of Garcinia Cambogia Backed Up by Science

The fruit rinds of garcinia cambogia contain an active substance – hydroxycitric acid (HCA) – about which a growing body of research exists that it has certain weight loss benefits. (3, 4)   

The supplements containing garcinia-cambogia-extracted-hydroxycitric-acid usually contain 20 to 60 percent HCA.

Although it is not clear whether higher doses of HCA provide a greater benefit or not, garcinia cambogia supplements containing 50-60 percent HCA content are generally considered more effective than low doses.

There have been mixed results on the effectiveness of garcinia cambogia in weight loss. Some studies have found no weight loss advantage of garcinia extract – HCA – whereas many others have concluded its significant positive effects on weight loss.

First, let’s talk about two studies that showed the positive effects of garcinia extract on weight loss.

A meta-analysis, i.e. a research approach that combines the results of multiple studies conducted on the same subject, on the use of garcinia extract (hydroxycitric acid) as a weight loss supplement combined results of nine clinical trials.

The analysis found that there was a small statistically significant difference in weight loss observed in HCA group compared to the placebo group – placebo: a drug intended for the psychological benefit and without any therapeutic effect.  

The magnitude of the effect was small, and it was concluded that more trials are required to be sure of the long-term effects of HCA in weight loss. (5)

Another research studied the effects of HCA on visceral fat accumulation. Participants aged 20 to 65 years were enrolled in the study and divided into two groups.

One group received a daily dose of garcinia cambogia containing 1000 mg of HCA over a 12-week period. The second group, however, received a placebo. Towards the end of this study, it was seen that HCA reduced abdominal fat in individuals of garcinia cambogia group.

The study concluded that HCA may be useful in the reduction of abdominal fat. (6)

If you are planning to try garcinia cambogia, you’d like to know how much weight loss it can produce in a specific time. On average, you can expect about 2 pounds of weight loss with garcinia extract taken for about 2-12 weeks.

Now: a little on the study that showed negative results.

A research study was conducted to evaluate HCA as a potential anti-obesity agent. A total of 135 subjects were administered 1500 mg of hydroxycitric acid every day for 12 weeks.

The goal was to measure changes in the body weight and fat mass. Similar to the previous study, the subjects were divided into two groups – one group received active herbal compound, HCA, and the other group received a placebo.

By the end of 12 weeks, researchers found that HCA failed to produce significant changes in the body weight and fat mass beyond that observed in the placebo group. (7)

You see, there is a mixed evidence. It works for some people while it doesn't work for others. Note that this expected weight loss is in reference to no change in diet and lifestyle.

One can expect better results when garcinia extract is combined with dietary and lifestyle changes.

There are two ways in which garcinia cambogia exerts its beneficial effects

  1. It reduces your appetite. There is not much evidence on how garcinia does this, but a few animal studies suggest that HCA in garcinia increases the levels of serotonin – an appetite suppressant – in the brain. Higher blood levels of serotonin reduce your appetite.

  2. It blocks fat production and reduces visceral fat accumulation. Garcinia inhibits citrate lyase, an important enzyme in the production of fat.

Benefits of garcinia cambogia other than weight loss

Although garcinia is globally famous for its weight loss claims, there are a few studies that demonstrate its possible other benefits.

In a comprehensive scientific overview of garcinia cambogia, some studies were listed that showed how crude extracts from garcinia plant exerted certain other benefits. (8)

A few properties behind these benefits are mentioned below:

•    Hypolipidemic

•    Anti-diabetic

•    Hepatoprotective

•    Anticholinesterase

•    Anthelmintic

•    Anti-inflammatory

•    Anticancer

In simple words, garcinia extracts can stabilize blood sugar levels, increase insulin sensitivity, play a role against inflammation and cancer, repel parasitic worms, lower cholesterol, and protect your liver.

Animal studies also suggest that garcinia can attenuate stomach ulcers (9). However, there is a need for further research before we come to a firm conclusion.

Safety of Garcinia Cambogia

You must have known that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate supplements.

That means there is no guarantee that the product you buy actually consists of the said ingredients. So, make sure you buy garcinia cambogia from a reputable manufacturer.

Regarding the dosage safety, most studies have concluded that for healthy people up to 2,800 mg of HCA is safe on a daily basis. (9)

However, do not take a high dose in hopes of getting rapid weight loss. Stick to the recommended dosage as stated by the manufacturer.

Be informed that the dose is related to several factors, such as age and health condition of the person. It is, therefore, essential to consult your healthcare provider for dose consultation in your case.

Side effects of Garcinia Cambogia

Just because it is natural doesn’t mean that there are no side effects. The short-term side effects include:

•    Nausea

•    Headaches

•    Skin rash

•    GI disturbances

The HCA is thought to be safe when taken for a 12-week period, but the long-term safety is unknown.

Moreover, there are possible drug interactions. For example, a 35-year-old woman who was taking supplements containing garcinia cambogia and was on therapeutic doses of serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) developed serotonin toxicity. (10)

Although this is not a definitive cause and effect relationship between garcinia cambogia and serotonin toxicity, if this toxicity was a result of these supplements, we need to ask a bigger question.

Is it safe to take this supplement when taking other medicines and when we are unaware of the possible drug interactions?

If you have a medical condition, please consult with your doctor before purchasing any supplements or herbal products. Here are some conditions that require extra precautions:

Pregnancy: The data on the use of garcinia cambogia during pregnancy and breastfeeding is lacking. It is best to avoid its use during these crucial stages of your life.

Diabetes: HCA has demonstrated anti-diabetic properties. It can reduce blood sugar levels, so you need to monitor your blood sugar closely. Based on the effects of HCA, there might be a need to adjust the dose of anti-diabetic medicines.

Bleeding disorders: Some data suggest that HCA can slow-down blood clotting. This is particularly of concern for individuals with bleeding disorders.  If you have such condition, better avoid its use.

Surgery: As stated earlier, hydroxycitric acid lowers blood sugar levels and slows the blood clotting. It is, therefore, recommended to stop taking HCA at least two weeks before any surgery. Also, inform your surgeon about your use of garcinia cambogia.

Bottom line     

Garcinia cambogia shows mixed results on its weight loss properties. Discuss with your healthcare provider if you are considering to buy this supplement.

Make sure that you choose a reputable brand. Any side effect should be taken as alarming signs to discontinue taking the supplement.












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