Garcinia Cambogia For Weight Loss

Last updated January 16th 2015

Garcinia Cambogia is an Indonesian fruit that has become increasingly popular due to its suspected weight loss properties. Garcinia Cambogia has been endorsed by celebrities and has even been given the title as the ‘Holy Grail of weight loss’. But how effective is Garcinia Cambogia and is there any evidence to back up its weight loss claims?

Unfortunately there is no miracle cure for obesity, but Dr. Oz cooked up a storm when he described Garcinia cambogia as the ‘holy grail of weight loss’ in 2012. Garcinia cambogia is a common ingredient added to a wide variety of weight loss supplements that claim to hold fat burning and appetite suppressing qualities. Despite clinical studies producing inconclusive results, product websites often make exaggerated claims about the potential effects of Garcinia, and the ingredient still appears to be growing in popularity. This article should provide a deeper insight into exactly what Garcinia cambogia is, whether or not it is safe, and precisely how it is supposed to tackle weight loss.

Can Garcinia Cambogia Really Help Me?

Garcinia cambogia supposedly works as a fat burner, and possibly as an appetite suppressant. The ingredient has undoubtedly gained a lot of popularity after it was discussed on the ‘Dr Oz Show’, who spoke about it with great enthusiasm. Scientific evidence for its efficacy is however lacking; as discussed above, a number of studies have been undertaken (although a large proportion of these were performed on mice and rats) and no strong positive results have been recorded. Nevertheless, that it doesn’t appear to cause many side effects is a great advantage of the ingredient, and sets it apart from some other popular substances.

More studies certainly need to be done on Garcinia cambogia to help one to understand whether or not it may have an impact on weight loss. No one weight loss supplement will work for everybody and so it is possible that Garcinia cambogia could help some people to lose weight, but not others. Fat burners tend to be most effective when accompanied by regular exercise, and appetite suppressants are usually most useful for individuals who are dieting and reducing their overall food intake. If an individual’s downfall is carbohydrate consumption rather than fats, then a carb blocking supplement may prove more effective. For more information on which type of weight loss supplement will best suit you, see our article here.

What Is Garcinia Cambogia?

Garcinia cambogia comes from the fruit now technically called ‘Garcinia gummi-gutta’. The fruit has received a lot of attention in the past few years due to its apparent benefits to weight loss, and its mention by the popular TV personality in the United States, ‘Dr Oz’. Garcinia cambogia does not appear to be used in many, if any, other traditional medicines. It’s only other use is in cooking – it is apparently a common addition to Indian curry recipes. Consumption of Garcinia cambogia in supplement form has not been approved by the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA), however this is not uncommon among the ingredients of health supplements.

The garcinia cambogia fruit is usually found in parts of Africa and India, and can also be found in Indonesia. In the latter two countries it is used in medicine and food. In the orient it has been used as a dietary aid for hundreds of years, due to its benefits for stopping fat absorption. It can usually be found in forests in the places mentioned and grows on specific trees.

The fruit behind the garcinia cambogia weight loss supplement goes by the same name as the supplement itself. It is small in size, usually the shape of a small pumpkin and goes by the name of tamarind fruit. In its appearance it has vertical lobes and thinnish skin, and these fruits can grow to the size matching that of a grapefruit, although usually they are about the size of an orange. They range in colour, from yellow to green and even a red-orange colour.

Traditionally the fruit was used as part of medicine and diet, but its weight loss and weight management benefits have meant that the fruit is now used for the purposes of weight loss. In the regions it is found it is used in traditional foods and still is, simply because it helps to activate digestion. In places like south India and Sri Lanka it is also used to cure fish. Now the fruit is also used as part of weight loss supplements, especially the extract from the fruit which is called hydroxycitric acid (HCA). HCA is used in many so called miracle weight loss pills.

Hydroxycitric acid (HCA) is the chemical compound within Garcinia cambogia that is believed to hold properties that encourage weight loss. The concentration of HCA is often stated on the label of a product, for example 60%; the higher percentage of HCA present in the product, the more effect it is thought to have on weight loss. The Dr. Oz Show recommends looking for products with at least 50% HCA in order to benefit from the full effect of the ingredient.

It should be noted that there is little scientific evidence to support the claim that extract of the fruit helps people to lose weight. Those clinical studies that have been undertaken do not generally provide proof that the substance aids weight loss when compared to a placebo. Much of the scientific research on Garcinia cambogia was also performed on animals; little is known about the benefits or side effects that the fruit may have on humans. Nevertheless, the ingredient remains extremely popular in the weight loss market, and so it is important that consumers understand exactly what the ingredient is, and how it is supposed to work.

What Weight Loss Claims Does Garcinia Cambogia Have?

Precisely how Garcinia cambogia supposedly works is rather difficult to determine; most products that contain the ingredient claim that it works as a fat burner, and some hint at the product being an appetite suppressant. The Dr. Oz show on the other hand, purports that the ingredient is a fat binder; this is a very different mechanism to fat burning, as will be discussed in more detail below. All in all, it seems that the exact mechanism simply is not understood!

Fat burning is a common method of weight loss that is exploited by supplements. It works in a similar way to metabolism boosting substances – by inducing the process of thermogenesis. Thermogenesis is a term to describe an increase in the internal body temperature, something that occurs naturally (to an extent) after food is consumed. This increase in temperature is believed to optimise the activity of cells in the body, including the enzymes that are involved in the breakdown of fat molecules (lipolysis). Fat molecules should be more readily used for energy, and the whole process should be more efficient.

In terms of appetite suppressing, precisely how Garcinia cambogia works is never mentioned and the ingredient has not been tested for this potential in scientific studies. Generally speaking, appetite suppressing ingredients are thought to work by altering the concentrations of certain neurotransmitters in the brain that are involved in the control of appetite, such as serotonin and norepinephrine. This alteration should make the brain signal to the body that it is not hungry, thus diminishing the feelings of satiety.

Fat binders work by preventing the uptake of fat molecules by the body. This is usually achieved by the ingredients attaching to the fat molecules that are consumed in the normal diet, making them too large to pass through the lining of the small intestine and be absorbed by the body. In theory, the molecules should just pass through the gastro-intestinal system naturally, and be excreted in the stall. If taken alongside a healthy diet and exercise, fat binding substances could therefore result in weight loss by reducing the amount of fat in the body. Garcinia cambogia is described by ‘Dr. Oz’ as an indigestible fibre which is thought to attach to fat molecules, making them too large to be absorbed. Whether or not it works in this way remains unclear.

What Does Dr. Oz Say?

Garcinia cambogia was featured on the ‘Dr Oz Show’ in 2012, where it was given a huge amount of praise. The substance was described as ‘the most exciting breakthrough in natural weight loss to date’ – a very strong statement. Despite the use of a number of extremely strong claims, for example the term ‘holy grail of weight loss’, exactly how it works was not considered in great detail, nor in scientific terms.

‘Dr Oz’ stated that the product worked as a ‘fat buster’ and that it would increase the levels of serotonin – a neurotransmitter responsible for controlling appetite, amongst other things. For this reason he believed that Garcinia cambogia would help to stop emotional eating. There is no evidence that Garcinia cambogia has any impact on serotonin levels. Any changes in weight due to the product are much more likely to be due to its potential fat burning properties.

What Clinical Evidence Is There To Support Garcinia Cambogia’s Claims?

Garcinia cambogia has been the subject of several clinical studies. Scientific research has been undertaken on the impact of the substance on weight loss in rats, mice and humans, but the results are largely contradictory and inconclusive. Not enough well controlled studies have been undertaken on humans with large sample sizes to come to a stable conclusion on its efficacy. There have also been no studies that directly test the effect of the ingredient on the appetite. More research is therefore needed before one can solidly conclude whether or not this ingredient is beneficial to weight loss in obese adult humans.

One of very few studies performed on human volunteers used a total of 135 overweight participants in a placebo-controlled trial. The subjects were randomly divided in to one of two groups; the first group were given HCA and the second received a placebo each day for a period of 12 weeks. These substances were taken alongside a high fibre, low calorie diet, and any changes in body weight and composition were noted by the researchers. The results indicated that whilst individuals in both groups did lose body weight, the difference between the weight lost in each group was not significant, and so it appeared that HCA does not have an impact on body weight or fat mass in humans.

One other study is revealed in a literature review that was undertaken on human subjects. This study tested the potential impact of Garcinia cambogia supplementation on the weights of 43 obese female subjects. The participants were randomly divided to receive either 2.4g Garcinia cambogia with 50% HCA or a placebo each day for 60 days. The results indicated that those volunteers who were consuming Garcinia cambogia had reduced levels of triglycerides when compared to the control group, but this was the only difference reported, and the substance didn’t appear to have an effect on any of the other factors considered.

A small selection of studies has also been undertaken on Garcinia cambogia using small mammal subjects. One study on rats for example, looked at the impacts of the ingredient on body fat accumulation in obese male rats. Here rats were randomly allocated to receive five different amounts of HCA in Garcinia cambogia (0, 10, 51, 102, or 154 mmol/kg diet for a period of 92 or 93 days. Each of the rats was also pair-fed to the 154 mmol HCA/kg diet group. The results of this trial suggested that at the highest dose (154 mmol HCA/kg diet) developing rats showed a reduced fat accumulation compared to the groups taking the other doses. It was also noted however that the doses higher than 102 mmol/kg diet gave the rats severe testicular toxicity. Of course these results should not be directly correlated to the potential effects in humans.

One final study was performed on 60 human subjects, and produced positive results. During this trial, the volunteers all undertook 30 minutes of exercise (walking) for five days a week whilst consuming 2,000 calories per day. The subjects were randomly divided into a test group who consumed 2,800 mg of HCA each day, or a control group who consumed a placebo. The trial continues for a period of eight weeks, and by the end it was reported that body weight and BMI were both significantly reduced in the HCA group. It was also noted that no adverse effects were experienced by the subjects.

Overall, the results of scientific studies are inconsistent, and it seems clear that more studies need to be performed on the ingredient. Unfortunately most of the studies to day have used poor quality methods, with either animal subjects or a small sample size of humans. In order to clarify results, larger studies need to be performed using human subjects and randomised, double-blind, placebo controlled methods. For now, whether or not Garcinia cambogia has the potential to boost weight loss remains unclear.

What Do Customer Reviews Say About Garcinia Cambogia?

The customer reviews of Garcinia cambogia products seem to be quite mixed. Some customers claim that, alongside dieting and exercise, it has helped them to lose weight after they have reached a plateau in their weight following other diets etc. Interestingly, they also often claim that they experience fewer cravings and their appetite is suppressed. On the other hand, a lot of people have written that the product simply does not work; these reviews do however tend to state only that it is a waste of money, rather than that they suffered any adverse side effects from the product.  It seems that it is unlikely to have an effect if not accompanied with exercise and dieting, but there don’t appear to be any recurrent side effects suffered by users.

Regardless of the reviews on Garcinia cambogia as an ingredient, it is important to make sure that you read customer reviews of the specific product you are thinking of taking before purchasing it – it is also important to remember that different brands will add different ingredients to the supplement, even if the main ingredient is the same.

Does Garcinia Cambogia Have Any Side Effects?

Although side effects of Garcinia cambogia appear to be uncommon, independent customer reviews have flagged some minor effects that may be associated with the ingredient. These include nausea, digestive tract discomfort, headaches, dizziness, and dry mouth. At present, it is not known whether or not there may be side effects from consuming this ingredient regularly for a long period of time (months or years) due to a lack of long-term clinical studies on the ingredient. For the same reason, it is recommended that you consult a doctor immediately if any adverse side effects are experienced, even if these are not known side effects of Garcinia cambogia – unfortunately not enough is known about the safety of this ingredient.

Individuals who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or suffer with diabetes or dementia should not take this supplement. If you are taking medications for diabetes, or are taking statins or warfarin, then the ingredient should be avoided. It has also been implied that Garcinia camobogia extract could cause liver toxicity and ‘rhabdomyolysis’ (the breakdown of muscular tissue) as well as kidney damage. These effects are not likely to occur, but have been reported in the past and so due caution should be taken, and general health should be monitored whilst taking supplements containing Garcinia cambogia.

Sources: NCBI, Drugs.com

Is Garcinia Cambogia Safe For Everyone To Take?

It is recommended that people under the age of 18, people who are pregnant or nursing and individuals taking other prescription medications should avoid the consumption of Garcinia cambogia. If you are diabetic or suffer from high blood pressure, consult your doctor before consuming the supplement. Everybody should be cautious when taking the substance and take note of any health impacts that could possibly have been caused by Garcinia cambogia. This is the case in both the short and long term. Side effects are not known with 100% certainty yet as not enough studies have been undertaken to date – particularly not those monitoring long term effects.

How Does Garcinia Cambogia Compare To Other Ingredients?

There are a few ingredients that are often found in weight loss supplements that have gained a lot of praise and have had some success in scientific trials. Examples of these include acai berry, green coffee beans and raspberry ketones. Of course the efficacy of any of these ingredients is dependent upon a number of variables specific to the product, for example the amount of the key ingredient in each serving, and which other ingredients are present in the product, as well as characteristics of the consumer.

Garcinia Cambogia and Raspberry Ketones

The precise mechanism behind Garcinia cambogia is not well understood, with claims being made that it works as a fat burner and appetite suppressant, and other implying that it works as a fat binder. Raspberry ketones on the other hand are always believed to work as fat burners, helping to increased the efficiency with which fat is broken down and used as energy. Whilst raspberry ketones naturally occur in the fruit, those that are added to weight loss supplements are more often than not created in a laboratory to increase the potency.

Only a few scientific studies have been undertaken on the efficacy of Garcinia cambogia, and the evidence obtained from these has not been deemed conclusive. Unfortunately the case is rather the same for raspberry ketones. This ingredient has also been the subject of several studies, but most of these have been performed using small mammal subjects. One study in particular is often used as proof that raspberry ketones are effective for weight loss, however the downfalls of this trial have been pointed out on numerous occasions, and it is very important to note that it was performed using mice, not humans.

study using test tube methods also produced positive results, implying that raspberry ketones are able to increase lipolysis. Another study confirmed the results of the first study, that raspberry ketones are able to aid fat reduction in small mammals. Overall, the studies on raspberry ketones suggest that the substance may have a benefit for weight loss, but as with studies on Garcinia cambogia, this effect has certainly not been confirmed by scientific studies.

Side effects associated with each of these ingredients are similar; neither of them are associated with particularly severe, or frequent side effects, but some side effects may occur. For Raspberry ketones, these include jitteriness, anxiety, increased blood pressure and increased heart rate.

Garcinia Cambogia and Acai Berry

Acai berry is thought to tackle weight loss in several different ways, with various websites claiming that the ingredient helps to burn fat, boost the metabolism, and suppress the appetite. It is also thought to have beneficial effects for the treatment of other conditions, such as heart disease due to its high antioxidant capacity. Unfortunately even fewer clinical trials have been performed on acai berry’s effect on weight loss than have been on Garcinia cambogia and raspberry ketones.

Only one study is revealed in a review of the literature, and this is just a pilot study using a very small sample size (10 individuals) and no control group – a very important aspect required for clinical studies to be deemed reliable. As such, the results of the trial cannot be seen as conclusive, however they may provide the first indication of whether or not the ingredient has any potential as a weight loss aid, and may prompt further study in to acai berry.

All of the human participants in the study were obese and consumed acai berry in order to determine its effects on the risk factors of metabolic disorders. The results of this trial indicated that extract of the fruit may be able to reduce cholesterol levels, fasting glucose, and insulin levels. No results relating to the burning of fat were reported. Overall, there is clearly not enough evidence surrounding this ingredient to imply that it has beneficial effects on weight loss, and more studies need to be performed. As research stands at present, Garcinia cambogia has been better studied, and in terms of scientific evidence has a better standing that acai berry.

As with Garcinia cambogia, acai berries do not appear to be associated with many severe or recurrent side effects.  It is warned however that not enough is known about the ingredient to state with certainty that it does not have any side effects at all, and people are advised against consuming the ingredient if they are under the age of 18, pregnant, or breastfeeding. Those who have any pre-existing health conditions should also consult a doctor before consuming the ingredient.

Garcinia Cambogia and Green Coffee Bean Extract

Using similar mechanisms to raspberry ketones, green coffee bean extract is thought to boost weight loss via fat burning, metabolism boosting, and appetite suppressing. Green coffee beans are simply the same as those used to brew the hot beverage, but before they have been roasted. Again, the ingredient has not been well studied, and scientific literature is rather lacking. Nevertheless, a few studies have been performed on green coffee beans, several of which used human studies, perhaps putting them ahead of the other ingredients discussed above in this sense.

A meta-analysis is a study that takes into consideration all of the available studies on a certain topic, drawing overall conclusions from the combined data. One such study has been performed on green coffee beans. A total of five studies were identified that were performed on human subjects to test the efficacy of green coffee bean extract on weight loss, and analyses performed on them. The results indicated that results of studies were contrasting, and if there is an effect, then it is likely to only be moderate.

A couple of specific trials can also be mentioned. One study performed on rat subjects for example, produced positive results for green coffee beans. A second, this time performed on human subjects, also indicated that the substance may have a beneficial effect on weight loss, but this was a rather low quality study and only involved a total of 16 participants. Nevertheless, it remains clear that more studies need to be performed to confirm this potential impact.

In terms of side effects, green coffee beans appear to be safe when consumed in moderation, but as with all weight loss ingredients, there are some potential side effects associated with the substance. As with Garcinia cambogia, it is important to monitor health whilst consuming green coffee beans in case side effects occur that have not been documented in the past. One study did record a few side effects, including headaches, nausea, and urinary tract infection, though whether or not these were directly the result of green coffee bean extract is unclear. Green coffee beans may also not be suitable for individuals who are less tolerant to stimulants, as they do contain caffeine and so can cause side effects like jitteriness and an increased heart rate.

Which Is The Best Brand Of Garcinia Cambogia To Buy?

As with all popular ingredients of weight loss supplements, they will be incorporated into the products of a range of brands. To ensure that you make the most of your money, check the product thoroughly before purchasing. Things to look out for are the amount of Garcinia cambogia (and HCA – the active ingredient in Garcinia cambogia) in each capsule, other ingredients in the product, and reputability of the manufacturers.

Aim to buy a product containing at least 50% HCA. You may also want to avoid products containing ingredients with known side effects, such as caffeine. Be sure to check independent customer reviews of the exact product, and the company selling the product; don’t believe everything that is published on their website. When looking at product websites, make sure that full contact details are accessible, and that the payment method is safe; also remember to check out their returns policy.

Beware of Garcinia Cambogia Scams

Before purchasing any weight loss supplements, make sure that the company you are buying from is safe. There are a lot of scams involving weight loss supplements; particularly common are free-trial scams, so keep an eye out for these. Some basics will be discussed here, but for more detailed advice on how to avoid diet pill scams, see our article here. First and foremost, look through independent customer reviews of the website; it may be possible to find these on the website itself (but remember that these may not always be reliable), or by entering the product name in to a search engine.

Do not enter your payment details until you know that the website is safe and uses a safe payment method such as Paypal or Norton Secured. Whilst it can be a drag, it is important to read the terms and conditions on the website to ensure that you don’t get caught up in an ongoing payment plan without realising; the scams are not always illegal because the terms are usually described in the terms and conditions, which the customer must acknowledge reading before signing up. The term ‘rush my trial’ is regularly used by websites running free trial scams, so be especially wary if you see this statement on the website.

Also search the official product website for the name of the product manufacturer and detailed contact details of the company. A contact telephone number and postal address should be provided, at the very least. If you are unsure about a product, it is undoubtedly safest to look for similar products in high street stores – this way you are much more likely to have some level of reliability.

Conclusion

The scientific evidence does not do justice to the outlandish claims made by ‘Dr Oz’ that Garcinia cambogia is comparable to the Holy Grail. Studies have had varying results, and not enough have been performed to draw a strong conclusion about the impact of Garcinia cambogia on weight loss in humans. Customer reviews are varied, suggesting that it may work for some people when taken alongside a healthy diet and regular exercise, but not for others. The product does not seem to have any common side effects, and generally appears to be safe for consumption by most people.

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