If you are looking for a supplement or food to jumpstart or accelerate weight loss, you are not alone. Market data Enterprises estimates that Americans spend more than 60 billion dollars per year on weight loss; this includes gym memberships, diet supplements, eating more expensive “diet” foods or prepackaged mixes, and so on.
Many of these supplements are just gimmicks, some actually work, and others have a very small, to the point of being nearly negligible but still positive, benefit when used in combination with proper diet and exercise. This article will examine which of these three groups garcinia cambogia falls in, or if we even have enough science and data to decide one way or the other.
Though the past few years have seen a leveling off and even a small decline in obesity rates; almost one-third of Americans are still overweight. Junk food and inactivity are the two main culprits, creating a domino effect of poor gut health which then leads to low thyroid, adrenal fatigue, and a host of other metabolic disorders and gut infections and dysbiosis.
What is Garcinia Cambogia?
Garcinia Cambogia is a tropical fruit grown across southwest India, Myanmar, and Indonesia. It is shaped like a small green pumpkin and it is also known as the Malabar Tamarind and brindleberry.
The extract and rind of Garcinia have been used a sour-flavoring agent in native Indian cuisine for quite some time, perhaps due to the culture-wide belief in ayurvedic medicine sour spices or condiments stimulate digestion and assimilation of nutrients. In this context, Garcinia is, according to reliable anecdotal evidence accumulated by Indians using it over the years, healthful as a condiment in cooking.
Garcinia has also long been used as a natural purgative, antifungal, and antimicrobial medicine for the treatment of intestinal worms, dysentery, and similar gastrointestinal diseases and ailments.
There are several different natural acids found in Garcinia, the main one being hydroxycitric acid. Hydroxycitric acid is the primary component supposed to be responsible for Garcinia’s weight loss benefits. It is similar in its chemical makeup to citric acid and is also found in Garcinia’s cousins (Garcinia Indica and Garcinia atroviridis) as well as the lovely Hibiscus flower plants.
Are Garcinia Cambogia Weight Loss Pills Effective?
One 8-week study involving hydroxycitric acid and rats showed that there may be some weight loss benefit. The rats, divided into two groups (the control group and the placebo), were given the same rat chow and free access to water. After 6 weeks, the control group showed a very modest decline in body weight, which held steady for the remaining 2 weeks of the study. The decline, as stated, was not significantly noticeable but still present. (Source https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5991152/ )
In another study, the combination of Garcinia Cambogia and pear pomace extract was shown to have a mild effect on weight loss. (Source https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29720835)
It is not wise to regard studies such as this as infallible or certain proofs of Garcinia’s effectiveness, as there are many variables. For instance, it is not mentioned what the levels of activity were or if perhaps the weight loss was due more to the pear pomace extract than the Garcinia component.
Another randomized control study involving men and women showed little to no benefit. Over a 12 week period, the men and women were given an active herbal compound of hydroxycitric acid and a placebo; both groups were put on a high fiber, low calorie diet. Both groups lost approximately the same amount of weight and fat mass, suggesting that garcinia’s benefits, if any, are very marginal. (Source:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9820262)
Most Relevant Study on Garcinia Cambogia Yet
This 2013 study is the most comprehensive of all up to date. A thorough overview of this study is given below. Garcinia’s purported weight loss benefits and how they work can be divided into four main categories. (Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3748738/#B15)
- Regulation of the neurotransmitter serotonin
- Decreased lipogenesis (fancy word for decreased fat absorption)
- Increased fat oxidation (fancy word for “fat is disappearing”
- Regulation of genes associated with obesity
Serotonin Regulation and Weight Loss
HCA may inhibit ATP citrate lyase. Translation: ATP citrate lyase enzyme is responsible for fatty acid and cholesterol synthesis/absorption. HCA may act as a block to this lyase enzyme. This causes a domino effect. Because HCA blocks the lyase enzyme, your body sends this leftover carbon source (fuel) to the liver for glycogen synthesis. Your brain then goes, “Oh, there was a metabolic change. Better produce more serotonin.”
The same study mentions several reports which corroborate the positive benefit that HCA has on serotonin production. A study involving rats given Garcinia Cambogia also showed subsequently higher levels of serotonin.
Inadequate serotonin is responsible for increased appetite (which then leads to weight gain), as well as depression (which then leads to emotional eating in many cases).
Decreased Fat Absorption
Multiple small studies involved mice and neutered cats show that Garcinia may help to block or decrease the absorption of fat. This conclusion is debatable, however; as the studies mentioned involve periods of calorie deprivation and then refeeding. The drastic changes in calories may trigger a jump start in the metabolism, so it is difficult to say whether Garcinia Cambogia for weight loss is effective here.
In a trial involving both athletes and untrained women, exercise endurance was improved in comparison to the control group. The findings on fat oxidation, while debatable, showed a very mild benefit.
While the jury is still out on this one, it is possible that Garcinia may have a very mild effect on the expression of genes related to appetite suppression, suggesting that Garcinia might work on a deeper level than a simple superficial alteration of neurotransmitters.
Conclusion of the Study
The study concludes with stating that most of the benefits of HCA/Garcinia Cambogia have only been found in small clinical trials and/or animal studies, save the study involving its positive effects on exercise endurance.
Whether the lack of Garcinia’s observe positive effects on humans is due such a wide variance of metabolism (thyroid conditions, etc.) or simply to the fact that perhaps Garcinia’s benefit is borderline useless is still up for debate.
Dangers of Garcinia
While most people seem to do fine with Garcinia, it has been linked to the following side effects:
- Liver problems
- Dry Mouth
These side effects, while uncommon, are still something to be the lookout for. They usually occur when Garcinia is taken in excess.
One study involving 4 women showed alarming levels of liver toxicity. The dosage of Garcinia and whether there were any other ingredients added (such as excess caffeine) is not mentioned. (Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29802521)
Is All Garcinia Cambogia Equal?
Many HCA Garcinia Cambogia for Weight loss supplements contain a lot of fillers or other ingredients like caffeine and amino acids, which may lead to serious side effects in sensitive individuals. If you do decide to try Garcinia, do your research carefully and thoroughly; don’t trust a bunch of fake-looking reviews or catchy labels that don’t mean anything like “natural”, “true”, “authentic”, and so on. Don’t be afraid to call the company and ask where they get their supply. Here are some tips for if you decide to call or email the company and inquire:
- What percentage of the supplement is HCA
- How concentrated is the HCA and how bioavailable is it
- Are there any fillers or allergens?
- Where does the company get their supply
- What are the side effects
- Return policy
If the customer service is so shoddy or inadequate that they can’t honestly answer these questions or obtain those answers for you, invest your money elsewhere.
Who Shouldn’t Take Garcinia Cambogia?
While it is always wise to consult your doctor or primary care provider before adding in supplements, please avoid Garcinia altogether if you fall into any of the following categories:
- Pregnant or breastfeeding
- Currently, take asthma or allergy medication
- Psychiatric or psychotropic drugs
- Are on iron supplements and/or suffering from anemia
- Are on pain medications
- On Statin drugs (for cholesterol)
- On Warfarin
- Had Diabetes, whether it be Type 1 (Juvenile Diabetes) or Type 2
- Have kidney problems
- Have liver problems
A possible (and dubious at that) extra pound of weight loss isn’t worth your health.
You may be asking yourself: Should I take Garcinia? While the positive benefits of Garcinia Cambogia for Weight loss are present in some animal studies; the benefits on humans are small and marginal in the long run. You may be better off investing the money you would spend on a bottle (or 3 bottles) of Garcinia Cambogia pills elsewhere, such as in a few weights, a nice pair of running shoes, a jump rope, or even a gym membership.
While the health risks associated with Garcinia are uncommon, they are still there and not really worth any small benefit Garcinia may have. Remember that the most effective way to PERMANENTLY lose weight is through a healthy diet of whole foods, like grass-fed meats, vegetables, fruits, starchy vegetables, and whole grains (for some), and through exercise.
If you have healthy eating and exercise nailed to a T and still aren’t losing any weight, consult with a functional nutritionist or look into tweaking your diet further to accommodate food sensitivities.