Garcinia cambogia: A miracle weight loss supplement or another weight loss gimmick

In the media lately, there has been a lot of hype surrounding this potential weight loss miracle supplement. It is known as Garcinia cambogia, with the main ingredient being hydroxycitric acid (HCA). Garcinia cambogia is a fruit, found in Indonesia, India, Southeast Asia and parts of Africa.

For a good brief description of what Garcinia cambogia is.

Thanks to Dr. Oz, the hopes of easy weight loss without diet or exercise have been installed in many Americans, who are looking to lose a few pounds. Dr Oz, other health experts and the many companies who now sell Garcinia cambogia products even dare to say you can lose up to 4 lbs a week without changing anything (1).

Let me start here. 4 lbs of fat equals 14,000 excess calories burned per week(1 lb=3,500 calories).  Now let me tell you to burn 4 lbs a week is practically impossible. If you eat around 1,500-2,000 calories a day, you consume 10,500-14,000 calories per week. Now to create a deficiency of 14,000 calories per week you would either have to

  1. Not eat at all for a week, or
  2. Burn 24,500 calories per week (at 1,500 calories/day).

According to my calculations, a 190 lb individual like myself would have to do the following to burn an extra 14,000 calories per week:

  • 46 hours of rigorous weight lifting or aerobics
  • 27 hours running at a 10 mph pace
  • 36 hours of basketball
  • 77 hours of playing golf. I wish I could play golf 77 hours per week.

Its easy to see that 4 lbs per week is very difficult to achieve. This is why most weight loss experts recommend a loss of 1-2 lbs per week.

Now here is the claim to fame for Garcinia cambogia.

  1. Suppress your appetite (1). Which is why they recommend you taking it 30 minutes before a meal, so it makes you feel full faster and therefore eat less.
  2. It prevents you from making fat by blocking an enzyme called citrate lyase

I did a brief literature search on Garcinia cambogia just to see if there is any validity to what is portrayed in the media. I focused in on 1 paper which I would like to share. You can read it for yourself.

The paper was a Randomized Controlled Trial (the gold standard for research) and looked at 135 overweight individuals aged 18-65, with a BMI of 32 kg/m2 (overweight is 25-29 and 30+ is considered obese). They gave the control group a G. cambogia supplement containing 50% HCA. The total dose of HCA is 1500 mg per day or 3x 500mg capsules 30 minutes before meals for 12 weeks.

Here is what made the paper interesting. They regulated calorie intake to 5040 kJ per day in both groups, which equals 1500 kcal/day. Surprise! Both groups lost weight, and the placebo group actually lost more than the control group (4.1 vs 3.2 kg in 12 weeks). Now there are other papers I stumbled upon which showed that the supplement does help lose a little weight. However, the results were not statistically significant from a placebo though.

I picked this article to share because with a calorie deficit you should lose weight. The easiest way is see how many calories you consume is to use a tracker. I like and use the iPhone app MyfitnessPal, because it is user friendly and has many foods already with the macronutrients already.

All in all, the basics of Garcinia cambogia:

  • It has been eaten for thousands of years and has been tested for toxicity (3).
  • It may work in some people, but the research does not support it.
  • Many companies lie to you on the percentage of HCA and other active ingredients. If you decide to try it make sure the company has 3rd party independent research. Here is the consumer review on it.

Recommendations if you do chose to try HCA

  • Talk with your Doctor before starting an HCA supplement.
  • 60% HCA composition tested by research.
  • Dosage of 1,600 mg per day, so aim for servings of over 500 mg per meal.
  • No extra ingredients like calcium. Calcium blocks absorption. However, potassium aids in absorption.
  • A money back guarantee. If they do not back their product 100%, then why should you waste your time with that product.

I am not here to discourage you, but I am being real. There are no miracle weight loss supplements. These companies sell pseudo-science and prey on false hope. If you want to lose weight you have to eat right and exercise. Sadly, our bodies are more efficient at storing energy than burning it.

You do not gain weight over night and you can not lose it overnight. It takes time to gain weight, and it takes even longer to lose it. Take charge of your health!


Image Source:*wikimedia.org


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