Garcinia Cambogia: A Link Between the “Miracle” Weight Loss Pill and Acute Pancreatitis

Obesity has been on the rise, resulting in the introduction of innumerous weight loss supplements. Garcinia Cambogia – containing supplementsare the latest in vogue and have yet to been linked to any adverse side effects until now.

A 36-year-old male with no past medical history presented with left upper quadrant pain. His amylase was 226 and lipase was 995. A CT of the abdomen demonstrated acute pancreatitis. The patient’s history was unremarkable for gallstones, alcohol use, or any recent surgeries. His workup was negative for elevated triglycerides or hypercalcemia. Abdominal ultrasound was negative for biliary tree or pancreatic duct abnormalities. His history revealed that he had been taking Garcinia Cambogia for weight loss for seven months prior to the onset of his symptoms. Poison control was contacted and informed us that dietary supple ments had been linked to pancreatitis; however, there was no case reported with Garcinia Cambogia.

Garcinia Cambogia is a fruit from Asia that has gained popularity due to its proposed weight loss aiding properties. Extracted from the rind of the fruit is garcinol, and its primary ingredient is hydroxycitric acid (HCA). HCA acts by competitively inhibiting the enzyme ATP citrate lyase which results in altered synthesis of fatty acid, cholesterol, and triglycerides. A report by Sadaat et al. demonstrates that garcinol possesses multifunctional bioactivities including antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, apoptotic, antitumorigenic, and perhaps anti-neurodegenerative properties as well. In vitro, it has been shown to reduce viability of human pancreatic cancer cells by up to 89%. The role of reactive oxygen species in the pathogenesis of acute pancreatitis has been well documented. As other etiologies were ruled out in our patient, along with the possibility of increased oxidative stress and apoptotic nature of Garcinia, it must be considered as a possible cause of his pancreatitis.

Numerous weight loss supplements are flooding the commercial dietary market. The side effect profiles of many are not fully understood. Consequently, it is imperative to stress caution when recommending the use of these supplements. Furthermore, physicians should be clinically vigilant of potentially harmful effects, as evidenced by our case report. Further studies should be conducted to evaluate the safety of Garcinia Cambogia as a weight loss supplement. At minimum, its use for dieting purposes should be cautioned.



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