Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a pill we could take that would make us lose weight without changing our diet or needing to exercise more? Well, some think there is. It’s called garcinia cambogia, or the malabar tamarind, which is a fruit marketed as a weight loss food, native to India and Southeast Asia. The fruit is small and looks like a cross between a pumpkin and a tomato. Within the fruit, there is a chemical called hydroxycitric acid (HCA for short), and this chemical is used to aid weight loss. HCA can come in two forms, powder or pill, and can be purchased online or in health food stores. Garcinia cambogia is very popular, being promoted by health professionals and celebrities such as Dr. Oz. Sounds pretty great, right? Take a pill, lose weight
What’s the catch?
While HCA is proven to aid in weight loss, it is a myth that by taking garcinia cambogia supplements you will automatically lose all unwanted weight. Studies show that diets high in fat worked best with the supplement, which is not what is marketed by the supplement manufacturers. Many companies make the claim that to lose weight while taking the HCA supplement, NO changes have to be made to the person’s diet or exercise patterns. But, only certain diets show results of weight loss while taking the supplement. Other claims made by these companies are that it curbs appetite, which was true in animal studies but not human studies, that it increases athletic performance, which there was a moderate increase in both animal and human subjects, and it lowers cholesterol, which had no proof behind at claim. Most studies done with garcinia cambogia have animal subjects, so any evidence drawn from these studies may not be true in humans.
Even though the studies don’t show completely positive results in humans, is it still safe to take the supplements?
It varies. Because HCA is manufactured in supplement form, there is very little regulation on the products currently on the market. Supplements do not have to be regulated by the FDA, which means the amount of HCA found in every supplement can vary, and the ingredients are not consistent throughout every brand. Many brands use synergistic or filler ingredients, so the levels of HCA are very low. The potency of HCA proven to have the best results is supplements containing 95% HCA, 1600mg/day with a small amount of potassium to help absorbency. Most brands that produce garcinia cambogia supplements do NOT meet this criteria. Instead, they draw you in with labels saying “Pure Garcinia Cambogia”, or “All Natural”. “Pure” does not imply how much HCA is found within the product: it simply means that the HCA found in the product is from the garcinia cambogia fruit. Even if the product contained less than 1% HCA they could still make this claim. “All Natural” only means that the product is made from fruit that is grown in a natural way. This does NOT guarantee that the product is safe for consumption.
Could you get sick from taking these unregulated supplements?
Yes. Side effects of taking garcinia cambogia supplements include headache, nausea, skin rash, common cold symptoms, low blood sugar, digestive upset, dizziness, and dry mouth. On top of these symptoms, there are have some cases where products containing HCA have been linked to liver damage. In 2009 the FDA warned consumers to stay away from garcinia cambogia supplements, saying that it caused serious liver problems.
HCA can also react badly with medications or other preexisting medical conditions. For example, garcinia cambogia can make it easier for your body to use glucose, which would be good news for patients with type 2 diabetes. However, when garcinia cambogia is taken with diabetes medications, your blood glucose can get dangerously low. The same can happen with cholesterol medications. Cholesterol levels can get so low that it becomes harmful instead of helpful.
Garcinia cambogia can also have bad reactions with other medications, such as…
-asthma/allergy medications (Accolate, Singulair)
-diabetes medications (pills, insulin)
-Iron for anemia
-prescriptions for psychiatric conditions
-statins (drugs that lower cholesterol)
-Warfarin (blood thinner)
On top of all of this, some companies are charging up to $100 per bottle of supplements!
So, take this information as you will. Garcinia cambogia has helped some people lose weight, and there are some supplements on the market that are safe for consumption. However, the best route for weight loss is a clean diet and regular exercise…this is the safest most reliable way for healthy weight loss that will last!