Garcinia Cambogia is a name that has been making big waves across the weight loss industry. This exotic-sounding fruit is fast gaining popularity as a weight-loss supplement that helps reduce body weight, and most importantly, it helps shed belly fat.
Garcinia Cambogia (Garcinia gummi-gutta) is also known as the Malabar tamarind. Malabar lies to the north of Kerala state in India and Garcinia Cambogia, locally known as ‘Kudampuli’, is used extensively in Kerala cuisine. This fruit is too sour to be eaten directly. Instead, it is sun-dried and used for adding flavor to many dishes, especially fish curries, thus earning it the nickname ‘fish tamarind’. It is also known by many other names such as kokum, and brindle berry.
As a revolutionary natural weight loss supplement, Garcinia is currently rage across the globe from America to Europe and Japan. The rising obesity epidemic in the US and the widespread increase in the levels of obesity-related diseases have prompted an unprecedented demand for weight loss supplements.
Scientific research involving extracts of Garcinia Cambogia has shown promising results for weight loss. Garcinia Cambogia also offers many other health benefits other than promoting weight loss.
What is Garcinia cambogia?
Garcinia Cambogia is the Latin name for a fruit cultivated and used in Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Sri Lanka and certain parts of Africa. It grows well in evergreen or semi-green forest areas. The appearance of the fruit is like a combination of tomato and pumpkin. It is found to have a green or pale yellow color.
Drying and storing can cause the color to change to dark brown or black. Its size can be that of a grapefruit to the size of an orange fruit. The dried fruit is often added to curries due to its tart, smoky flavor. It is also used in the preparation of various Ayurvedic medicines. The bacteriostatic properties of this fruit make it useful as a preservative. Using Garcinia Cambogia as an ingredient in meals seems to help in preventing gas formation after having food.
The leaves are dark green and the tree can withstand drought. It flowers during the summer season. The fruit becomes ripe in the rainy season and is harvested from the months of June to August. Each fruit has only 6 to 8 seeds. It’s dried version is available throughout the year.
How Does Garcinia Cambogia Work?
A chemical called Hydroxycitric acid (HCA) in this fruit has been the subject of many studies for weight loss management. This substance was first discovered in studies conducted in the 1960s. Many weight loss supplements contain this chemical as HCA has been found to suppresses appetite and decrease body weight gain.
Garcinia Cambogia contains at least 30% HCA. Other chemicals found in Garcinia Cambogia are xanthones, benzophenones, organic and amino acids. This fruit extract can be found in the form of teas, tablets, and weight loss potions.
HCA is the active ingredient of Garcinia Cambogia that exhibits properties causing a reduction in weight. HCA is similar to the citric acid found in oranges, lemons but chemically different. The peel of Garcinia Cambogia has a high level of hydroxycitric acid HCA.
It was in the 1990s that studies were recorded on the properties of HCA. It was found to block the enzyme citrate lyase which, in turn, prevents carbohydrates from being converted to fat. Instead, they were converted into fuel for energy. The study was published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information in 1998.
The report of another experimental research was published in 2002 by the National Centre for Biotechnology Information which stated that HCA is a safe product to consume. The researchers noted that it may suppress appetite and also help in the treatment of depression, insomnia, migraine headaches and conditions where the serotonin produced levels are insufficient.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that affects moods, sexual desires, and appetite. Low levels of this neurotransmitter can cause anxiety and depression which may trigger uncontrolled eating desires or food cravings. In short, Garcinia Cambogia contains ample amounts of HCA which
Many studies have found that Garcinia Cambogia is safe for consumption and does not cause any harmful side effects.
7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Garcinia Cambogia
Garcinia Cambogia may offer many health benefits to its users. Traditionally the fruit is used to alleviate the symptoms of rheumatism, reduce joint pain and treat cases of diarrhea. It was used for treating symptoms of insomnia, migraine headaches, and depression.
Supplement companies have been boasting of many health claims offered by this revolutionary fruit. Let’s take a close look to see how many of these claims can be verified with scientific evidence.
1. Garcinia Cambogia May Help Lose Weight
The popularity of Garcinia Cambogia supplements is based on its weight loss claim. So let’s verify that one first.
A study published in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research in 2015, investigated the effects of Garcinia Cambogia on body weight, glucose tolerance and inflammation in rate given a high-fat diet. The researchers found that “Supplementation of the Garcinia Cambogia extract with a high-fat diet reduced body weight gain, inflammation and glucose intolerance.”
An enzyme known as citrate lyase helps make fat in the body. HCA disrupts the functioning of this enzyme. Garcinia Cambogia also seems to increase the levels of a chemical called serotonin in the brain, which makes one feel good therefore curbing any stress-related food cravings.
Researchers have pointed out the HCA in Garcinia Cambogia works best with a high fiber diet and exercise, rather than relying on just the supplement. Garcinia Cambogia may also give a feeling of being full. This increased feeling of satiety helps to cut down on overall calorie intake.
Garcinia cambogia does seem to cause weight reduction as observed in a study conducted in 2011 on 50 obese women in Thailand. They were divided into two groups and the experiment was conducted over a period of two months. Group 1 was given water-soluble calcium hydroxycitrate (HCA) as Garcinia atroviridis while Group 2 received a placebo. All subjects followed a similar diet of 1000 Kcal/day. The researchers noted that
“Group 1 lost significantly more weight (2.8 vs. 1.4 kg, p<0.05) and at a greater rate than Group 2 throughout the study. The decrease in their body weight was due to a loss of fat storage.”
Studies on Garcinia Cambogia has shown an average weight loss of 2 pounds over a period of 2-12 weeks. Clinical tests have been done mostly on animals. Studies on humans have been done on small groups and for short periods of time. The results will vary from individual to individual. Factors like diet, exercise, and metabolism can affect the outcome of any weight reduction program.
Summary: Several studies have noted that Garcinia Cambogia promotes weight loss. The HCA in Garcinia Cambogia disrupts the functioning of the enzyme citrate lyase which plays an important role in fatty acid biosynthesis.
2. Garcinia Cambogia May Help Reduce Abdominal Fat
Even when we lose weight, we often find it harder to lose stubborn belly fat. You might have seen slim people with tummies that bulge out. Abdominal fat deposition can occur due to insulin resistance, high stress and so on in people who are not overweight. Garcinia Cambogia may help target abdominal fat in a weight loss program. It also seems to help reduce fat deposits around internal organs.
A 2003 clinical experiment conducted on a group of people aged between 20 and 65 investigated the effects of Garcinia Cambogia extract administration on visceral fat accumulation. The study using 44 subjects and conducted over a period of 3 months, noted that Garcinia Cambogia is beneficial in reducing abdominal fat around the pancreas, intestine, and liver. They were given 1000 mg of HCA per day or placebo for a period of 12 weeks. No adverse side effects were observed in the study participants.
Summary: Garcinia Cambogia may be beneficial in reducing abdominal fat and the excess fat deposits around the pancreas, intestine, and liver.
3. Garcinia Cambogia May Lower LDL and Triglyceride Levels
Garcinia Cambogia has been found to lower cholesterol levels and blood triglycerides, especially in overweight people. Researchers from the Georgetown University Medical Center, along with the Dept. of Pharmacy Sciences, Creighton University Medical Centre, USA conducted an 8-week research study of 30 obese people.
They were divided into three groups. The first group received only the Garcinia Cambogia fruit supplement and the second group was given additionally two other supplements (niacin-bound chromium and Gymnema Sylvestre extract). The third group was given a placebo.
All of them performed exercises for 30 minutes for five days/week and consumed 2000 calories each day. Not only was there evidence of loss of weight, but LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels were also reduced. The group that was given only a placebo did not show any sign of benefitting from the placebo.
Total cholesterol was reduced by 6.3%, LDL was reduced by 12.3%, and triglycerides level reduced by 8.6%. Good cholesterol otherwise known as HDL increased by 10%. Fat metabolites excretion through urine was at 258%. Their serotonin levels had increased by 40%
Summary: Garcinia Cambogia has been found to lower cholesterol and blood triglyceride levels, especially in overweight people.
4. The Effect of Garcinia Cambogia on Blood Pressure
Being overweight or obese is associated with several health issues such as shortage of breath, backache, hyperlipidemia, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and even psychological problems.
Considering that Garcinia Cambogia seems to help with decreasing weight and especially visceral fat reduction, it is only to be expected that it will help stabilize blood pressure as well.
But be warned that studies on supplements such as Garcinia Cambogia are still being conducted and many times results can be contradictory. A 2016 study from the University of South Florida, Tampa, USA observed that that “When the participants ingested the thermogenic dietary supplement (such as Garcinia Cambogia), they experienced greater elevations in resting metabolic rate (RMR) values as compared to baseline.
Though this elevation showed no adverse effects relative to resting heart rate and diastolic blood pressure values, caution is advised for those with increased risk for hypertension or pre-hypertension due to elevations in systolic blood pressure. The researchers noted that when such supplements are taken on a daily basis, they “may increase overall energy expenditure, possibly leading to reductions in fat mass over time.”
Summary: Garcinia Cambogia may help stabilize blood pressure in addition to weight reduction, though people suffering from hypertension should practice caution and take their physician’s advice before consuming it.
5. Garcinia Cambogia is Good for the Digestive System
Garcinia Cambogia also helps in digestion and is used in treating slow bowel movements. It helps remove parasites in the digestive system. Studies on animals have shown that the extract protects the stomach from ulcers and damage to the digestive tract. Garcinia Cambogia acts as a diuretic and increases the elimination of excess water and sodium from the body.
In a study that was published in 2002, it was stated that Garcinia Cambogia decreased acidity and increased the mucosal defense system in the gastric area of the digestive system, thereby making it useful as an antiulcerogenic agent.
Summary: Garcinia Cambogia extract may protect the stomach from ulcers and damage to the digestive tract. It helps eliminate parasites in the digestive system. Garcinia Cambogia is a diuretic.
6. Garcinia Cambogia May Enhance Athletic Performance
Many users of this dietary supplement claim that the product can enhance athletic performance. In a 2002 Korean study, the researchers investigated the short-term administration of HCA on the exercise performance of athletes.
In the 5-day experiment using 6 male athletes, they were administered 250 mg of HCA or placebo as a control. They found that “Fat oxidation was significantly increased by short-term administration of HCA, and carbohydrate oxidation was significantly decreased.”
The study concluded that HCA “enhances endurance performance with increasing fat oxidation, which spares glycogen utilization during moderate-intensity exercise in athletes.”
An earlier 2003 study, using 6 women participants had also come to the same conclusion that HCA administration increases endurance exercise performance in athletes. Keep in mind that HCA is the active ingredient in Garcinia Cambogia and thus Garcinia Cambogia supplements offer you this added benefit.
Summary: Garcinia Cambogia may enhance athletic performance by boosting energy and endurance due to the increased fat oxidation and the sparing of glycogen reserves. Carbohydrate oxidation decreases significantly on HCA intake.
7. Garcinia Cambogia May Improve Insulin Sensitivity
One of the claimed benefits of Garcinia Cambogia is its positive effect on blood sugar. Since Garcinia Cambogia supplementation lowers blood sugar, there is a definite possibility it may help in treating diabetes symptoms. But studies on this subject have shown that HCA supplementation lowered blood sugar levels in healthy adults, but not in patients with type 2 diabetes.
In a 2012 study from the National Taichung University of Education, Taichung, Taiwan, HCA supplementation (500 mg/d) was found to increase the rate of blood sugar storage (glycogen synthesis) in skeletal muscle and it also improved post-meal insulin sensitivity.
Summary: Garcinia Cambogia has been found to lower blood sugar levels in healthy adults, increase glycogen synthesis in muscles and improve insulin sensitivity.
The Dosage Recommendations for Garcinia Cambogia
Supplements of Garcinia Cambogia is available in capsule, tablet, powder, and liquid forms. It should be taken at least 30 to 60 minutes before food intake for best results. This prevents any kind of snacking in-between meals. For weight loss one hour before breakfast, lunch and dinner will be effective.
The recommended dosage among Garcinia Cambogia manufacturers ranges from 250 to 1500 mg/day. However, the dosage will vary from person to person depending on body weight, metabolism, and exercise. Research suggests that there are no adverse effects of intake up to 2,800mg per day.
The labels should give information about other ingredients and its amount that are present in the weight loss supplementary. A bottle that does not display the list of ingredients should not be purchased. It is advisable to buy a supplement from a well-known manufacturer rather than opting for the cheapest brands.
The quantity of Garcinia Cambogia extract acquired from the raw material should be checked. At least 50% of HCA should be present in the extract obtained from Garcinia cambogia. The main reason for the increase in weight gain is due to food intake between meals. One pill of 1000mg containing 50% HCA will help in controlling food cravings.
Studies have been done for a maximum period of 3 months until now. It is advised that a cycle-off time of three months between courses may help reduce adverse reactions. It is recommended that any course of such supplements should be started only after consultation with your physician.
The Potential Side Effects of Garcinia Cambogia
The potential side effects of Garcinia Cambogia supplement include nausea, headaches, skin rash, digestive discomforts, and low blood sugar levels.
A 35-year-old woman on a course of antidepressants who took Garcinia Cambogia supplements developed ‘serotonin syndrome’ It was difficult to ascertain what caused the symptoms though it is likely to be the combination of drugs than the effect of Garcinia Cambogia alone. Nevertheless, there is a possibility of drug interactions and precautions should be taken.
Reports have shown that Garcinia Cambogia may cause liver problems. However, investigations were inconclusive, as there could have been other contributory factors. It is best that people suffering from liver conditions avoid all supplements containing this ingredient.
In 2009 ‘Hydroxycut’ that contained the HCA extract from Garcinia Cambogia caused liver toxicity in many people. Without thorough testing and analysis, it could not be proved that Garcinia was the sole cause of the severe medical condition, as the product contained other ingredients as well.
No reliable information is available if pregnant women and breast-feeding mothers can take this product safely. It is best for women to stay away from using it during those periods. People with bipolar disorders should abstain from consuming Garcinia Cambogia supplements as it can worsen the condition.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can Garcinia Cambogia Extract be Made at Home?
The manufacturing process for preparing Garcinia Cambogia may be difficult to replicate at home. But don’t be disheartened as dried Garcinia Cambogia fruit can be purchased from Asian grocery stores or health food stores. You can prepare many recipes using this ingredient.
2. How Would I Know My Garcinia Cambogia Supplement Is Effective?
Food cravings between meals are usually caused by stress, anxiety or emotional distress. The spike in serotonin levels due to the Garcinia Cambogia intake usually lifts your mood and helps reduce food cravings. Garcinia is an appetite suppressant, so it helps you reduce your calorie intake. You may find that you can go longer between meals without snacking as Garcinia Cambogia increases satiety and leaves you feeling full for longer.
The HCA content in Garcinia increases the conversion of carbohydrates for energy and it also revs up your metabolism allowing you to become more energetic and physically active. All this contributes to Garcinia Cambogia’s effectiveness as a weight-loss supplement.
3. Can It be Taken with Other Foods, Supplements or Medicines?
As it is a natural extract, it should not cause any adverse reactions with other foods. However, always consult with a physician if you are on any medications as drug interactions may occur.
4. What Happens When the Garcinia Cambogia Supplement is Discontinued?
As a dietary supplement to aid weight loss, the benefits will remain as long as a proper diet and exercise routines are followed, even when you stop the supplement. If the supplement discontinued along with other weight loss efforts, then weight gain is inevitable if your caloric intake is higher than its expenditure. There could be an increase in blood sugar levels too.
It’s best to gradually reduce the dose and stop rather than stop its usage abruptly. If the supplement has helped you reduce your weight then ensure you focus on continuing with your weight loss efforts in terms of a healthy diet and physical activity to maintain your weight in a healthy range.
5. Who Should Not Take Garcinia Cambogia Supplements?
People with liver problems, high blood pressure and/or diabetes and those who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or bipolar disorder should not consume Garcinia Cambogia as their medical condition may worsen or drug interactions may occur if they are on other medications.
Lactating moms and pregnant women should not consume Garcinia Cambogia in any form as studies have not been conducted on the safety of the supplement in such conditions. Such supplements are not intended for people under the age of 18 years and should not be given to children.
The Final Note
Garcinia Cambogia is a popular ingredient in many weight loss supplements. Hydroxycitric acid (HCA) content in Garcinia Cambogia gives it many properties that enhance our health and promote weight loss. Combined with a healthy diet and physical activity, Garcinia Cambogia supplements do seem to promote weight loss, especially a much-desired reduction in belly fat.
Many clinical studies have positively demonstrated a decline in total body weight and fat accumulation in the abdominal section of the body. But most of these studies were conducted over short periods and on specific (obese or overweight) study subjects. There is limited research available on the other benefits of Garcinia Cambogia. Though the results so far are quite encouraging, more research is required to confirm its effectiveness.
Once again, remember to consult a doctor before starting on such supplements. Liver toxicity is one adverse side effect that should be taken seriously though it is yet to be proven that Garcinia Cambogia does cause such issues. It’s always better to be safe than sorry. So be careful not to overdose or take the supplement for long durations.