Ever heard of Garcinia cambogia? I hadn’t, until I came across it while researching an upcoming article about. A supplement that helps you lose weight without exercising; to say I was interested is an understatement. I’ve even heard they have Dr. Oz endorsing it and I’ve never even heard of it, what the heck is this stuff?
I read through a couple articles and it simply seemed too good to be true. The only thing you do differently in your lifestyle is take a pill and you lose weight? Sounds fishy. I had to take a deeper look.
What is this stuff?
Having been around the fitness industry for ten years and graduating with a Master’s of Science, I don’t take many things at face value; it’s the scientific author inside of me (yup, this is me and this and this). So at first glance the thing that popped out, minus the fact that the Dr. Oz was endorsing it was that supposedly you don’t have to exercise more or improve your nutrition program and you will still lose weight. Not only that, it offers these supposed benefits:
- Rapid Weight Loss
- Effective Suppressed Appetite (Eat Less)
- Increase in Lean Muscle Mass (Burn More Fat)
- Increased Serotonin Levels (Cut Out Emotional Eating)
- Works Fast (See Results Immediately)
- Drop Dress Sizes
- Increase in Focus and Energy
- Better Managed Stressed (Lose Belly Fat)
- No More Caffeine Crash
- No Side Effects
- Saves Time (No More Exercise and Dieting)
Holy crap…..we all need this stuff, right? After seeing that I was instantly skeptical, as I started doing a little research I got a better understanding of Garcinia cambogia.
One article quoted Dr. Chen who is training in Integrative Medicine as saying, “Garcinia cambogia suppresses the appetite by increasing serotonin levels (which reduces emotional eating). It also helps manage the stress hormone cortisol, which can lead to increased belly fat.” I’ve talked at length about how during bouts of severe appetite restriction (such as when you are dieting) can actually increase your weight by fat uptake around the core.
What actually causes this though? The “magical” ingredient in G. cambogia for this supposed weight loss is HCA (Hydroxycitric Acid). HCA has been studied extensively, which made my search quite easy. A quick glance at the scientific literature shows that Garcinia cambogia can have varied results when it comes to weight loss.
The first study I came across contradicted some of the benefits listed above. A study by the University of Purdue indicated that HCA did not have any appetite suppressing effects (Mattes and Bormann 2000). Placebos are a powerful thing and MAYBE a little of this could be explained by the placebo effect (Benson and Epstein 1975; Harrington 1999), but I doubt the placebo effect could be that significant.
The next study I found, once again stated that there were not significant differences in weight loss between a placebo and G. cambogia (Heymsfield et al 1998). But looking deeper at this study, several scientists who studied HCA around the time of the Heymsfield 1998 study disagreed with its findings and pointed out several discrepancies in its findings.
In a letter to the editor, several scientists stated that although the Heymsfield 1998 study did not indicate any significant results of HCA it was because they didn’t administer it with a simple carb-rich diet, even though the Heymsfield team mentioned it was a prerequisite for HCA to have its biggest weight loss effects (Badmaev et al 1999). Nothing like scientists throwing down, intense!
There is a number of publications out there about the abilities of G. cambogia to help decrease obesity. For instance, one study that supplemented obese rats with G. cambogia found that at its highest dosage there was indeed a significant suppression of fat accumulation (there were some physiological effects) (Saito et al 2005).
This isn’t the only study indicating the benefits of G. cambogia (Rao and Sakariah 1988; Ohia et al 2002; Preuss et al 2004). The main thing I kept reading was that HCA is the “magical ingredient” when it comes to weight loss! Other studies have indicated that the HCA within G. cambogia capable of decreasing your appetite and therefore food intake (Rao and Sakariah 1988; Ohia et al 2002), weight loss (Rao and Sakariah 1988), reducing excess body weight (Preuss et al 2004) and reducing your overall BMI (Preuss et al 2004).
Lastly, another study demonstrated that a dosage of G. cambogia was found to have no effect on the body weight or serum glucose of mice BUT was found to significantly improve glucose metabolization! (Hayamizu 2003)! This means that the rush of sugar into the blood stream after a meal can be metabolized and out the system faster with a dosage of G. cambogia. The study indicates that consuming G. cambogia before a meal (manufacturers suggested use) could help you metabolize sugars faster before they result in fat.
Although there are a handful of studies that didn’t find any benefits of G. cambogia, there is also a handful of studies that have found some pretty interesting effects.
When it comes to supplementation (I use them: protein, omega-3’s, multivitamin, pre-workouts) if it is safe for you, not astronomically expensive, and gets you motivated to get off the couch and changing your life, then it is worth the try! Even the psychological aspect that gets you off the couch could make it worth it!
The scientific literature does point to the fact that it can help people lose weight in some instances. I think there are some benefits that can be attributed to this supplement.
If you were to actually workout and eat properly (the opposite of what the manufacturers claim) and take a Garcinia cambogia, I believe you can see significant results. That might be attributed to diet and exercise but if buying Garcinia cambogia gets you motivated to start a fitness plan then by all means buy it and change your life!
Badmaev V, Majeed M, Conte AA (1999) c for weight loss. JAMA 282:233-235.
Benson H, Epstein MD (1975) The placebo effect: a neglected asset in the care of patients. JAMA 232:1225-1227.
Harrington, A. (Ed.) (1999) The placebo effect: interdisciplinary exploration. Harvard University Press.
Heymsfield SB, Allison DB, Vasselli JR, Pietrobelli A, Greenfield D, Nunez C (1998) Garcinia cambogia (hydroxycitric acid) as a potential antiobesity agent. JAMA 280:1596-1600.
Hayamizu K, Hirakawa H, Oikawa D, Nakanishi T, Takagi T, Tachibana T, Furure M (2003) Effect of Garcinia cambogia extract on serum leptin and insulin in mice. Fitoterapia 74:267-273.
Mattes R, Bormann L (2000) Effects of (-)-hydroxycitric acid on appetitive variables.
Ohia SE, Opere CA, Leday AM, Bagchi M, Bagchi D, Stohs SJ (2002) Safety and mechanism of appetite suppression by a novel hydroxycitric acid extract (HCA-SX). 238:89-103.
Preuss HG, Bagchi D, Bagchi M, Rao CVS, Dey DK, Satyanarayana S (2004) Effects of natural extract of (-)-hydoxycitric acdi (HCA-SX) and a combination of HCA-SX plus niacin-bound chromium and Gymnema sylvestre extract on weight loss. Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism 6:171-180.
Rao R, Sakariah KK (1988) Lipid-lowering and antiobesity effect of (-)hydroxycitric acid. Nutrition Research 8:209-212.
Saito M, Ueno M, Ogino S, Kubo K, Nagata J, Takeuchi M (2005) High dose of Garcinia cambogia is effective in suppressing fat accumulation in developing male Zucker obese rats, but highly toxic to the testis. Food and Chemical Toxicology 43:411-419.