Supplements: Garcinia Cambogia Extract

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Source: Garcinia Cambogia Fruit which is a small green to pale yellow fruit that is shaped a like a pumpkin.  Is is It is grown is Southeast Asia and Africa and is also know as brindleberry, Malabar tamarind and kudam puli.  

Garcinia cambogia became popular worldwide after being featured on the Dr. Oz show in 2012.  He touted it has as a weight loss miaracle fruit.  Despite the considerable media attention purporting its effects on weight loss, there is very little evidence supporting the claims and there is significant risk of liver toxicity if you decide to take the commercially produced extracts.

The biggest problem with supplements for weight loss is they are hodgepodge of ingredients so even if you have a side effect it is hard to tell which one of the ingredients caused the problem.  This is the problem with the Hydroxycut recall for liver failure in 2009.  At the time, Hydroxycut contained Garcinia cambogia extract, chromium polynicotinate, and Gymnema sylvestre extract so which is the offending agent[1].  

Active ingredient:  The skin of the fruit contains hydroxycitric acid (HCA). This is the active ingredient in garcinia cambogia extract, which is marketedted  in dietary  supplements

How it works: Animal studies show that it can inhibit a fat-producing enzyme in the body and increase levels of serotonin, potentially helping to reduce cravings[2],[3].  It has not been widely studied in humans or primates.  

Effectiveness: Another study looked at weight loss in two groups.  The study 130 people compared Garcinia cambogia against a a control group. Both groups lost weight in the study, but there was no difference in weight lost or body fat percentage change between groups[4].

A 2011 meta-analysis review that looked at 12 studies on garcinia cambogia.  Although it found that it appeared to cause weight loss of about 2 pounds in four weeks, that weight loss is not statistically significant meaning that the difference was so modest that it is not worth the risk of side effects and that it might not even be real[5].  

Side effects:

Garcinia is POSSIBLY SAFE for most people when taken by mouth for 12 weeks or less. Long-term safety is unknown. Garcinia can cause nausea, digestive tract discomfort, and headache.  The biggest problem is it has been tied to liver failure.  A little weight loss id just not worth the risk of destroying your liver.  

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There is not enough reliable information about the safety of taking Garcinia if you are pregnant or breast feeding. I would go a step further and say you should not take it at all if you are pregnant or breast feeding.  It is not worth the risk.  

Recommendations:  Avoid this one until further research can be done to show it is safe and effective.  

Footnotes
[1]“Live Science.”
[2]Lowenstein, “Effect of (-)-Hydroxycitrate on Fatty Acid Synthesis by Rat Liver in Vivo.”
[3]Ohia et al., “Safety and Mechanism of Appetite Suppression by a Novel Hydroxycitric Acid Extract (HCA-SX).”
[4]Heymsfield et al., “Garcinia Cambogia (Hydroxycitric Acid) as a Potential Antiobesity Agent: A Randomized Controlled Trial.”
[5]Onakpoya et al., “The Use of Garcinia Extract (Hydroxycitric Acid) as a Weight Loss Supplement: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomised Clinical Trials.”

References:

Heymsfield, SB, DB Allison, JR Vasselli, A Pietrobelli, D Greenfield, and C Nunez. “Garcinia Cambogia (Hydroxycitric Acid) as a Potential Antiobesity Agent: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” JAMA 280, no. 18 (November 11, 1998): 1596–1600 [PubMed]
Lowenstein, JM. “Effect of (-)-Hydroxycitrate on Fatty Acid Synthesis by Rat Liver in Vivo.” The Journal of Biological Chemistry 246, no. 3 (February 10, 1971): 629–32 [PubMed]
Ohia, SE, CA Opere, AM LeDay, M Bagchi, D Bagchi, and SJ Stohs. “Safety and Mechanism of Appetite Suppression by a Novel Hydroxycitric Acid Extract (HCA-SX).” Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry 238, no. 1–2 (September 1, 2002): 89–103 [PubMed]
Onakpoya, I, SK Hung, R Perry, B Wider, and E Ernst. “The Use of Garcinia Extract (Hydroxycitric Acid) as a Weight Loss Supplement: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomised Clinical Trials.” Journal of Obesity 2011 (January 1, 2011): 509038 [PubMed]
“Live Science.” What Is Garcinia Cambogia? Accessed October 10, 2016. http://www.livescience.com/39243-garcinia-cambogia-supplement-facts.html
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About the Author

ChuckH

I am a family physician who has served in the US Army. In 2016, I found myself overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy, so I made a change to improve my health. This blog is the chronology of my path to better health and what I have learned along the way.

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