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Garcinia cambogia UPDATE: What’s the latest “buzz” about this intriguing supplement?

Garcinia cambogia UPDATE: What’s the latest “buzz” about this intriguing supplement?

Garcinia cambogia, a tropical fruit native to India, has been touted for its potential to promote weight loss.  With one out of three American adults currently obese – and at increased risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer – people are understandably interested in natural, drug-free strategies to combat obesity and support a healthy weight.  Some believe that garcinia cambogia can help.

Used in the Ayurvedic healing system for centuries to treat arthritis and other inflammatory conditions, the fruit of the garcinia cambogia resembles nothing so much as a small, greenish pumpkin.  The peel, however, is rich in hydroxycitric acid (HCA), a powerful antioxidant compound.  So can HCA-rich garcinia cambogia extract deliver the hoped-for effects?  Let’s see what the studies say.

Garcinia cambogia and weight loss: Real help, or real “hype?”

According to a review of studies published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, garcinia cambogia helps to regulate serotonin levels - which can influence appetite - while discouraging the formation of fat.  The authors also noted that garcinia cambogia had been shown to reduce appetite and decrease food intake.  But, in some studies, supplementation didn’t produce any weight loss.  And when weight loss occurred, it was typically small – an average of only about two pounds over a two-to-twelve-week period.

Interestingly, while garcinia cambogia has been touted as a weight loss supplement that works regardless of diet or exercise, it doesn’t appear as effective in people eating low-fat, high-carb diets.  (One study published in the Journal of Clinical Diagnostic Research confirmed that taking garcinia cambogia and a high-fat diet helped prevent weight gain.)  However, a 2020 meta-analysis published in BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies revealed a somewhat brighter picture of garcinia cambogia’s metabolic effects.  In this research, the scientists reported that the supplement had “significant” effects on body weight and waist circumference compared to placebo. 

The answer to whether garcinia cambogia can produce weight loss seems to be a qualified “yes.”  While many researchers credit garcinia cambogia with anti-obesity effects, the weight loss associated with taking it is usually modest.  However, garcinia cambogia appears to have other health-promoting properties.

Garcinia cambogia may support healthy cholesterol levels

One area in which garcinia cambogia may have the potential to shine is helping to improve cholesterol levels.  In one older but still-influential pilot study published in the Journal of Nutrition Research, moderately obese people taking 2,800 mg of garcinia cambogia daily for eight weeks drastically reduced their risk factors for heart disease. 

The participants lowered their harmful LDL cholesterol levels by 12.3 percent while raising their beneficial HDL cholesterol by over 10 percent.  In addition, they experienced an 8 percent reduction in triglycerides, or fats, in the blood.  These encouraging results merit further study.

Garcinia cambogia may be particularly helpful in reducing belly fat

Yet another bit of good news is that garcinia cambogia helps to reduce harmful abdominal fat, which has been linked with higher rates of heart disease.  Researchers think it accomplishes this by inhibiting a fat-inducing enzyme called citrate lyase.

In addition, garcinia cambogia appears to have the “right stuff” to alleviate some unwanted effects of excess weight.  Some researchers credit garcinia cambogia with improving obesity-related complications such as inflammation, oxidative stress, and insulin resistance.

Use a high-quality supplement from a reliable vendor

While garcinia cambogia is a tropical fruit, you probably aren’t likely to find it playing a starring role in a fruit salad anytime soon.  (The fruit pulp is too sour to be considered an enjoyable nibble by most people.  However, the flavorful rind may be used like lemon zest in savory dishes like marinades, chutneys, and sauces.)

You can take garcinia cambogia in supplement form.  Look for a formulation from a reputable manufacturer that contains 50 to 60 percent hydroxycitric acid.  Integrative health practitioners may recommend amounts of 500 mg taken three times a day, preferably 30 to 60 minutes before a meal.

Most studies have concluded that garcinia cambogia is safe for healthy people when taken in recommended amounts, but consult your integrative doctor before supplementing.  Liver toxicity, while very uncommon, has been reported with HCA.  Garcinia cambogia supplements can also cause digestive upset, headaches, and skin rash.

While garcinia cambogia probably doesn’t trigger substantial weight loss, it does seem to have anti-obesity and health-promoting effects.  So you and your integrative healthcare provider may determine that it’s worth a try.

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