Garcinia cambogia, also referred to as the Malabar tamarind or Garcinia gummi-gutta, has enjoyed a roller coaster ride of media attention purporting its effects on weight loss.
The native fruit of Asia, appears similar to a small green pumpkin and has been used for centuries in traditional Asian cuisine for its sour flavor.
The skin of the fruit contains a natural active substance called Hydroxycitric Acid (HCA), which attributes for its famed weight loss and appetite reducing properties.
The Success Story
Some say it is just a hot trend, others say it is not correctly understood and yet others are ardent followers of garcinia cambogia supplements who have unbelievable before and after pictures to share.
Garcinia cambogia first came into limelight in the 90s, after a few studies suggested its amazing weight loss benefits in animals. But a couple of studies later, its benefits and effectiveness for humans were under a lot of scanning.
However Dr Oz promoted garcinia cambogia extract in his popular TV show in 2013, and deemed it as a major breakthrough in weight loss. The endorsements led to many fold increase in consumer interest and sale.
But it has been a bumpy ride for the supplement, since there have been contrasting scientific evidences that back its claim while others just reject any benefit offered by it.
So coming back to the awaited question, is garcinia cambogia just another internet scam or is it what it claims to be?
The short answer is that there is no holy grail for losing weight and no supplement can alone guarantee lean body while you sit on the sofa, watch TV and eat pizza. According to a study by the National Institute of Health, garcinia cambogia supplements coupled with healthy lifestyle can help burn shed weight, suppress appetite and assist in weight management.
How does it work?
The fact is that this supplement can help lose unwanted weight when you know how to best utilize it and make it work for your body.
The active compound Hydroxycitric Acid (HCA) works in more than one ways to promote weight loss and get a leaner body:
First, it suppresses the appetite by raising the levels of the serotonin hormone. Poor hormone levels lead depression, lack of sleep and anxiety, which are the common cause of emotional eating. The improvement in the levels of serotonin hormone stabilizes mood and curbs the urge to eat due to emotional anxiety.
Second, HCA stops the fat-making process in your body by blocking an important enzyme called citrate lyase. This citrate lyase enzyme helps your body in converting carbohydrates into fat. It is also helpful in lowering your LDL or “bad” cholesterol.
Is it right for me?
While most garcinia cambogia supplements boast of all natural ingredients and have been used without any major side effects for ages, women who are breastfeeding or pregnant should completely avoid it.
Diabetes patients who take insulin or other pills should always talk to their doctor first and use caution.
Although it is claimed to lower blood cholesterol, if you are taking statin or any other cholesterol regulating medication, you should consult your healthcare provider first to reduce the risk of side effects like muscle degradation.
Additionally, people taking prescription medicines for anemia, pain, psychiatric conditions or warfarin as a blood thinner too should consider taking these supplements only after consultation with their physician first.
Lastly, like most dietary supplements in the US, the Food and Drug Administration does not evaluate these supplements for safety or effectiveness. However reliable studies like one done for safety assessment of the HCA claims that “there is sufficient qualitative and quantitative scientific evidence, including animal and human data suggesting that intake of HCA at levels up to 2800 mg/day is safe for human consumption.”
How to find the best garcinia cambogia extract?
- When looking for the right product to choose, read the label carefully and ensure that it contains “garcinia cambogia” or “GCE” with a minimum of fifty percent HCA.
- The supplements are popularly available in three HCA salt form – calcium, potassium, or magnesium salts. These salts allow effective absorption of HCA by our body and are proven to be more bioavailable. Choose the HCA salt that is bound with potassium (K) or magnesium (Mg) as they improve the absorption and effectiveness of HCA. Calcium (Ca) salts are poorly bioavailable and require high dose of the supplement for same efficacy as K or Mg salts.
- Take 500 to 1000mg before each meal on an empty stomach. Limit your daily intake to 2800 mg to avoid side effects or other complications.
- The quantity of supplement required for effective dosage also depends on the potency of the supplement. According to a study, the effective dose of a Ca or K hydroxcitrate containing 60% Garcinia extract approximated 1.5 grams taken three times a day before meals. In terms of the pure HCA component of the salt, this works out to be a dose of about 0.9 grams taken three times a day before meals.
Clearly, garcinia cambogia supplements alone are not efficient in helping you burn fat and get a leaner body. However there are strong clinical evidences to prove that when paired with healthy meal plans and regular exercise regime, they can prove to be beneficial in supporting the cause.
Namrata Kothari is software engineer by education and a food and fitness blogger by passion. She is a lover of yoga and satire and has always been fascinated about nutrition and healthy living, but the real journey of research started after giving birth to two kids. She wanted to pass on good eating habits and balanced diet for their holistic growth, and started writing as a resource for others interested in the same. Namrata currently lives in Bangalore. She is also a contributing health writer for superfoodliving.com. Read more of her articles here