Like many, I saw TV shows showing off people who, after one week and no change in lifestyle or diet, have lost 5 to 7 pounds. Is garcinia cambogia helpful in weight loss or is this a big scam?
Unfortunately, claims by companies selling Garcinia Cambogia (GC) for weight loss seem to be based on either animal studies or laboratory investigations into the effects of hydroxycitric acid (HCA) the main active ingredient of GC. While it is true that in a laboratory dish HCA does inhibit an enzyme called citrate lyase, interfering with fat metabolism, it is a big leap to then say that this translates to weight loss in humans.
In actual fact, the majority of human trials investigating the efficacy of GC for both body weight and fat loss have found no significant effects for the supplement.
One of the largest and better quality trials was conducted in 1998 on 135 subjects with an average BMI of 32 kg/m2 by Heymsfield et al. Sixty-six patients received GC standardized to 1500 mg of hydroxycitric acid per day, while 69 received placebo (a nonactive pill). The experiment was blinded, meaning both groups were unaware of whether or not they were receiving GC. Interestingly, both groups lost a significant amount of weight over the 12-week treatment period; however, there was no difference in weight loss or body fat mass loss between the people taking GC and the people taking placebo.
This finding was in agreement with a 2011 summary by Onakpoya et al of all available trials at the time that concluded that GC extract possessed limited or no effects on weight-loss in human subjects. An even more recent analysis in 2015 by Fassina et al also supported this conclusion.
Evidence so far does not support using GC as a weight loss supplement, although larger scale trails conducted over a longer period of time are needed. For people trying to lose weight, increasing their activity level and eating a healthier diet with more vegetables, whole grains, and less red meat is probably more effective than taking GC supplements. So in answer to your question, yes, GC for weight loss is a bit of a scam.
- Heymsfield SB, Allison DB, Vasselli JR, et al. Garcinia cambogia (hydroxycitric acid) as a potential antiobesity agent: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 1998 Nov 11;280(18):1596-600.
- Fassina P, Scherer Adami F, Terezinha Zani V, et al. The effect of garcinia cambogia as coadjuvant in the weight loss process. Nutr Hosp. 2015 Dec 1;32(6):2400-8. doi: 10.3305/nh.2015.32.6.9587.
- Onakpoya I, Hung SK, Perry R, Wider B, Ernst E. The use of Garcinia extract (Hydroxycitric Acid) as a weight loss supplement: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. Journal of Obesity. 2011;2011:9 pages.509038
- Chuah LO, Ho WY, Beh BK, Yeap SK. Updates on Antiobesity Effect of Garcinia Origin (−)-HCA. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : eCAM. 2013;2013:751658. doi:10.1155/2013/751658.
It contains HCA-inhibiting lipogenesis, increase in lipid oxidation. It also contains an enzyme with that helps with fatty acid biosynthesis. Therefore, it helps in not producing "new fat". It is not of course a miracle pill. You would still need a healthy diet and exercise plan with it. There is no medication or supplement that will allow a poor diet with a sedative lifestyle that will reward that with weight loss. It still takes effort.
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