Most of us have wanted to lose weight at one time or another, and most of us are probably less dedicated to maintaining a strict diet and exercise regimen than we probably should be. It’s tempting to want to reach for a quick fix: a diet pill or a medical device that claims to help the user burn fat with zero effort.
One of these popular weight loss products is Garcinia Cambogia extract, or GCE. This tropic fruit is native to Indonesia and is also known as the Malabar tamarind. Supposedly, in addition to blocking the body’s ability to produce fat as well as suppressing the appetite, it can also help control blood sugar and cholesterol.
GCE has become wildly popular in recent years, and it’s widely available both in stores and online, sold not only by itself but also in conjunction with other weight-loss-promoting agents.
But does the reality live up to the hype?
Before we can answer that question, let’s look at exactly how it works in the body.
Understanding the Science Behind this Fruit
First, let’s talk about the active agent in the Garcinia Cambogia fruit: hydroxycitric acid, or HCA. Studies suggest that not only can HCA help the body burn fat and curb appetite, but that it can also block an enzyme known as citrate lyase, which helps the body turn starches and sugars into fat.
The logic goes like this: When citrate lyase is blocked, the body is forced to metabolize carbohydrates, redirecting them into energy production instead of transforming them into fat. Your lower body fat percentage in turn means that diet and exercise become more productive, because there’s less fat to burn.
There’s further evidence that it can also increase the brain’s serotonin production, which can improve your mood and make you less prone to emotional over-eating.
Unlike stimulant appetite suppressants, the active agent increases the level of satiety you feel from eating, which means you feel more emotional satisfaction from eating less.
For those who tend to reach for a snack when they need a mood enhancer or those who tend to binge when they’re unhappy, Garcinia Cambogia can seem like an ideal solution.
Chemically, there is some evidence to support the claim that it has a weight-loss-promoting properties.
It may also make it easier for your body to process glucose, the sugar your cells require to produce energy. In one laboratory study, mice given Garcinia Cambogia showed lower levels of insulin that those that weren’t given it.
Additionally, it may help stabilize cholesterol levels by lowering triglycerides and LDL (commonly known as “bad cholesterol”) and raising HDL (otherwise known as “good cholesterol”).
In other words, the claims made about Garcinia Cambogia’s health benefits aren’t entirely without basis.
But is losing weight really just as simple as taking a Garcinia Cambogia?
Let’s keep exploring the facts.
How Can It Help You Lose Weight?
If you’re hoping that Garcinia Cambogia is the answer to all your weight loss prayers, you should know that the jury is still out.
Within the scientific community, there is some dispute about the efficacy of this supplements in promoting weight loss.
According to a study published in the Journal of Obesity, people who took the pill in an effort to lose weight lost a total of only two pounds more than those that did not.
Additionally, the researchers couldn’t say for sure whether that two-pound weight loss was attributable to the pill, or to the study participants’ diet and exercise habits.
However, another study following 30 overweight participants over a two-month period found that those given a supplement lost an average of twelve pounds whereas those given a placebo lost only three.
In a second later study, those who took Garcinia Cambogia lost an average of 10.5 pounds, compared to those who received a placebo and lost only 3.5 pounds.
In both studies, those who took the Garcinia Cambogia showed significantly higher levels of serotonin than those in the placebo group.
At this point, there’s too little evidence about the therapeutic value of Garcinia Cambogia to say conclusively that it can help people lose a substantial amount of weight except in conjunction with diet and exercise. While it should not be automatically ruled out as a fat-burning supplement, it should also not be relied upon as a primary method of weight loss.
How could multiple studies of yield such different results?
The answer may lie in which form of Garcinia Cambogia’s active agent, HCA, a supplement contains.
According to Dr. Harry Preuss, a researcher and pathologist at Georgetown University, there are three separate forms of HCA: those that are blended with magnesium, potassium, and calcium salts.
These preservatives help prevent the degradation of the HCA into an inactive form of the compound, helping to increase its absorption and effectiveness. It’s important to realize that not every supplement contains these additional ingredients, meaning their effectiveness may be compromised.
By now it should be clear that the usefulness of this pill is situational. Under certain circumstances (i.e. users taking specific, high-quality forms of the supplement in conjunction with diet changes and regular exercise), it can indeed help you burn fat faster and reduce overeating.
Unfortunately, for those of us who would prefer to burn fat from the comfort of the sofa, at this point the surest ways of losing weight are still the tried and true methods we would prefer to avoid: maintaining a low-calorie diet and exercising regularly.
Furthermore, it’s important to note that there are some health risks associated with long-term use of some this pill supplements. With this in mind, we recommend consulting your primary care physician before beginning this or any other weight-loss-promoting product.
Possible Risks of Taking the Supplement
The FDA has previously issued a warning to consumers against taking Garcinia Cambogia as well as other “miracle” weight loss supplements.
Testing found that many products being advertised as dietary supplements contained unlabeled active ingredients found in certain prescription drugs, unsafe ingredients found in certain drugs that had already been removed from the market due to their potential health risks, and ingredients whose effects had not been adequately studied for the possible risks to human consumers.
Some of the hidden ingredients found in this supplements included active ingredients in blood pressure medication, seizure medication, and antidepressant medication.
Needless to say, nobody should consume any medication or supplement containing these ingredients without a doctor’s prescription. They can not only cause adverse reactions in people who don’t have the conditions they’re prescribed for, they can also interact with any existing medications you may be taking.
Furthermore, the same body of research found that some consumers developed serious liver problems as a result of their use of this pill supplements. Whether those problems were directly related to the fruit extract itself or due to another active ingredient in the supplements, however, remains unknown.
The bottom line is that there is too little conclusive evidence about the contents and safety of Garcinia Cambogia supplements to say with certainty that it can be taken risk-free. There’s a reason for that.
Since Garcinia Cambogia products are not FDA-approved, they aren’t subject to the same regulations and quality control protocols used to govern other medications and dietary supplements. This means that taking them is a calculated risk.
Not every pill supplement is created equally, so it’s important to take only those that come from a reputable retailer.
Unfortunately, there are many illegitimate and untrustworthy vendors selling what they claim to be the supplements online. These vendors should be treated with caution.
So How Can this Supplement Works for You?
It may seem like we’re painting a pretty bleak picture of this supplements, but that’s not the case at all. Instead, we’re presenting the facts about the potential risks and pitfalls so you can make the most informed possible decision about which supplements to take.
With that in mind, let’s look at Dr. Harry Preuss’ recommendation about the best way to supplement with Garcinia Cambogia.
Preuss points out that the success of taking any supplement doesn’t just have to do with whether or not you take it, but also with how you take it. Here are his recommendations for getting the most out of your supplement:
- Make sure the supplement you selection contains at least 50% HCA and that it isn’t composed of calcium salts alone. Ideally, it should also contain potassium and magnesium to ensure optimal metabolism.
- Make sure you’re taking enough of the supplement you’ve chosen. That means taking 1.5 grams three times a day before meals.
- Take it on an empty stomach. Your supplements should be consumed 30 – 60 minutes before each meal to ensure maximum bioavailability.
- “If you don’t comply, don’t complain.” In other words, if you fail to follow the above instructions, don’t be surprised if the supplement preparation you take doesn’t seem to help you lose weight.
Like any dietary supplement or prescription medication, it works best when used as directed. In the same way it makes no sense to ignore the instructions enclosed with a prescription, it makes no sense to take it in other than the directed manner and then argue that it’s ineffective as a weight loss aid.
As with any weight loss strategy, you will get out of it what you put into it.
This brings us to another important point: Taking the supplement alone isn’t going to help you lose weight and keep it off.
Let’s find out.
What Else Do You Have to Do to Lose Weight?
There are thousands of products on the market today promising to help consumers burn fat and build muscle without having to make any lifestyle changes. They promise you the ability to lose weight while still eating as many donuts as you want and never budging from the sofa.
These claims contradict reality. The reality is that if you want to lose a substantial amount of weight and keep it off in the long term, you need to make the appropriate lifestyle changes.
Think of it like caring for your teeth. If you brush and floss your teeth every day and rinse your mouth with antiseptic mouthwash, you can be reasonably assured that you’ll avoid tooth decay.
But if you only rinse your mouth with mouthwash once a week and you never brush or floss, your teeth will decay anyway. That’s because mouthwash is meant to supplement the practice of brushing and flossing your teeth, not replace it.
The same is true for Garcinia Cambogia, or any weight loss supplement. The very word “supplement” means “to complete or enhance something else when added to it.” This means that it can’t be counted on to do the job all by itself!
So in addition to faithfully taking your supplement, you also need to make some bigger, longer-lasting lifestyle adjustments. That means eating high-calorie foods only in moderation, abstaining from sugar and simple carbs, drinking enough water every day, and getting regular exercise.
Yes, it will help your body to burn fat more quickly, but it will only help make a noticeable difference if you have less fat to burn to begin with. That part of the responsibility is on you.
We hope this article has helped to clear up any misconceptions you may have had about Garcinia Cambogia supplements. There’s a lot of hype out there, and a lot of unfairly negatively biased information, so our aim was to present the facts and give you all the essential information you need.
By now you probably have a clearer sense of whether it is something you would like to try. Or perhaps you’ve used it already and have a success story you’d like to share. Whatever your experience with it, leave us a comment and tell us about it!