Garcinia cambogia (GC) is a well-known superfood supplement with many reported benefits including increased energy, feeling full longer and improved fat loss. It’s derived from a middle eastern exotic fruit which looks like a green, multi-lobed pumpkin. Although the fruits can be eaten, their taste is very acid and usually are not consumed raw.
Garcinia belongs to family Guttiferae (Clusiaceae), which includes over 200 species, today mostly found throughout Asia and Africa. The peel of the fruit is commonly used in Asia to preserve food and enhance flavor. Traditionally, it was used as a remedy for constipation, rheumatism, and menstrual pain.
Many marketing claims suggest that garcinia cambogia will rapidly transform your body composition to give you a lean physique however these claims are not all backed by science.
Garcinia cambogia benefits come not from the plant itself, but rather a compound it contains called hydroxycitric acid (HCA).
1Garcinia cambogia may help with weight loss, body fat loss. A 2001 meta-analysis of 12 studies published in the Journal of Obesity demonstrated that supplementing with garcinia cambogia, containing the active ingredient HCA, led to increased subtle weight loss over placebo (1).
Research is mixed, however since one 1998 study found no benefit over placebo for weight loss (2).
2Garcinia cambogia may block new fat production. HCA primarily works by inhibiting the enzyme that leads to your body making fat (3).
By inhibiting citrate lyase, Garcinia cambogia is thought to slow down or block fat production in the body. This may reduce blood lipids (cholesterol) and lower the risk of weight gain, two major disease risk factors (7).
3Garcinia Cambogia stabilizes blood sugar. Some evidence exists showing that garcinia cambogia can help control blood sugar by improving how cells take up glucose (sugar) to be used for energy.
One way in which it might improve weight loss is through inhibition of pancreatic alpha-amylase enzymes, changes in intestinal alpha-glucosidase and alterations in fatty acid synthesis. This might be able to change how carbohydrates are metabolized (8).
A couple of rat studies done in 1988 demonstrated that Garcinia cambogia can reduce weight gain during a period of overfeeding due to the reduce lipogenesis as reported above (9).
4Garcinia cambogia supplementation has anti-diabetic properties. A 2015 study published in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research showed that Garcinia cambogia helps combat diabetes and diabetes onset by increasing leptin and insulin sensitivity (10, 11).
Higher insulin sensitivity means you need less insulin to clear the sugar out of your bloodstream (12).
Worsened insulin sensitivity also known as insulin resistance can lead to health problems such as diabetes in the long run.
5Garcinia cambogia may lower your triglycerides. A 2014 study showed that Garcinia cambogia lowers triglycerides which may not be related to the changes in leptin (satiety hormone) (13).
This is important for prediabetics and diabetics who often have high triglyceride levels.
6Garcinia cambogia may increase feelings of satiety. A mice study from 2002 found HCA suppressed appetite and resulted in enhanced levels of serotonin, your feel-good hormone that also influences appetite control. However, it needs to be noted that no human trials have been able to replicate the same satiety-inducing effects (14).
A 2000 study in Physiology and Behavior showed no benefit of HCA for appetite over placebo (15).
Thus, more research is needed to ensure Garcinia cambogia’s effects on satiety.
7Garcinia cambogia might help combat depression. A 2001 study published in Research Communications in Molecular Pathology and Pharmacology showed that Garcinia cambogia supplements boost serotonin brain levels in rats (16).
However, with only animal studies, it’s hard to confirm anything.
To add to that, a more recent 2004 study showed that the relationship between serotonin and depression is not as accurate as we once thought (17).
8Garcinia cambogia may benefit exercisers and athletes. One study found Garcinia cambogia enhanced the rate at which carbohydrates were broken down from a post-workout meal and converted to glycogen for storage in muscle tissue. The study reported both glycogen synthesis and insulin sensitivity improved, which is ideal for faster recovery from workouts (18).
9Garcinia cambogia protects the digestive system. A 2009 animal study published in Phytotherapy research showed that Garcinia cambogia helps protect against inflammation and reduce damage to the inner lining of the digestive tract (19).
10Garcinia cambogia supplementation has shown to reduce oxidative stress levels in the body. A 2016 study published in the Journal of Complementary and Integrative Medicine showed that Garcinia cambogia is effective in ameliorating high-fat-diet-induced hyperlipidemia and oxidative stress (20).
The study also found Garcinia cambogia resulted in an increase in glutathione, one of the most powerful antioxidants within the body.
11Garcinia cambogia does not stimulate the nervous system. Many energy (and weight loss) supplements such as caffeine, ephedrine, and psychostimulants (like sibutramine) all provide energy by stimulating the nervous system. Garcinia cambogia may result in similar increases in energy yet without this stimulation.
12Garcinia cambogia can lower cholesterol levels.
A 90 days study involving 99 obese men, Garcinia cambogia combined with a weight-loss drug (orlistat), reduced total cholesterol levels and increased HDL (good) cholesterol levels (21).
Another 8-week study on 82 obese adults, hydroxycitric acid (the main component of Garcinia cambogia) decreased LDL (bad) cholesterol levels by 12.9% and increased HDL-cholesterol levels by 8.9% (22).
Another 2004 study showed that hydroxycitric acid with or without Gymnema Sylvestre extracts reduced the total cholesterol and LDL levels during an 8-week study on 60 moderately obese adults (23).
In an 8-week study on 35 healthy adults, Garcinia cambogia decreased cholesterol levels more than the placebo (24).
1Garcinia cambogia may induce liver damage. While a rare occurrence, one case study reported a man required liver transplantation after Garcinia cambogia supplementation. (27).
2Garcinia cambogia may induce serotonin overdose. One woman who took Garcinia cambogia with her antidepressant medications said to have developed a serotonin toxicity as a result (28).
3Garcinia cambogia may not work as well as advertised for weight loss. One review of 12 studies found no significant difference in weight loss between the Garcinia cambogia and placebo groups (29).
Another massive study over 12 weeks, involving 135 participants, found no weight loss with GC supplementation compared to the group that took the placebo (30).
4Garcinia cambogia may result in testicle issues. Animal studies have shown that a very high intake of Garcinia cambogia can cause testicular atrophy — shrinking of the testicles (31).
Sperm production may also be affected.
5Garcinia cambogia has a long list of drug interactions. Many people should avoid Garcinia cambogia due to how it can affect other medications, pregnancy, nutrient levels, blood sugar and more.
Garcinia cambogia can interact poorly with: medications that are taken to control asthma and allergies; medications used to control mental disorders like anxiety and depression; diabetes medications and insulin; pregnancy and breastfeeding; liver and kidney conditions; statin drugs that lower cholesterol; blood thinners; iron supplements (32).
6Garcinia cambogia is not regulated by the FDA. That means that the contents in the label may not be accurately represented in the bottle. Choosing a brand that has been third-party tested through a laboratory such as Consumer Lab or carries the USP verified seal will ensure a high-quality product.
7Garcinia cambogia may lessen the effectiveness of chemotherapy treatment in patients with cancer.
8Garcinia cambogia may not be an effective appetite suppressant. While a few studies have shown promise, other studies have concluded that Garcinia cambogia supplementation does not lead to feelings of satiety when compared to taking a placebo (33).
Top Garcinia cambogia supplements contain at least 50-60% HCA (34). This ensures the proper absorption and function of HCA in your body to increase your chances of experiencing benefits.
The maximum recommended dosage is 2.8g/day. The ideal dose has not been identified but the higher the dose, the more common the side effects. After 2800mg, it seems side effects are increased (35).
Dosages vary. Garcinia cambogia has been taken 3x per day at 500mg each dose, about 30-60 minutes before meals (36). Some studies have used lower doses with varying results.
Garcinia cambogia should be cycled. Studies have only tested these supplements for up to 12 weeks at a time. Therefore, it may be a good idea to take a few weeks off every three months or so.
It may be ideal for HCA to be bound with minerals. HCA degrades over time, so HCA in supplements is typically bonded with a mineral to preserve efficacy.
One study shows enhanced absorption and benefits when Garcinia cambogia is combined with chromium (33). Research has yet to confirm if other minerals impart the same effects.
What are the side effects of taking Garcinia cambogia? Side effects of garcinia cambogia may include headaches, nausea, dizziness, digestive complaints and dry mouth. If taken in excess, or in combination with other supplements or medications, more serious side effects may be experienced.
Is Garcinia safe? Clinical trials have shown it’s safe to take Garcinia cambogia extract by mouth — at least for 12 weeks. The fruit is safe to eat in unlimited amounts.
How does the fruit peel work? The active ingredient in the fruit’s rind, hydroxycitric acid, or HCA, has boosted fat-burning and cut back appetite in studies. It appears to block an enzyme called citrate lyase, which your body uses to make fat.
How long does it take for Garcinia to work? The time varies from individual to individual, but on average it takes about 2 weeks to kick in completely. However, you may start feeling some of its effects immediately.
Can Garcinia cambogia cause abdominal pain? Excessive consumption of Garcinia cambogia extract can cause gastrointestinal side effects and thus abdominal pain.
Do you take Garcinia cambogia with food? Take the recommended dosage of garcinia as a tablet or capsule with water 30-60 min before a meal. It’s best on an empty stomach or a few hours after food was last ingested.
What kind of fruit is Garcinia cambogia? Garcinia gummi-gutta is a tropical species of Garcinia native to Indonesia. Common names include Garcinia cambogia (a former scientific name), as well as brindleberry, Malabar tamarind, and kudam puli (pot tamarind). This fruit looks like a small pumpkin and is green to pale yellow in color.
How much Garcinia cambogia should I take to lose weight? Look for “garcinia cambogia” or “GCE” with at least 50 percent HCA. Take 500 to 900mg before each meal, and make sure to take no more than 2800mg total per day. Studies are conflicting. Diet and exercise changes will have a more dramatic impact.
Can you take Garcinia while breastfeeding? Babies may experience some of the Garcinia effects like – loss of appetite and high metabolic rate. Moreover, the supplement can adversely affect the blood sugar level of the baby. It is not appropriate for breastfeeding mothers to use this product.
What percentage of HCA should be in Garcinia cambogia? The supplement must contain at least 50% hydroxycitric acid (HCA).
Can Garcinia cambogia be bad for your liver? In 2009, the FDA issued a safety warning after receiving more than 20 reports of severe reactions, including liver damage, in people taking the supplement Hydroxycut. However, it’s unclear if the Garcinia cambogia extract caused the liver damage.
What does HCA do for weight loss? The peel of the fruit contains high amounts of hydroxycitric acid (HCA), which is the active ingredient responsible for most of the weight loss benefits seen in studies. It helps by inhibiting the enzyme responsible for fat conversion in the body.
While Garcinia cambogia isn’t a magic button to press and transform your body, it does seem to assist in fat loss and reducing fat storage. The main component of Garcinia cambogia fruit is the hydroxycitric acid (HCA) and its lactone. It comes from the peel of the fruit and not the whole fruit.
Garcinia cambogia not only prevents obesity, lowers cholesterol and triglycerides, but it may also boost the immune system, fight cancer, and prevent ulcers. However, Garcinia cambogia may be toxic to the liver, may cause liver damage or failure, and other side effects.
No matter what, it must be complemented with other weight loss friendly lifestyle changes as it is not a magic pill.