If you’ve ever searched the internet for a quick-fix weight loss solution, chances are you’ve come across Garcinia Cambogia pills. Carginia Cambogia extract has gained popularity as a weight loss supplement since it was touted on the Dr. Oz show several years ago, and many turn to it as a way to lose weight without putting in effort. But is there research to back the benefits of Garcinia Cambogia, and is it a safe way to lose weight? Here’s everything you need to know about Garcinia Cambogia safety and weight loss effects!
What is Garcinia Cambogia?
Garcinia Cambogia is a tropical fruit that looks a little like a small pumpkin, usually grown in Southeast Asia. Garcinia Cambogia, also known as Malabar tamarind, has been used for centuries as a cooking ingredient thanks to its sour flavor. More recently, Garcinia Cambogia extract from the rind of the fruit has been marketed as a weight loss supplement. The rind is high in hydroxycitric acid, an active ingredient thought to reduce appetite and prevent your body from storing fat.
What does research say about weight loss with Garcinia Cambogia?
Research on the weight loss effects of Garcinia Cambogia is largely inconclusive. One small study found that taking hydroxycitric acid in the form of Garcinia Cambogia supplements helped obese women lose more weight than a placebo for the first four weeks of supplementation, but after that, both the Garcinia group and the placebo group lost weight at similar rates. At the end of the study, the Garcinia Cambogia group had lost an average of 1.4 kilograms more than the placebo group. Another study of men and women found that those who took Garcinia Cambogia lost more abdominal fat over 12 weeks than those who took a placebo, but total weight loss was not significantly affected by the supplement.
However, other studies have found no significant difference between Garcinia Cambogia and placebos when it comes to weight loss and abdominal fat. One of the largest studies pitting Garcinia Cambogia against a placebo found that the supplement didn’t provide better weight or fat loss results than the placebo for 135 men and women. Another study found that two weeks of hydroxycitrate supplementation didn’t result in increased satiety or decreased energy intake, and another study found no increase in satiety after 12 weeks of supplementation.
A systematic review and meta-analysis of Garcinia Cambogia studies revealed a small difference in weight loss favoring the supplement over a placebo – but by “small,” I mean that across all eligible studies, Garcinia Cambogia helped participants lose an average of just 0.88 kilograms more than placebos. While that difference may be statistically significant, it’s hardly enough weight loss to justify shelling out cash on a supplement, especially since adverse gastrointestinal effects were twice as common in the hydroxycitric acid groups.
What does research say about Garcinia Cambogia safety?
The weight loss effects of garcinia cambogia may be minimal, but the side effects can get pretty severe. In 2015 a report was released warning about a case of acute liver failure requiring liver transplantation that was associated with the use of Garcinia Cambogia. In 2016, a report was released of three separate cases where individuals were admitted to the emergency room with mania – all of whom had been consistently taking Garcinia Cambogia. In 2017, the FDA released a warning for consumers to steer clear of Fruta Planta Life brand Garcinia Cambogia supplements, which have been found to contain sibutramine, a substance that can increase blood pressure and heart rate to unsafe levels.
In addition, one animal study has found that taking an amount of Garcinia Cambogia that was effective for reducing fat accumulation also resulted in testicular atrophy. In studies, participants using Garcinia Cambogia have also reported gastrointestinal distress, headaches, and respiratory infections.
Since supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA, you can’t always be sure that the supplement you’re purchasing contains exactly what the bottle lists. That’s why it’s important to buy any supplements from a reputable manufacturer. In the case of Garcinia Cambogia, Consumer Lab found that seven of the 13 tested brands contained only 14% to 81% of the listed amount of hydroxycitric acid!
The Bottom Line: Should you take Garcinia Cambogia for weight loss?
The research regarding Garcinia Cambogia’s efficacy for weight loss is fuzzy. Some studies report statistically significant weight loss using the supplement, while others report no difference compared to a placebo. While a meta-analysis of Garcinia Cambogia studies found that it did result in weight loss for many participants, that weight loss boiled town to less than one kilogram over several weeks of supplementation – and the side effects are just plain scary. Reports of liver failure, mania, digestive issues, and more are associated with Garcinia Cambogia. And on top of all that, you can’t even be sure how much of the active ingredient hydroxycitric acid you’re getting in most supplements.
My recommendation is to keep your money in your pocket when it comes to Garcinia Cambogia. Any results you can expect are too minimal to outweigh the potential side effects. If you’re looking to lose weight, you’re much better off spending your money on an extra bunch of greens or a gym membership. And if you need some assistance working towards your health goals, turn to a registered dietitian to help you make lasting changes for weight loss – not a supplement claiming to be a miracle.