Column: Garcinia Cambogia: A weight-loss miracle pill?


Commentary by Cory Black

Regardless of what some weight loss products claim, a lasting and long-term solution has to include a healthy diet and getting active. We really should just think of supplements as tools that can help us along the way in reaching our goals, not a way to eliminate the need for lifestyle changes.

Garcinia cambogia is a nutritional supplement that has gotten a lot of hype for claims of easy fat loss with no effort. Ignoring outlandish claims, is there any real benefit for weight loss?

A small tropical fruit from southeast Asia, garcinia cambogia has become popular as a nutritional supplement due to containing a particular citric acid, specifically hydroxycitric acid, or HCA.  HCA originally became popular in the late 90s when some studies showed that it caused weight loss in rats.

A more recent study since then conducted among a group of 30 overweight adults (Nutrition Research, Jan 2004). In the study, everyone was restricted to a 2,000 calorie diet and walked 30 minutes 5 times a week, with half the participants given a HCA supplement and half a placebo. Every participant lost some weight through diet and exercise. What is really interesting though is that the half given HCA lost 12 pounds versus just 3 in the placebo group over the 8 week period.

How might HCA help weight loss? Some research seems to indicate HCA blocks an enzyme called citrate lyase, which is needed to turn sugars into fat. The supplement also seems to potentially elevate serotonin levels, which helps improve the satiety we get from food so that we stop eating sooner. Serotonin in the body is thought to contribute to well-being, and it’s often true that when depressed we eat more.

Miracle pill claims aside, garcinia cambogia, or HCA, seems to have the potential to increase the weight loss results we see when combined with a healthy diet and activity. Reported side effects are rare, but always check with your physician before taking any new supplement.

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