Health Benefits of Garcinia Cambogia

Many people find losing weight to be difficult. As a result, many look for ways to reduce appetite and encourage their bodies to use fat stores. Recently, a plant called garcinia cambogia has gained popularity for its supposed ability to do both of those things.

Garcinia cambogia, also known as Malabar tamarind or the brindle berry, is native to Southeast Asia. There, it’s often used in curries and as a preservative for food. In the U.S., garcinia cambogia is most often found in tea or as a supplement. Claims made in support of garcinia cambogia’s potential benefits suggest that it can help weight loss, reduce appetite, lower cholesterol, improve rheumatism, and even relieve intestinal problems. While these health claims are impressive, science is still studying whether garcinia cambogia actually provides the benefits its supporters claim. 

Health Benefits

The compound most frequently suggested as the potential source of garcinia cambogia’s supposed benefits is its hydroxycitric acids, also known as HCA. This supplement is often sold as a weight loss aid. Research suggests that HCA is safe to consume in small amounts and may help reduce appetite in some people.

Garcinia cambogia can provide health benefits like:

May Aid Weight Loss

Some studies suggest that in certain cases, garcinia cambogia extract may help people lose weight. Studies with statistically significant results found that a supplement including garcinia cambogia and another plant, gymnema sylvestre, helped reduce appetite slightly, leading to a minor reduction in weight over the course of the study. However, other studies focused on garcinia cambogia are small and flawed, so their conclusions can’t be used to verify these effects.

May Boost Serotonin Levels

Early trials suggest that HCA may increase the amount of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a critical brain signaling molecule, and a lack of serotonin is linked to a number of disorders, including anxiety and depression. In some cases, increasing serotonin may help people with a serotonin deficiency reduce symptoms of depression. 

Health Risks

Although garcinia cambogia may offer health benefits, consuming garcinia cambogia does carry some risk, particularly in high amounts. Some people who take garcinia cambogia supplements report negative effects like nausea, headache, and other stomach and intestinal symptoms and in the upper respiratory tract.

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Because garcinia cambogia is usually consumed as a tea or supplement, it’s difficult to moderate the exact amount of HCA you consume. This makes it tricky to ensure that you are consuming a safe amount of the compound. As a result, it’s possible to experience negative side effects from garcinia cambogia. 

May Cause Serotonin Syndrome

In most people, serotonin is regulated perfectly well, and an increase in brain serotonin can actually cause problems. This is also true for people who take serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). There has already been at least one case in which garcinia cambogia extract has led to serotonin toxicity.

May Lead to Testicular Atrophy

One trial found that consuming a high dose of garcinia cambogia extract (more than 778 milligrams per kilogram of body weight) led to both weight loss and testicular atrophy. Smaller dosages did not cause a noticeable effect, however. 

May Interfere with Medications and Supplements

Garcinia cambogia appears to affect drugs that help treat diabetes, as it lowers insulin and blood sugar levels. It also may affect your body’s ability to absorb antiviral, anti-tumor, and analgesic medication, making it dangerous to consume if you are taking these substances.

Amounts and Dosage

There is not adequate scientific research to determine a set recommended dose for garcinia cambogia. Many studies on the effects of garcinia cambogia use amounts between 900 and 1500 mg of HCA per day. However, garcinia cambogia supplements are not regulated by the FDA, so dosage can vary from brand to brand and even from batch to batch.

Be careful when choosing a garcinia cambogia supplier, because you may be getting too little or too much HCA if the manufacturer is not reputable. An effective amount for you may also depend on factors like age and underlying health conditions. If you’re considering adding a new garcinia cambogia supplement to your routine, consult your doctor to confirm it won’t interact negatively with any other medications you may be taking and to get your doctor’s help ensuring the brand you’re considering is a reliable one.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on November 06, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

Complementary Therapies in Medicine: “Plant extracts with appetite suppressing properties for body weight control: a systematic review of double blind randomized controlled clinical trials.”

Consumer Labs: “Garcinia Cambogia (HCA) Supplements Review.”

Diabetes, Obesity, and Metabolism: “Effects of a natural extract of (−)-hydroxycitric acid (HCA-SX) and a combination of HCA-SX plus niacin-bound chromium and Gymnema sylvestre extract on weight loss.”

FDA: “FDA 101: Dietary Supplements.”

Food and Chemical Toxicology: “High dose of Garcinia cambogia is effective in suppressing fat accumulation in developing male Zucker obese rats, but highly toxic to the testis.”

International Journal of Obesity: “Nutritionist and obesity: brief overview on efficacy, safety, and drug interactions of the main weight-loss dietary supplements.”

Journal of Medical Toxicology: “Serotonin Toxicity Associated with Garcinia cambogia Over-the-counter Supplement.”

Journal of Obesity: “The Use of Garcinia Extract (Hydroxycitric Acid) as a Weight loss Supplement: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomised Clinical Trials.”

Journal of Psychopharmacology: “Serotonin and brain function: a tale of two receptors.”

Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry: “Physico-chemical properties of a novel (-)-hydroxycitric acid extract and its effect on body weight, selected organ weights, hepatic lipid peroxidation and DNA fragmentation, hematology and clinical chemistry, and histopathological changes over a period of 90 days.”

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: “Garcinia Cambogia.”

National Institutes of Health: “Dietary Supplements for Weight Loss: Fact Sheet for Consumers.”

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