Garcinia Cambogia: Safe for Weight Loss?

Garcinia cambogia, a tropical fruit also known as the Malabar tamarind, is a popular weight-loss supplement. People say it blocks your body's ability to make fat and it puts the brakes on your appetite. Loss of excess weight could help could help keep blood sugar and cholesterol levels in check, too. You'll find it in bottles on the shelf at the store as well as mixed with other ingredients in diet products.

Does it live up to its hype? Maybe a little, but it might not be worth it.

How It Works

The active ingredient in the fruit's rind, hydroxycitric acid, or HCA, appears to block an enzyme called citrate lyase, which your body uses to make fat. It also raises levels of the brain chemical serotonin, which may make you feel less hungry.

But actual weight loss results aren't impressive. A review published in the Journal of Obesityfound that people who took garcinia cambogia in studies lost about 2 pounds more than people who didn't take it. The reviewers couldn't say for sure that the weight loss was because of the supplement. It could have been from the lower-calorie diet and exercise programs the people in the studies typically followed. Better studies are needed to find out if HCA really helps people lose a lot of weight and keep it off.

Type 2 Diabetes and High Cholesterol

Some research has found that garcinia cambogia may improve cholesterol levels, lowering triglycerides and LDL (the "bad" cholesterol) and raising HDL (the "good" cholesterol). You shouldn't use it if you're already on a prescription for your cholesterol.

Possible Side Effects

When you take garcinia cambogia, you might get:

The Food and Drug Administration considers it unsafe. In 2017, the FDA warned everyone to stop using a weight-loss product that contained garcinia cambogia because some people taking it got serious liver problems. 

In addition, garcinia cambogia may interact badly with:

  • Diabetes medicines, including pills and insulin
  • Pain medicines
  • Prescriptions for psychiatric conditions

You definitely don't want to use it when you're pregnant or nursing, or if you have liver problems. It is possible that manic symptoms may emerge as a side effect.

To Buy or Not to Buy

Since study results are mixed, you should talk with your doctor to help you decide if taking garcinia cambogia is a good idea. 

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on October 06, 2019

Sources

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Drugs.com: "Garcinia (hydroxycitric acid)."

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