What do tapeworms, arsenic, vinegar, and Twinkies have in common? They’ve all been used as weight-loss aids. A supplement produced from an exotic fruit, garcinia cambogia, is the latest weight-loss craze. But the Internet and television are filled with misinformation and hype. Let’s take a look at facts about garcinia cambogia.
1. Garcinia cambogia is grown in Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and parts of Africa.
2. It’s not technically called garcinia cambogia anymore. The tree has a new proper name: Garcinia gummi-gutta.
3. Other names for it are: red mango, Malabar tamarind, pot tamarind, brindal berry, gambooge, and kokum butter oil tree.
4. The fruit of the garcinia cambogia looks like a multi-lobed pumpkin, and is usually green, yellow, or red.
5. It’s normally the size of a large tomato but can grow to grapefruit size.
6. The sour flesh of the garcinia cambogia will pucker your lips. It’s often pickled and used as a condiment.
7. After it’s sun-dried and smoked, the blackened fruit, called kodampoli, gives a tart, smoky flavor to curries. It’s most common in fish curry.
8. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the seeds have a 30 percent fat content. The seeds are sometimes used as a substitute for ghee, clarified butter that’s a common ingredient in Indian food.
9. A number of health claims are made about garcinia cambogia extract. Among the conditions people use it for are: diabetes, cancer, ulcers, diarrhea, and constipation.
10. Its biggest claim to fame is that extract supplements can help speed up weight loss, reduce appetite, and boost exercise endurance.
11. Garcinia cambogia contains a compound called hydroxycitric acid (HCA) that may inhibit an enzyme that helps your body store fat. Theoretically, the fat would instead be burned as calories.
12. Allegedly, garcinia cambogia can increase the levels of the neurotransmitter, serotonin — a feel-good messenger in your body. This may enhance your mood and reduce stress-related eating.
13. The first rigorous research on the effectiveness of garcinia cambogia was conducted in 1998. The study concluded that it doesn’t perform any better than a placebo when it comes to helping you lose weight.
14. A 2011 research review showed that it can cause short-term weight loss, but the effect was small and the studies were flawed.
15. Garcinia cambogia can be found in Hydroxycut. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a consumer warning in 2009 cautioning consumers to immediately stop using Hydroxycut products after reports of jaundice and extreme liver damage in people who used Hydroxycut surfaced.
16. Other health problems associated with Hydroxycut included seizures, cardiovascular disorders, and rhabdomyolysis. However, because Hydroxycut contains many ingredients, it’s difficult to pinpoint the cause.
17. A study from Japan found that rats fed high doses of garcinia cambogia lost significant fat. However, the high doses also caused testicular atrophy.
18. In 2012, pop television doc, Mehmet Oz, announced to his audience that garcinia cambogia is a revolutionary fat buster. The show’s graphics read: “No Exercise. No Diet. No Effort.”
19. In June 2014, Dr. Oz was chided for making unwarranted claims about garcinia cambogia and other products in an appearance before the Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, and Data Security.
20. Garcinia cambogia is available in capsules, tablets, powders, and liquids. Capsules should be taken on an empty stomach, 30 minutes to an hour before a meal.
21. According to ConsumerLab.com, many garcinia cambogia supplements don’t contain the amount of garcinia cambogia listed on the label. Instead, they found the doses were either too low or too high. If you take the capsules, buy a reputable brand and make sure they contain at least 50 percent HCA.
22. Most garcinia cambogia supplements also contain other ingredients, some of which might not be listed.
23. When it comes to a recommended dose, most sources provide the recommended dose of HCA rather than garcinia cambogia itself. According to ConsumerLab.com, the recommended dose of garcinia cambogia is 900 mg to 1,500 mg of HCA a day. This is consistent with doses used in a number of studies.
24. Side effects of garcinia cambogia may include: headache, nausea, dizziness, and dry mouth.
25. It isn’t known if garcinia cambogia is safe during pregnancy or while you’re breastfeeding, so it’s best to discontinue use of the supplement during these times.
26. Garcinia cambogia may cause a decrease in blood sugar levels. People who have diabetes should discuss this with their doctor before taking the supplement.
27. People with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia should not take garcinia cambogia because it increases acetycholine levels in the brain. Many people with these conditions are given medications to lower acetycholine levels.
28. Garcinia cambogia may interfere with the following medications and supplements: iron, potassium, calcium, antidepressants, statins, montelukast (Singulair), and warfarin (Coumadin).
29. As with other nutritional supplements, keep in mind that garcinia cambogia is not monitored by the FDA for safety and effectiveness.