Garcinia Cambogia: Weight Loss Fact or Fiction?

Written by Rena Goldman | Published on May 7, 2015
Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD, MBA on May 7, 2015

Is there such a thing as a weight loss miracle drug?

Overview

When you add an increasing risk for obesity to the busy life of the average American, it is no wonder people are looking for an easy answer to weight loss. Today’s market is full of “miracle drugs” and supplements that claim to help you drop pounds fast. Dr. Oz and others like him have showered praise on extracts of the controversial garcinia cambogia fruit, but is it safe? And does it even work?

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What Is Garcinia Cambogia?

Garcinia cambogia is a citrus fruit that grows in Southeast Asia. An extract from the fruit rind, hydroxycitric acid (HCA), has historically been used for cooking, but it’s also been used for weight loss and to lower cholesterol.

You can buy garcinia cambogia online or at most health and supplement stores, in pill form or as a powder. Sometimes, it’s also included as an ingredient in snack bars. Typical doses are between 250 and 1,000 mg each day.

What Does It Supposedly Do?

Advocates say that HCA, an organic acid, works by making you feel full, reducing your appetite, and affecting metabolism. It may also help to improve high cholesterol.

However, scientific research on its effectiveness is still unclear. An older study found that garcinia cambogia was not much more effective for weight loss than a placebo (fake pill). A more recent review of studies on HCA found that there isn’t enough evidence to show that it is safe and effective for long-term use.

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What Are the Side Effects?

Reported side effects for garcinia cambogia are mild. They include dizziness, dry mouth, upset stomach, and diarrhea. However, the supplement may react with certain medications. Your doctor or pharmacist can tell you if it’s safe to use HCA with your medication.

Remember that dietary supplements aren’t studied or approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before they go on the market. Furthermore, they can claim to support normal body functions as long as there is a disclaimer that the FDA hasn’t evaluated the statements.

Dosage

There is no agreed-upon dosage when it comes to HCA or garcinia cambogia

Dietary supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA, so manufacturers suggest their own amounts.

The Takeaway

Dr. Oz has come under fire for promoting “miracle” weight loss products on his show. His claims got him into trouble with the U.S. Senate Committee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, and Data Security. Before you add a dietary supplement to your weight-loss plan, discuss it with your doctor. They can tell you if the product may be harmful or may be worth a try.

The FDA recommends using caution with products that claim to be quick fixes, promise fast weight loss, and use the term natural. “Natural” doesn’t necessarily mean safe. There are many poisonous plants that are natural, but that can cause you serious harm. And according to the FDA, any product — natural or man-made — that’s strong enough to work like a drug is capable of producing side effects.

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Remember, behavior change, diet, and exercise are the only tried-and-true methods for losing weight. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people who limit weight loss to just one or two pounds per week are more likely to keep it off.

In order to lose weight you must take in fewer calories than you burn. For weight loss, the CDC recommends that you reduce your calorie intake by 500 to 1,000 per day and get 60 to 90 minutes of moderate physical activity on most days of the week.

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