Is there such a thing as a weight loss miracle drug?
Today’s market is full of “miracle drugs” and supplements that claim to help you drop pounds fast, and it’s no wonder they fly off the shelves and into medicine cabinets across the country.
Dr. Oz and others like him have showered praise on one of these products in particular: the controversial garcinia cambogia fruit.
What Is It?
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.
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.
Part of the allure of garcinia cambogia is the fact that it comes from a fruit, so it’s “natural.” However, this alone doesn’t make it a worthwhile supplement, or even safe.
Advocates say that HCA, an organic acid, works by making you feel full, reducing your appetite, and affecting metabolism. It’s this effect that has led many to herald it as a natural weight loss cure. Some say it may also help to improve high cholesterol or enhance athletic performance.
The list of garcinia cambogia’s rumored benefits is a long one. It can be hard to sort out the claims about its “miracle” properties from the truth. So, how do these health claims match up to scientific research?
Claim: Makes You Feel Full
Verdict: An extensive review of the existing research on garcinia cambogia determined that there simply wasn’t conclusive evidence to suggest that the supplement or HCA had any effects on appetite and satiety. Despite some rodent studies having such positive results, no human studies could replicate them.
Claim: Lowers Body Weight
Verdict: Existing evidence doesn’t prove that garcinia cambogia alone can facilitate weight loss. A 12-week, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in JAMA found that the supplement didn’t help with significant weight loss or decrease in fat mass. Both the control and garcinia group were placed on high-fiber, low-calorie diets.
Claim: Speeds Metabolism
Verdict: There is some evidence that supplementing with garcinia cambogia can influence fat metabolism. Several studies have found that both mice and humans experience an increase in fat metabolism after supplementing with HCA.
Claim: Enhances Athletic Performance
Verdict: Garcinia cambogia may increase the amount of time it takes to reach exhaustion during exercise, according to one study. Another, using mice, had similar results, where HCA enhanced endurance during running.
Also, worth noting: 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, as no studies have effectively looked at garcinia cambogia use for longer than 12 weeks.
Reported side effects for garcinia cambogia are mild. They include:
- dry mouth
- upset stomach
However, as with all dietary supplements, it could interact with medications you regularly take. Before starting HCA, it would be wise to consult your doctor.
Also, 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. In other words, supplements containing garcinia cambogia have not been rigorously tested for effectiveness and safety.
“Miracle” weight loss solutions rarely live up to the hype. Even when scientific evidence exists of positive results, the results are often so mild and minimal that users are disappointed to find out they still have to exercise and control their eating in order to reap lasting and significant weight loss.
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. There is a reason that claims such as his are taken seriously, as many consumers trust his opinion and without clear evidence that it works, they could be misled into spending time and money on something that is, at best, a waste, and at worst, laden with potential side effects.
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.
According to the FDA, any product — whether natural or man-made — that’s strong enough to work like a drug is capable of producing side effects. 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.