Garcinia Cambogia: Weight Loss Miracle or Health Disaster?
On his show in November of 2012, Dr. Oz talked about an incredible weight loss supplement that will make you lose weight without having to do any exercise or give up any of your favorite foods. The result of this was an explosion in the demand and sale of this “magic bullet” weight loss pill: Garcinia Cambogia.
The question remains, is the answer to finally losing that extra ten, twenty, or thirty plus pounds really as easy as popping a pill? Is Garcinia Cambogia even safe for us to use? The answer from the medical and scientific community is a resounding no, and with good reason.
What is Garcinia Cambogia?
Garcinia cambogia extract comes from a tropical fruit grown in India and Southeast Asia. The fruit itself has actually been eaten in Asia for years, traditionally using the rind as a flavoring agent in fish curries thanks to its unique sour taste. The small, pumpkin-like fruit has been used to treat digestive issues, bowel problems, and as a remedy for intestinal parasites and rheumatism. (1)
Garcinia Cambogia: How it Works
More recently, studies have been done on garcinia cambogia as a weight loss supplement. These studies, done on Petri dishes and in rats, found some evidence that garcinia cambogia extract and the primary organic compound in the rind, hydroxycitric acid, may help you to lose weight. (1, 2, 3) It does this by:
- regulating serotonin levels, which control satiety and therefore helping to reduce food intake
- increases fat oxidation and decreases the conversion of stored carbohydrates to fats
- inhibits the enzymes responsible for the production of fatty acids, cholesterol, and triglycerides
How to use Garcinia Cambogia
Garcinia cambogia supplements should be taken on an empty stomach, 30-60 minutes before a meal. The dosage recommended on most bottles is three per day (one before every meal), and they say it is important to drink two liters (or eight cups) of water every day while on the supplement. They also claim that you don’t have to change your diet to achieve positive results, however many users say that once they did they lost a lot more weight. (4)
Does Garcinia Cambogia Work?
Garcinia cambogia weight loss supplements are said to reduce belly fat, suppress appetite, control emotional eating, increase lean muscle mass, decrease LDL “bad” cholesterol and triglycerides by 10-30%, and raise levels of HDL or “good” cholesterol. Of all the studies done on humans, however, those with the most sound methodologies did not find any statistically significant differences in weight loss or changes in blood parameters between the supplement users and the placebo group. (1, 2, 3)
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The primary issue with these supplements seems to be in their quality, as they are not regulated by any governing body to ensure they are formulated correctly. Garcinia cambogia supplements should contain at least 50% garcinia cambogia extract, with added potassium and no added fillers, binders, or artificial ingredients. This is not the case, however, and many brands contain far less of the active ingredient than they claim to. (1, 2, 3)
Garcinia Cambogia Side Effects
The scientific community is still out on whether or not garcinia cambogia is safe as a weight loss and cholesterol lowering supplement.
Do not use Garcinia Cambogia if you:
- Are pregnant or breast-feeding: There is currently not enough information to determine whether or not it could harm a developing fetus or young baby. It is best to avoid it until more studies are done in this area. (1, 2, 3)
- Are on blood sugar medication: Garcinia cambogia supplements have blood sugar lowering effects that in combination with these medications can cause your blood sugar to drop dangerously low. (1, 2, 3)
- Are taking statins or other cholesterol medications: Again, if you are already taking medications to lower your cholesterol, Garcinia cambogia could amplify its effects to a dangerous degree. (1, 2, 3)
- Have Alzheimer’s or Dementia: Garcinia cambogia supplements have been shown to worsen symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia. (1, 2, 3)
Other Side effects include:
- Nausea and diarrhea
- Upper respiratory problems
- Digestive and GI tract problems (1, 2, 3)
Garcinia Cambogia causes Testicular Toxicity
Studies on some Garcinia cambogia supplements have found that they can be damaging to the male reproductive system. “Testicular toxicity” includes testicular atrophy (a decrease in size and functionality), along with an impaired ability to create new sperm. More studies need to be done to determine if garcinia cambogia itself causes this or if it specific formulations that are to blame. (5)
Garcinia Cambogia causes Liver Failure
Since its explosion into the weight loss market, several cases of liver toxicity leading to liver failure and even transplant have been reported. Certain weight loss supplements, such as Hydroxycut, that also contain the active ingredient hydroxycitric acid, have been banned since 2009 because of their destructive effects on the liver. Again, more studies are being done to determine if the ingredient itself is the culprit or if it’s all in the formulation. (6, 7)
Garcinia Cambogia causes Mania
Several case studies were done on people who developed mania after taking Garcinia cambogia supplements. Mania, or manic episodes, is not a disorder itself, usually they are associated with bipolar disorder. They are characterized by elevated mood or increased irritability, inflated self-esteem, decreased need for sleep, racing thoughts, difficulty focusing, and they will often speak much faster than usually. Typically, it is a drastic change from their usual personality. (8, 9)
Though many of the people who experienced mania after taking garcinia cambogia had preexisting bipolar disorders, mania was experienced by healthy individuals as well. Again, it is unclear as to whether this is purely caused by interactions with other medications or if it’s because of the garcinia cambogia itself. (8, 9)
Garcinia Cambogia: The Final Verdict
The main issue we have with garcinia cambogia is that it distracts the user from the real problem as to why they are overweight and have issues with their cholesterol and blood sugar: Unhealthy lifestyle habits. Even many of the testimonials that claim it worked for them mention it worked far better when they actually began to make changes to their diets and exercise routines.
Instead of taking a potentially dangerous supplement to solve your weight loss problems, instead make small, achievable changes to your daily habits. These will not only help you to lose weight, but you will build a strong, healthy body inside and out. You will feel energized, happier, and more fulfilled than you ever could by taking any drug.
Join us in spreading the much-needed knowledge surrounding garcinia cambogia and protect your friends and family from it’s potentially harmful effects.
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