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How Garcinia Cambogia Can Help You Lose Weight and Belly Fat

Garcinia cambogia is a popular weight loss supplement.

It is derived from a fruit of the same name, also called
Garcinia gummi-gutta or Malabar tamarind.

The peel of the fruit contains high amounts of hydroxycitric
acid (HCA), which is the active ingredient believed to be
responsible for most of the weight loss benefits (1).

This article is a detailed review of garcinia cambogia and
whether it is something you should take in order to lose
weight.

What Is Garcinia Cambogia?

Garcinia Cambogia Capsules

Garcinia gummi-gutta is a small, pumpkin-shaped,
yellow or greenish fruit.

The fruit is so sour that it is generally not eaten fresh, but
rather used for its sour flavor in cooking (2).

Garcinia cambogia
supplements
are made from extracts of the fruit’s peel.

The peel of the fruit contains high amounts of hydroxycitric
acid (HCA), an active substance that has been shown to have
some weight loss properties (3, 4, 5).

The supplements generally contain 20–60% HCA. Nevertheless,
studies show that those with 50–60% HCA may provide the most
benefit (2).

Bottom Line: Garcinia cambogia supplements
are made from extracts of the peel of the Garcinia
gummi-gutta
fruit. They contain high amounts of
hydroxycitric acid (HCA), which has been linked with weight
loss benefits.

Garcinia Cambogia Supplements Cause Modest Weight Loss

Many high-quality human studies have tested the
weight loss
effects of garcinia cambogia.

What’s more, most of them show that the supplement can cause a
small amount of weight loss (3, 6).

This graph summarizes the weight loss results from nine studies
on garcinia cambogia (7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14):

Garcinia Cambogia and Weight Loss Chart

The blue bars show the results from the supplement groups,
while the orange bars show the results of placebo groups.

On average, garcinia cambogia has been shown to cause weight
loss of about 2 pounds (0.88 kg) more than a placebo, over a
period of 2–12 weeks (3, 15).

That said, several studies have not found any weight loss
advantage (9, 11, 16).

For example, the largest individual study, which tested 135
participants over 12 weeks, did not find any difference in
weight loss between the group that took garcinia cambogia and
the group that took the placebo (9).

As you can see, the evidence is mixed. Garcinia cambogia
supplements can produce modest weight loss in some people, but
their effectiveness cannot be guaranteed.

Bottom Line: Some studies have found that
garcinia cambogia causes modest weight loss, while other
studies report no noticeable effects.

How Does It Help With Weight Loss?

Garcinia Cambogia Fruit and a Tape Measure

There are two main ways garcinia cambogia is thought to help
with weight loss.

1. It May Reduce Your Appetite

Studies in rats have shown that those given garcinia cambogia
supplements tend to eat less (17, 18).

Similarly, some human studies have shown that garcinia cambogia
is able to
suppress appetite
and make you feel full (5, 13, 14, 19, 20).

How it reduces appetite isn’t fully known, but rat studies have
suggested that the active ingredient in garcinia cambogia can
increase serotonin in the brain (5, 21).

Theoretically speaking, since serotonin is a known appetite
suppressant, higher blood levels of serotonin could reduce your
appetite (22).

However, these results need to be taken with a grain of salt.
Other studies have found no difference in appetite between
groups taking this supplement and those taking a placebo
(10, 11, 12, 23).

It may be that these effects depend on the individual.

Bottom Line: Some studies suggest that
garcinia cambogia can suppress appetite by inhibiting
serotonin uptake in the brain, while other studies have found
no effects on appetite or hunger.

2. It May Block Fat Production and Reduce Belly Fat

The most important activity of garcinia cambogia is probably
its effects on blood fats and the production of new fatty
acids.

Studies in humans and animals have shown it may lower high
levels of fat in the blood and reduce oxidative stress in the
body (24, 25, 26, 27, 28).

One study also suggests it may be especially effective at
reducing the accumulation of
belly fat
in overweight people (8).

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Another study gave moderately obese individuals 2,800 mg of
garcinia cambogia daily for eight weeks (14).

By the end of the study, the group had drastically reduced
several risk factors for disease:

  • Total cholesterol levels: 6.3% lower
  • LDL (the “bad”) cholesterol levels: 12.3%
    lower
  • HDL (the “good”) cholesterol levels: 10.7%
    higher
  • Blood triglycerides: 8.6% lower
  • Fat metabolites: 125–258% more excreted in
    the urine

The main reason for these effects is thought to be that
garcinia cambogia inhibits an enzyme called citrate lyase,
which plays an important role in the production of fat
(2, 29, 30, 31, 32).

By inhibiting citrate lyase, garcinia cambogia is thought to
slow down or block fat production in the body. This may reduce
blood fats and lower the risk of weight gain, two major disease
risk factors (33).

Bottom Line: Garcinia cambogia blocks the
production of new fats in the body, and has been shown to
lower cholesterol levels and blood triglycerides in
overweight people.

Other Health Benefits

Animal and test-tube studies suggest that garcinia cambogia may
also have some anti-diabetic effects, including (2, 14, 34):

  • Decreasing
    insulin
    levels
  • Decreasing leptin levels
  • Reducing inflammation
  • Improving blood sugar control
  • Increasing insulin sensitivity

Garcinia cambogia may also have benefits for the digestive
system. Animal studies have suggested it helps protect against
stomach ulcers and reduce damage to the inner lining of the
digestive tract (35, 36).

However, these effects need to be studied further before firm
conclusions can be drawn.

Bottom Line: Garcinia cambogia may have some
anti-diabetic effects and may also help protect against
stomach ulcers and damage to the digestive tract.

Safety and Side Effects

Garcinia Cambogia Fruit and Capsules

Most studies have concluded that garcinia cambogia is safe for
healthy people in the recommended dosages, or up to 2,800 mg of
HCA per day (37, 38, 39, 40).

That said, supplements are not regulated by the US Food and
Drug Administration (FDA).

That means there’s no guarantee that the actual content of HCA
in your supplements will match the HCA content on the label.

Therefore, make sure to buy from a reputable manufacturer.

People have also reported some side effects of using garcinia
cambogia. The most common ones are (3, 9):

  • Digestive symptoms
  • Headaches
  • Skin rashes

However, some studies have indicated more serious side effects.

Animal studies have shown that a very high intake of garcinia
cambogia can cause testicular atrophy — shrinking of the
testicles. Studies in rats have shown it may also affect sperm
production (38, 41, 42).

Additionally, there is one report of a woman who developed
serotonin toxicity as a result of taking garcinia cambogia with
her anti-depressant medications (43).

If you have a medical condition or are taking any medications,
consult your doctor before you start taking the supplement.

Bottom Line: Some people experience
digestive symptoms, headaches and skin rashes when taking
garcinia cambogia. Animal studies suggest that a very high
intake may cause toxicity.

How to Take Garcinia Cambogia to Maximize the Benefits

Open Green Bottle Filled with Capsules

Many health food stores and pharmacies offer several varieties
of garcinia cambogia.

Choose one from a reputable manufacturer that contains 50–60%
hydroxycitric acid (HCA).

Recommended dosages can vary between brands. Generally, it is
recommended to take 500 mg, three times per day, 30–60 minutes
before meals.

It is always best to follow the dosage instructions on the
label.

Studies have only tested these supplements for up to 12 weeks
at a time. Therefore, it may be a good idea to take a few weeks
off every three months or so.

Bottom Line: Look for a supplement that
contains 50–60% HCA and is made by a reputable manufacturer.
Follow the dosage instructions on the label.

Take Home Message

Existing studies don’t agree on the effectiveness of garcinia
cambogia for weight loss.

Some studies show it may cause slightly more weight loss than
not taking any supplement. This effect is not confirmed, but it
is promising.

The positive effects of garcinia cambogia on blood fats may be
where this supplement really shines.

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