Garcinia Cambogia Benefits: Can It Help You Lose Weight?

 Garcinia Cambogia Benefits

We’ve had a number of questions recently about garcinia cambogia. If you don’t already know, garcinia cambogia is a popular weight loss supplement. You may have heard Dr. Oz mention it on his show.

We wanted to delve into garcinia cambogia a little deeper by looking at the latest research and give you a better idea of why it’s popular, whether the claims about it are legitimate and whether garcinia cambogia can actually help you lose weight.

What is Garcinia Cambogia?

Garcinia cambogia is a fruit that grows in parts of Asia, Africa and Australia. The rind of this pumpkin-shaped fruit that’s red in color is eaten by people in these areas both as a food and as a medicinal supplement. Garcinia camobogia is a good source of a compound called hydroxycitric acid, also known as HCA.

HCA is an ingredient in some bodybuilding supplements based on the idea that it blocks an enzyme that converts dietary carbohydrates into fat. It’s also marketed as an appetite suppressant.

Garcinia Cambogia Benefits: Does Garcinia Cambogia Help with Weight Loss?

Back in 1998, researchers looked at HCA, the active ingredient in garcinia cambogia, and its effect on weight loss. This study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Unfortunately, HCA performed no better than a placebo in this study.

Six years later another study came out that came to a different conclusion. This study used almost twice the dose of HCA as the first study and the participants did lose weight although they also ate a 2,000 calorie diet and walked for 30 minutes 5 days a week.

Recently, I read a summary yesterday in MPR (Monthly Prescribing Reference). It discussed some of the research on HCA and garcinia cambogia. They found 23 studies of which less than half met the criteria for being “well conducted.”

After analyzing the results of these studies, they came to a rather grim conclusion. Garcinia cambogia was associated with a weight loss of only 1.94 pounds over what you would expect from a placebo. Not very encouraging.

Side Effects of Garcinia Cambogia

When you’re considering taking a supplement, safety should always come first. Then weigh the benefits versus the risks. This is where garcinia cambogia seems to fall short. Stomach upset and nausea are common side effects with garcinia cambogia supplements.

What’s more disturbing are recent reports that garcinia cambogia may be harmful to the liver. In mice, garcinia cambogia DID have some favorable metabolic effects, but the mice also showed inflammation and scarring of their livers. While these studies were done in mice, not humans, it does raise concerns in our minds about the safety of garcinia cambogia and HCA.

When you consider the difference in weight loss the researchers found between garcinia cambogia and a placebo (1.94 pounds) that’s a big risk to take for such a small benefit. Once your liver is scarred, you lose those liver cells and it can’t be reversed.

Do We Recommend Garcinia Cambogia?

Until researchers know more about whether garcinia cambogia causes liver injury in humans, we wouldn’t recommend taking it. When you consider it was linked with only a small amount of weight loss in studies and the possible risk to your liver, it’s not worth it.

Next week, we’ll cover another popular weight loss supplement, green coffee extract. This supplement preliminarily has more potential. We’ll let you know what we find out once we’ve thoroughly researched it.

Keep in mind we still think the best way to lose weight is by eliminating processed carbs, cutting back on sugar and exercising most days of the week. (cardio and resistance)

Until then, if you’re having trouble controlling your appetite:

  • Eat four or five small meals or snacks throughout the day to help keep your blood sugar level stable. Drops in blood sugar can trigger hunger. Make sure you’re eating breakfast too(with protein).
  • Make sure you’re getting enough protein and that you’re getting some protein at every meal. Protein is the most satiating of all the macronutrients. (carbohydrates, fats, protein)
  • Eat a handful of pine nuts over the course of the day with meals and snacks. Pine nuts contain a chemical called pinolenic acid. Pinolenic acid increases levels of a hormone called CCK that turns off your appetite.
  • Add more fiber to your diet. Add a spoonful of psyllium husks to your oatmeal or take a psyllium supplement. Research shows psyllium delays stomach emptying so you feel fuller.

What do you do to control your appetite?


JAMA. 1998 Nov 11;280(18):1596-600.
J Med. 2004;35(1-6):33-48.
MPR. “Garcinia Cambogia: A Safe Supplement for Obesity?”
World J Gastroenterol. 2013 Aug 7;19(29):4689-701.

Kristie Leong M.D.

Dr. Kristie Leong and Dr. Apollo Leong are physicians helping you to lead a healthy lifestyle by sharing nutrition and fitness tips and keeping you abreast of the latest health news.

2 thoughts on “Garcinia Cambogia Benefits: Can It Help You Lose Weight?

  • January 30, 2014 at 2:27 pm

    Thank you for answering my question about HCA, I found it very informative. Again I appreciate you and DrLeong keeping up on the latest things out there. People ask me who my Doctor is and I’m very confident in telling them DrLeong ! Have a good day.

    • February 1, 2014 at 12:28 am

      Glad you found it to be helpful, Donita! I appreciate the kind words too.

      Dr. A

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