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Caralluma & Weight Loss

author image Angela Brady
Angela Brady has been writing since 1997. Currently transitioning to a research career in oncolytic virology, she has won awards for her work related to genomics, proteomics, and biotechnology. She is also an authority on sustainable design, having studied, practiced and written extensively on the subject.
Caralluma & Weight Loss
Close-up of the caralluma plant. Photo Credit Tanuki Photography/iStock/Getty Images

Many people who want to lose weight search desperately for the magic pill that will make exercise and a healthy diet unnecessary. Caralluma is one of the diet pill trends that promises to melt the fat away with no special effort on your part except taking two pills per day. Proponents claim success with the pills, and the plant has been eaten in India for centuries. The pills, however, have not been sold long enough for any hard data regarding long-term safety to arise.

The Plant

The name Caralluma refers to a plant, not the pill itself. According to a document submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration by Gencor, a manufacturer of Caralluma pills, the plant is in the cacti family and grows wild in India. Indians have eaten it as a vegetable for centuries, and have taken advantage of its appetite-supressing capabilities during times of famine. The document states that the green follicles of the plant are eaten raw by hunters so they don't have to carry food on hunting trips, and is also boiled or made into chutney at home.

The Pills

Caralluma pills generally contain only caralluma with no additives. The main benefit is the hunger-suppressant aspect of the plant, with at least one manufacturer claiming that Caralluma will surpass Hoodia as the most effective herbal appetite suppressant. The pills have a slight stimulant effect as well -- diet review site Diet Spotlight claims that Caralluma is a good replacement for ephedrine, which was banned in the United States due to safety concerns. According to the Glencor document, the pills contain an extract of the plant, not the plant itself.

The Claims

Gencor states that Caralluma works by blocking an enzyme called citrate lyase, which is necessary for the formation of acetyl CoA, a basic ingredient of essential fatty acids that become stored in the body as fat. Gencor reports that Caralluma blocks the formation of an enzyme called Malonyl CoA. Caralluma manufacturers claim that blocking these enzymes necessary to form fat will prevent the body from storing fat. This, combined with a purported interference with the brain's hunger signals will cause you to eat less, and your body will burn stored fat for fuel.

The Studies

Several studies have shown modest weight loss after taking Caralluma pills, but have not described the mechanism by which it happened and have not verified the claims put forth in the Gencor document. A 2008 study at St. John's National Academy of Health Sciences in Bangalore, India showed that participants experienced appetite supression and reduced their weight circumference after taking one gram of Caralluma extract per day for 60 days. Gencor mentions several other studies that produced similar results. Participants in the first study were counseled about proper diet and physical activity, and the participant of the studies in the Gencor document were advised to walk for 30 minutes twice daily -- the favorable results could be the result of lifestyle and dietary changes rather than the Caralluma pill.


Caralluma has no reported side effects, although one study mentioned temporary bouts of gastrointestinal discomfort and constipation. Because the placebo group also experienced similar symptoms, the gelatin capsules themselves were blamed. It is true that Caralluma have been eaten in their whole form for centuries, but the extract has not been used as a dietary supplement long enough for its safety to be guaranteed. Consult your doctor before taking Caralluma pills.

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