Garcinia cambogia -- a tropical fruit in the mangosteen family -- is a common ingredient in commercial weight loss products, including Xenedrine and Hydroxycut. Hydroxycitric acid, the active constituent in garcinia, reduces body weight and insulin output in animal studies, presenting possible applications for the treatment of obesity and diabetes. Preliminary research on garcinia's abilities to cause weight loss in humans has shown promising results, but clinical trials are limited; more study is needed. Consult your doctor before taking garcinia cambogia.
Garcinia cambogia, also called Malabar tamarind, is a tropical evergreen tree indigenous to India, Malaysia and Africa. The tree features drooping branches and glossy oval leaves, with pumpkin-like yellow, orange or red fruit that ripens during the rainy season. Dried garcinia rinds have been used for centuries in Southeast Asia as a condiment and seasoning for curries and meats; garcinia extracts are also used to flavor beverages. Garcinia is prized in the Ayurvedic healing system, where it is considered a rasayana, or herb that benefits all body systems. It has been traditionally used to treat rheumatism and bowel disorders, as well as being employed as a carminative after meals to reduce gas and bloating.
Constituents and Effects
The main constituent of garcinia, hydroxycitric acid, comprises up to 30 percent of the weight of the fruit. Xanthones and xanthone derivatives are also present, as are benzophenones and flavonoids.
Drugs.com, which provides peer-reviewed medical information to consumers, credits garcinia with reducing lipid levels, LDL cholesterol, adipose tissue and body weight in animal studies. Garcinia extract also increases the oxidation of fats and raises levels of healthy HDL cholesterol. In several clinical trials, garcinia extracts lowered LDL cholesterol and triglycerides and caused weight loss in humans. Garcinia's inhibition of synthesis of lipids causes glycogen to increase in the liver; the resulting satiety signals sent to the brain cause reduced appetite. Garcinia also may have beneficial effects on gastric ulcers.
In a 12-week clinical study published in 2000 in the "Journal of International Medical Research," 300 mg of garcinia extract a day, along with other herbs, was given to obese volunteers. The group receiving garcinia experienced a significant difference in weight loss over the control group -- 3.5 kg versus 1.2 kg -- with 85 percent of the reduction due to fat loss. More extensive study was called for to determine effective doses. In an animal study published in 2011 in "Lipids in Health and Disease," garcinia helped to alleviate the damaging effects of high-fat and high-sugar diets fed to rats. In addition to ameliorating negative effects, garcinia also functioned as an antioxidant, decreasing oxidative stress in renal tissues.
Usage and Considerations
A typical dose of garcinia is 300 to 500 mg taken three times a day with water half an hour before meals. Drugs.com lists 1,500 mg a day as the maximum dose. Adverse reactions to garcinia are usually mild and include dizziness, dry mouth, headache, nausea and diarrhea. Garcinia can interact with prescription medications. Consult your doctor before taking garcinia. Don't take garcinia if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or have diabetes.