Garcinia Cambogia

Garcinia cambogia, more commonly known as gambooge or brindal berry, is a fruit which grows in parts of Asia and Africa. It has been used in folk medicines in Indian to treat various conditions including gastrointestinal problems, inflammation, and late menstruation.  It is also commonly included in curries in India.  In the past decade, garcinia cambogia has made its way into western culture as a weight loss supplement.  The extract of this fruit, hydroxycitric acid (HCA), is purported to act as an appetite suppressant and non-stimulant fat burner.

The way that garcinia cambogia supposedly helps weight loss is because HCA blocks the enzyme ATP citrate lyase.  Citrate lyase causes carbohydrates to turn into fatty acids.  Without citrate lyase, excess carbohydrates would not get stored as fat. Further, HCA is said to support glycogen synthesis.  Glycogen is a molecule which is stored in cells and converted into glucose for energy.  Hunger is a very complex reaction in the body which is regulated by various chemicals, including glycogen levels.  By increasing the amount of glycogen, garcinia cambogia is thought to suppress hunger.

Garcinia cambogia also contains high levels of flavonoid antioxidants, the same antioxidants which make tea a potent weight loss supplement. There is evidence that flavonoid antioxidants can help lower cholesterol levels and also prevent hardening of cholesterol in the arteries.

There are some studies which support the weight loss benefits of garcinia cambogia.  In one study on obese rats being treated with HCA, the treated rats had a significantly lower amount of accumulated fat then the control group. However, the rats who were taking the highest and most effective dosage of HCA also experienced the adverse effect of testicular damage.

In a study performed on mice using garcinia cambogia extract, the treated mice experienced significant lowering in cholesterol and triglyceride levels.  The treated mice also metabolized glucose better and were more responsive to leptin, the natural appetite-control hormone.  However, this same study did not show any direct weight-loss benefits for garcinia cambogia.

While some animal studies of garcinia cambogia have shown benefits, human studies have not shown much promise for the plant as a weight loss supplement.  In one controlled clinical study where participants receives either 1500 mg of hydroxycitric acid daily or a placebo, there were no significant differences in the amount of weight lost between the hydroxycitric acid and placebo groups.

Currently, there is inadequate information about garcinia cambogia to determine whether it is safe or effective for weight loss.  Despite the lack of support for the plant extract, numerous weight loss supplements contain garcinia cambogia and market it as an appetite suppressant and/or stimulant-free fat burner.

It must be noted that the long-term safety of garcinia cambogia supplements is questionable.  Some clinical studies did note adverse effects.  Since glycogen – the molecule which garcinia cambogia purportedly increases – is primarily stored in the liver, it is possible that garcinia cambogia could cause liver damage.  One case of hepatotoxicity has already been linked to garcinia supplements.  Glycogen is also stored in muscles so there could be muscular side effects associated with the supplement as well, though none have been yet reported.

If you are considering a weight loss supplement with garcinia cambogia, it is important to realize that this plant needs much further research before it can purport any benefits.  While small amounts of the supplement are likely safe, it is still best to consult with a doctor for individualized advice before taking any garcinia cambogia weight loss supplement.


Heymsfield, Steven B., et al. “Garcinia cambogia (Hydroxycitric Acid) as a Potential Antiobesity Agent.” The Journal of the American Medical Association, 288;28 (1998): 1596-1600.

Lobb A. “Hepatoxicity associated with weight-loss supplements: a case for better post-marketing surveillance”. World J. Gastroenterol, 15; 14 (14 April 2009): 1786–7.

“Garcinia cambogia Extract.” Ntp.niehs.nih.gov. National Toxicology Program Department of Health and Human Services. N.d. Web.

Koshy, Asha Sarah, L Anila, and NR Vijayalakshmi. “Flavonoids from Garcinia cambogia lower lipid levels in hypercholesterolemic rats.” Food Chemistry, 72;3 (2001): 289-294.


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