Garcinia Cambogia: Is It Really Safe?


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The newest craze in weight loss supplements, Garcinia cambogia and GC Select is flying off the shelves in an all out effort to support weight loss for those seeking to drop those extra pounds.

The gambooge fruit, also known as the Malabar tamarind, ripens to a red or yellowish fruit about the size of an orange, but with more of a pumpkin shape.

Even the supplements containing this fruit are seeing record setting sales. But is this just another weight loss gimmick, or has it been proven effective and safe?

After being featured on the Dr. Oz show, this little miracle weight loss product promises success for dieters, which what made this little fruit so extremely popular.

This product, as described on the show, when combined with Hydroxycitric acid (HCA), is hailed as a "revolutionary fat buster. That just might be the most exciting breakthrough in natural weight loss to date."

The Dr. Oz Show claims: Many studies have shown promise. One randomized placebo-controlled study followed 60 obese persons for 8 weeks. With a calorie-restricted diet (1200 kcal/day) and an HCA dose of 1320 mg/day, the experimental group lost an average of 14 pounds (compared to 6.1 pounds in the placebo group). The participants also noted reduced appetite.

Sounds intriguing if it is true, but what have others studies shown?

"Some studies have shown that HCA stops an enzyme that turns sugar into fat," said Catherine Ulbricht, senior pharmacist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and co-founder of Natural Standard Research Collaboration, which reviews evidence on herbs and supplements.

If a drug company wanted to sell HCA it wouldn't fly unless there was stronger evidence that first, the substance worked, and second, it underwent more rigorous clinical trials. As it is now, the HCA wouldn't pass Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. However, the FDA is a bit more lax when chemicals are sold as nutritional supplements, as they don't fall under the same burden of proof as pharmaceuticals. Further, supplement manufacturers only have to make products safe to eat and label them responsibly.

The FDA issued a safety warning in 2009 after receiving more than 20 reports of severe reactions, including liver damage from people taking Hydroxycut. At the time, Hydroxycut contained a Garcinia cambogia extract. The product also contained chromium polynicotinate and Gymnema sylvestre extract, so the liver damage cannot be specifically blamed on Garcinia cambogia extract.

Still, caution is suggested, as Garcinia cambogia does have other side effects – it may lower a person's blood sugar, so it can interact with diabetes treatments. And the product hasn’t been adequately studied in pregnant women or women who breastfeed. Garcinia cambogia could also be a problem in Alzheimer's or dementia patients, Ulbricht said.

Ulbricht's suggestion those wishing to take this extract and supplements containing HCA should consult their physicians first.

Image via GHI