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Is Garcinia Cambogia a Fat Burner? Does It Help Lose Weight?

Tyler Sellers
Published by Tyler Sellers
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: September 2, 2022

The endless chatter I hear at the gym daily as a fitness trainer usually focuses on how to support weight loss with supplements.

For quite some time now, there has been a growing interest in Garcinia Cambogia to increase fat loss.

I strive to provide my fitness clients with trustworthy health information so they can make educated decisions, so I dove into research. I spent some time analyzing study results and speaking to our medical professional at Total Shape.

Let’s take a look at my findings.

Quick Summary

  • Taking Garcinia Cambogia supplements may burn fat by blocking the enzyme citrate lyase responsible for fat biosynthesis (production).
  • Garcinia Cambogia offers several health benefits beyond potential weight loss, including anti-diabetes and improving digestive health.
  • The Garcinia Cambogia fruit is incredibly sour and not eaten fresh and is often pickled for use as a condiment.

Garcinia Cambogia: Does It Burn Fat?

Close up image of Garcinia Cambogia

Garcinia Cambogia may burn fat by blocking an enzyme that significantly affects fat production [1].

Additionally, taking a Garcinia Cambogia supplement may suppress appetite, which, working in tandem with inhibiting fat accumulation, can promote weight loss [2].

What is Garcinia Cambogia?

Garcinia Cambogia is a yellow or green, small, pumpkin-like tropical fruit that is incredibly sour and not eaten fresh but is pickled for use as a condiment.

Garcinia Cambogia supplements come from extracts of the fruit’s rind.

The primary active substance in Garcinia extract is hydroxycitric acid (HCA), and one systematic review shows this substance has weight loss properties [3].

Beyond weight loss benefits, human studies suggest taking Garcinia Cambogia decreases insulin and leptin levels, reduces inflammation, improves blood sugar control, and increases insulin sensitivity [4].

Additionally, studies in rats present Garcinia Cambogia as effective protection against stomach ulcers and that it may reduce damage to the inner liner of the digestive tract [5].

Is Garcinia Effective for Weight loss?

A Garcinia with stethoscope

Garcinia might be effective for weight loss, but several studies show mixed results in its effectiveness.

One brief two-week study of Garcinia Cambogia as a weight loss supplement shows no increase in fat burning, appetite suppression, or overall body weight loss [6].

A 1998 study of 135 participants did not show significant changes in weight loss for the supplement group over the placebo group after supplementing for 12 weeks [7].

However, some other research on Garcinia Cambogia extract as a dietary supplement shows modest weight loss and fasting blood sugar stabilization, which can promote weight loss [8].

Yet another randomized placebo-controlled trial taking place over 12 weeks with participants aged 20-65 demonstrates that Garcinia Cambogia is effective in reducing belly fat [9].

Going through many studies, I found convincing evidence on both ends of the spectrum, so I can’t say that fat loss is guaranteed.

However, I know many people who have found success when supplementing with Garcinia Cambogia and lost significant weight.

“Some studies have determined that garcinia Cambogia causes modest weight loss, while other studies report no noticeable effects.”

-Adda Bjarnadottir, MS, RDN (Ice)

How Does It Work for Weight Loss?

Slices of Cambogia

Garcinia cambogia may work for weight loss because it is high in hydroxycitric acid (HCA), which may inhibit an enzyme called citrate lyase that promotes fat production.

Let’s take a closer look at how it works.

May Increase Fat Burning and Reduce Belly Fat

Results in human and animal studies show Garcinia Cambogia may reduce high blood fat levels and oxidative stress in the body [10].

Research shows positive results for moderately obese people taking 2800 mg of Garcinia Cambogia for weight management [11].  The effects were pronounced in the following areas:

  • Blood triglycerides: 8.6% lower
  • Total cholesterol levels: 6.3% lower
  • HDL cholesterol levels: 10.7% higher
  • LDL cholesterol levels: 12.3% lower
  • Lipid (fat) metabolites: up to 258% more excreted in the urine

Researchers credit these benefits to the active ingredient hydroxycitric acid and its antiobesity effect because of its ability to interfere with fat synthesis [12].

May Suppress Appetite

A woman who lost her appetite

Animal studies, specifically in rats, show reduced food intake with Garcinia Cambogia supplementation [13].

How the process works is unclear, but researchers believe it may increase serotonin levels in the brain [14].

Serotonin is a “feel good” chemical and natural appetite suppressant that results in you feeling fuller even if your stomach is not, greatly benefiting weight loss efforts [15].

Additionally, a six-week study of adults taking 900 mg of HCA each day led to a 15-30% decrease in food intake and encouraged weight loss [16].

In analyzing the numerous studies for my research, it appears that many studies that yielded positive results were short-term with a small group of participants.

Safety and Risks

Cambogia fruit with pills

Many wellness professionals and health experts have questioned the safety of Garcinia Cambogia.

A review of 17 studies shows that supplementation up to 2800 mg daily showed no adverse effects [17].

Some reports link liver toxicity to Garcinia supplementation.

A 57-year-old woman experienced acute hepatitis after consuming 2800 mg of pure Garcinia Cambogia extract daily for one month to aid weight loss.

She had no history of liver complications and the condition resolved when the supplementation ended [18].

“Garcinia cambogia and HCA supplements have been linked to liver toxicity and other potentially dangerous side effects. The products may also interact with commonly prescribed medications.”

- Jillian Kubala, MS, RD.

When taking supplements, there is always a risk for side effects, and Garcinia is no different [19]. So, users may experience the following:

  • Common cold symptoms
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Skin rash
  • Stomach discomfort

There is not enough information to support Garcinia’s safety for pregnant or breastfeeding women; it would be best to err on the side of caution and avoid it.

You should also avoid taking a Garcinia supplement if you are bipolar, as it may induce mania [20].

Because of its link to liver complications, it may be best to avoid using Garcinia if you have liver disease.

It is advisable to stop taking HCA (the active ingredient in Garcinia) at least two weeks before surgery because it may affect blood sugar levels and slow blood clotting.

The result could make it difficult to control blood glucose levels and clotting during and post-surgery [21].

FAQs

Is Garcinia Safe?

Garcinia is probably safe for most healthy individuals. That said, because the FDA doesn't regulate dietary supplements like prescription drugs, it is always vital to speak to a medical professional before starting any supplement, especially if you have any health conditions.

It is equally important to purchase supplements from reputable sources.

How Much Garcinia Should I Take A Day?

The amount of Garcinia you should take a day may vary slightly from brand to brand, but the generally accepted dose is 500 mg three times per day, approximately 30-60 minutes before a meal.

Should You Take Garcinia Cambogia to Burn Fat?

If you are considering taking Garcinia Cambogia, it might help, but I believe there are far better options with proven efficacy that will enable you to lose weight naturally and effectively.

As a trainer, I have seen some excellent results with all-natural fat burners, which are often designed to burn fat through thermogenesis and appetite suppression:

We tested the best ones on the market ourselves and included them in our guides, and I feel confident recommending them to anyone without allergies to the ingredients or some severe health conditions.


References:

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25732350/
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12349913/
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21197150/
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25732350/
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11807973/
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11443511/
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9820262/
  8. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/279675194_Clinical_evaluation_of_garcinia_cambogia_and_phaseolus_vulgaris_extract_for_obese_adults_in_taiwan
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4053034/
  10. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26595408/
  11. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0271531703002215
  12. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23584084/
  13. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0271531788800241
  14. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11758650/
  15. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-antidepressant-diet/201008/serotonin-what-it-is-and-why-its-important-weight-loss
  16. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12037659/
  17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3424601/
  18. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6083529/
  19. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318030#How-much-garcinia-cambogia-should-you-take
  20. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4956425/
  21. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-818/garcinia

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