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Garcinia’s conflicting science

Herbclip addresses a recent comprehensive review of the science behind the weight-loss ingredient and finds mixed results.

Garcinia cambogia fuels the sales of weight management supplements, but does the ingredient work? And is it safe? The American Botanical Council’s Herbclip takes a look at a recent comprehensive overview of the ingredient that appeared in the journal Filoterapia.

Several studies have suggested appetite-suppressing and anti-obesity bioactivity effects of garcinia, which comes from the Malabar tamarind, a fruit that looks like a tiny green pumpkin. Rats in one study who received the garcinia compound hydroxycitric acid (HCA) daily for eight weeks ate less than those who didn’t. Similarly, in a human study, subjects who received a daily dose of HCA over two weeks ate less and lost weight. Another study found that daily HCA led to an elevated metabolism of fat. In yet another study, obese mice fed a high-fat diet, garcinia extract decreased weight gain, visceral fat and lipids in blood and liver.

Other studies have provided conflicting results, writes Amy C. Keller, PhD, in Herbclip. One study involving endurance-trained athletes revealed no change in fat and carbohydrate metabolism rates after a daily dose of garcinia. Another ten-week study also showed no change in metabolic parameters.

Keller highlights several studies that address garcinia’s toxicity. One rat study showed that at a daily dose of 778 and 1,244 mg/kg body weight over 18 was toxic. A human study resulted in a woman suffering from slurred speech, tremors and sweating following the consumption of 1,000 mg of garcinia rind extract for two to three months while also taking an antidepressant, a combination which may have caused the toxicity. Other cases of potential toxicity in humans include observations of mania, breaking down of injured muscle and liver toxicity.

Keller summarizes the research with a strong note of caution on the botanical’s use: “Garcinia has shown a broad range of bioactivity and may be a possible treatment for multiple conditions; however, the bioactive compounds warrant further investigation. Also, in light of several severe toxicity reports, rigorous efficacy and safety studies are needed prior to use of this botanical.”

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