As the obesity and diabetes epidemic sweep across the world many are turning towards supplements and other natural remedies to help alleviate their problems. Part of this growing list of remedies is that of Garcinia Cambogia, a fruit which is found naturally throughout southeastern Asian, Indian, and West Africa. In the nearly 300 species of Garcinia, G. cambogia is the one most studied for its weight-loss and therapeutic benefits.
Garcinia cambogia is a sweet tropical fruit shaped somewhat like a pumpkin. The rind of this fruit is of most interest as it contains high levels of a compound known as hydroxycitric acid (HCA) which was discovered in the 1960’s. Since then it has seen numerous claims of weight loss, but as well as many deferrers who claim the chemical and the plant are another of the numerous bogus miracle weight loss cures available on the market.
One of the troubles with Garcinia cambogia is the mechanism at which the weight loss occurs. The original mechanism, thought to be the main one at work, was the blocking of an enzyme in the body known as citrate lyase which turns sugars and starches into fats. Once that enzyme is blocked the excess carbohydrates are diverted into energy production instead of accumulating as body fat. Then once the body burns through the remaining fat, there is less to replace it with and one’s overall body fat percentage goes down. However, it does not simply melt fat off, but also it increases satiety, or satisfaction, with the food that one eats. The confusion stems from this idea mainly, the question of “Are the patients losing weight because of the G. cambogia, or because of the fact that they are eating less?” The correct answer is of course, both.
Cambogia first came into the public eye during the 1990’s when animal trials were conducted and a non-insignificant amount of weight loss occurred in these subjects. The mechanisms at work in this time were not fully understood, but as it was a natural supplement there was little to no FDA restriction at the time. This is another reason for the confusing information on this supplement, as health claims that were unsubstantiated at the time are still thought of today. Many of these claims have turned out to be true, if exaggerated, but the initial bias still lingers on the mind of many. The truth of the matter is that G. cambogia does indeed help with weight loss, but as a supplement for other health changes as well.
Another issue that came about during the original studies of G. cambogia was the initial human tests done during the late 1990’s. Many of these studies were done poorly, as at the time scientists were attempting to debunk or prove the initial claims of miraculous weight loss spread by supplement companies. As a result some tests were highly positive while others showed no change from the control studies. What occurred was that these studies were not testing the active compound of G. cambogia, they were testing the act of eating the fruit or supplement itself. By doing this they neglected finding the ideal dosage of HCA, the compound responsible for the initial claims of weight loss. In more modern studies where HCA itself was tested, or more bio-available forms of G. cambogia, the groups taking the proper HCA lost on average 400 percent more weight than those taking the placebo alone. Another interesting result was the serotonin increase, a chemical responsible for monitoring food intake, in those taking the HCA meaning they had much better appetite control than the placebo.
However, besides HCA and G. cambogia’s use in appetite control and weight loss another highly beneficial result has been its effect on total body glucose levels. This is an important result as those with diabetes have issues controlling their body’s insulin levels, and studies have indeed shown that taking G. cambogia lower the body’s level of this hormone. Research into diabetics have found that taking G. cambogia is an effective tool for controlling the body’s insulin level, with the caveat that if taken with a prescribed insulin medication that is may cause the levels to drop too low. Precaution is recommended and close monitoring of sugar levels if taken in conjunction.
Besides diabetes and weight loss other studies have shown G. cambogia to be highly effective in reducing levels of bad cholesterols while increasing good. Compared to the placebo groups, obese patients taking G. cambogia saw a significant decrease of triglycerides and LDL cholesterol –the bad cholesterols—and a rise in HDL cholesterol –the good ones. These results were obtained simply through the use of G cambogia, caloric intake did not change nor did exercise use in these studies.
A downside of G. cambogia is that with improper use it has seen patients with liver damage as HCA is processed primarily through the liver. These cases have been relatively rare, however caution is advised to not over-do intake with this product. Other side effects include GI (gastrointestinal) tract upset as HCA works as a laxative in high doses. Its benefits are quite real indeed, but just like any medication close monitoring and safety are required to not only gain the full benefit of the product but to also ensure one’s own safety when using. Besides these downsides if a patient is currently taking a diabetic prescription or cholesterol medication using G. camogie may lower levels too much, so talking with their health care provider would be recommended.
Cambogia seemingly can be a great tool for an increase in total well-being, especially when used in conjunction with normal diet and exercise. With the world’s population of obese skyrockets, a whopping 1 billion people are now over weight costing over 150 billion annually in increased health costs. This is partially to blame on the modern diet of high carbohydrate processed foods but G. cambogia is a potential tool to help lower these numbers for the world population.