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Benefits of Garcinia Cambogia

It seems that every week, there is a hot new food item that is taking consumers by storm. Although some of these fail to live up to the hype, others are true nutritional powerhouses that can improve your health. One trendy fruit that you may not have heard of is called Garcinia cambogia. This tropical fruit is touted as a weight loss aid, making it important for you to understand the science supporting its use.

What Is Garcinia Cambogia?

Garcinia cambogia is a fruit that is native to Southeast Asia. Also called Garcinia gummi-gutta, Malabar tamarind, or the brindleberry, the fruit grows on vines. It looks similar to a small pumpkin, changing from light green to a pale yellow color when ripe. Cultivated in India, Southeast Asia, and parts of Africa, it has recently gained buzz in the Western world for its purported role as a weight loss aid.

How Does Garcinia Cambogia Work?

The reason that everyone has grown so excited about Garcinia cambogia is because it contains high levels of an acid known as hydroxycitric acid, or HCA. HCA is similar but chemically distinct from the form of citric acid found in oranges, lemons, and other citrus fruits (Bowden, 2016).

Scientific researchers first began documenting the effects of hydroxycitric acid in the 1990s. At that time, they found that HCA blocks part of an enzyme known as citrate lyase (Heymsfield et al., 1998). This enzyme is responsible for turning starches and sugars into fat. By blocking the enzyme, researchers hypothesized, they may be able to prevent carbohydrates from being stored as fat. Instead, the carbs would be converted into energy. Studies in laboratory animals have been promising, with several rat studies showing that Garcinia cambogia reduces the accumulation of body fat in obese rats (Saitoa et al., 2005). Additionally, the HCA in Garcinia cambogia may help to send satiety signals to the brain, tricking you into thinking you are full (Bowden, 2016).

May Curb Food Cravings

Although studies in animals have been very promising, the results of human studies of Garcinia cambogia have been mixed. At least one randomized controlled trial has failed to find a beneficial impact of Garcinia cambogia on weight or fat loss (Heymsfield, 1998). However, the methodology of these studies has been called into question due to the dosage and method with which the substance was administered (Schaefer, 2015). Other studies have shown that both humans and animals who are given HCA show reductions in appetite and higher availability of serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with lower food cravings (Chuah, Ho, Beh, & Yeap, 2013).

Garcinia Cambogia Can Improve Your Mood

In addition to its role in hunger and weight control, Garcinia cambogia may improve functioning in other areas of your life. For example, the release of serotonin triggered by HCA intake may also help Garcinia cambogia improve your mood. A lack of serotonin availability has been associated with major depressive disorder, indicating a connection between this neurotransmitter and mood (Nemeroff, 2002).

How to Incorporate Garcinia Cambogia into Your Diet

Currently, it is challenging to find fresh Garcinia cambogia in U.S. markets. However, Garcinia cambogia extract is widely available. Look for extract that contains at least 50% HCA to ensure you are reaping the benefits of the active ingredient in Garcinia cambogia (Bowden, 2016). It is also important that the extract contains either magnesium or potassium salts to increase bioavailability and prevent degeneration of HCA into an inactive lactone form (Schaefer, 2015).

Garcinia cambogia extract should be taken in relatively small doses at a time (about ¼ tsp, or 250 to 1000 mg - depending on the HCA concentration and salt content of the extract) (Schaefer, 2015). To receive the maximum benefit from Garcinia cambogia, it helps to take it before eating a meal. Mixing a tiny spoonful of Garcinia cambogia extract into your smoothie, juice, or glass of water is a great way to incorporate it into your diet.

Some people report that they experience side effects when taking Garcinia cambogia. These are typically mild, including dizziness, diarrhea, upset stomach, or dry mouth (Schaefer, 2015). Because HCA may interact with other medications or dietary supplements you take, it is best to consult your doctor before taking Garcinia cambogia.

Of course, it is always important to remember that a supplement alone is unlikely to be a transformative weight loss solution. Taking Garcinia cambogia extract may help to suppress fat accumulation or reduce your appetite. However, any weight loss aid must be combined with dietary and lifestyle modifications. Ensuring that you eat a healthy, varied diet and engage in frequent physical activity will help you in achieving your weight loss goals.

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Nemeroff, C.B. (2002). Recent advances in the neurobiology of depression. Psychopharmacology Bulletin, 36, 6-23.

Saitoa, M., et al. (2005). High dose of Garcinia cambogia is effective in suppressing fat accumulation in developing male Zucker obese rats, but highly toxic to the testis. Food and Chemical Toxicology, 43(3), 411-419.

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