Garcinia cambogia is a tropical fruit, native to South and South-East Asia including Indonesia, parts of India and Sri Lanka.1
The small, robust fruits resemble miniature yellow or green pumpkins.
Traditionally eaten across South and South East Asia, the garcinia cambogia fruit has a sour taste. It’s commonly used as a cooking ingredient, and when dried or smoked lends a savoury flavour to dishes such as curries and soups.
If garcinia cambogia isn’t familiar to you as a cooking ingredient, you might recognise it as a key ingredient in popular weight loss aids.
Since the 1960’s, garcinia cambogia has been used widely throughout the world as a weight-loss supplement.2 This is usually in the form of garcinia cambogia pills containing the herbal compound in powdered form, but garcinia cambogia teas, lotions and extracts are also available.3
Garcinia cambogia benefits
With garcinia cambogia, weight loss is the most common reason for people to consider including it in their diet.
Garcinia cambogia tablets and other products containing the fruit are among the most popular and most marketed weight loss aids globally.
Garcinia cambogia benefits are said to include better appetite control, fat burning and weight loss. The benefits of this exotic fruit are thought to extend to cholesterol reduction and blood sugar control, all of which are linked to weight loss. Studies have suggested garcinia cambogia might be effective at helping to reduce fat mass in those taking it, although more research is needed.4,5,6
What’s the science?
Full of vitamins and fibre, most fruits are considered a great addition to any diet if the goal is weight loss.
However, garcinia cambogia’s standout reputation for being a weight-loss aid is down to the active ingredient hydroxycitric acid (HCA).
HCA is a chemical found concentrated in the rind of the garcinia cambogia fruit.7 Scientists have found that HCA can help to metabolise fats in the body, as well as acting as an appetite suppressant.8 This means that in theory, including HCA in the diet in the form of garcinia cambogia tablets or any other garcinia cambogia product with at least 50% HCA will lead to fat loss over time.9
However, studies have been contradictory as to the efficacy of garcinia cambogia.
For example, a landmark 1998 study was performed at Columbia University in New York based on 135 overweight people. The participants took a total daily dose of 3000mg of garcinia cambogia extract which included 1500mg of the active ingredient HCA. The study found no significant benefits in ingesting garcinia cambogia as a fat loss aid.
However, a 2003 study conducted in Japan did find that after 16 weeks taking garcinia cambogia extract, participants had significantly reduced fat compared with those who took a placebo.10
Another study published in 2018 in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that taking garcinia cambogia decreased levels of both fat and cholesterol, with no adverse effects found.11 In this study, participants took 500mg garcinia cambogia twice a day, half an hour before lunch and dinner. After 3 months and 6 months, the participants metabolism was measured and found to have increased, possibly explaining the weight loss.
How much should you take?
Most studies have been based on around 3000mg of garcinia cambogia daily.
Dosage recommendations on commercially available pills are generally lower, around 300mg – 1600mg daily.
The HCA content is key to the potential fat-metabolising action of this herbal compound. Your garcinia cambogia should have an HCA concentration of at least 50%.
In the studies performed so far, no serious adverse reactions have been commonly observed. The most common garcinia cambogia side effects are known to include digestive discomfort and nausea.
More serious side effects have been reported, however. There was a case in the USA, published in 2016, which linked the use of gacinia cambogia to liver failure, although other clinical factors might have been involved.12
Garcinia cambogia might affect the way some medications work. These include cholesterol medication and anti-depressant medication.
Diabetics are also advised against taking garcinia cambogia products unless under the care of a doctor. This is because the active ingredient HCA in garcinia camgobia could potentially decrease the glucose levels in the blood.
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding you should not take garcinia cambogia pills as the effects on pregnant or nursing mothers is not yet known.
If you experience any unwanted side effects while taking products containing garcinia cambogia, stop taking them immediately.
Garcinia cambogia – does it work for weight loss?
It’s not been definitively proven that humans can harness the fat loss benefits of garcinia cambogia, but anecdotal evidence supports a possible weight-reducing action. Scientifically speaking, more research is needed after some contradictory studies.13,14
Last updated: 16 October 2020