Garcinia cambogia is hot. Nearly a million Americans each month Google this supposed weight-loss supplement. They're looking for reviews on garcinia cambogia's effectiveness, what kind of side effects it causes, and where they can buy it. My mom recently bought a bottle of the pills at Costco because she saw a segment about garcinia cambogia on a TV show.
Garcinia cambogia, also known as tamarind, is a fruit that grows in Southeast Asia. Manufacturers claim that it boosts weight loss by, among other things, "slowing the body's ability to absorb fat," "replacing fat with toned muscles," and even improving your mood and suppressing "the drive to react to stressful situations with food." How, you may ask? It's mostly pinned on hydroxycitric acid (HCA), a substance found in garcinia cambogia that appears to inhibit an enzyme called citrate lyase and interferes with fatty acid metabolism.
“HCA does do that—but in a petri dish," says Steven Heymsfield, M.D., the former head of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La. "Converting that to actual weight loss in humans would take 1,000 steps beyond that," he says.
Back in 1998, Heymsfield published the first randomized controlled trial on the effectiveness of garcinia cambogia, in the Journal of the American Medical Association. He found no weight-loss benefits. Heymsfield, who continues to study the topic of weight-loss supplements at Pennington, says that about a dozen negative studies have since been published about garcinia cambogia. But that has not stopped marketers of the supplement, he says, from “weaving a story with obscure facts. Maybe each fragment has some validity, but if you wind it together it makes no sense at all.”