No doubt you’ve heard about Garcinia Cambogia, another “miracle weight loss supplement” popularized by Doctor Oz. Also called the Malabar tamarind, GC is a tropical fruit (pictured below) that grows in Southeast Asia said to aid weight loss in several ways, including a reduction in appetite and an increase in metabolism.
Are these claims true? And more importantly, is GC safe? Keep reading to learn more about this mysterious weight loss fad.
This popular weight loss supplement can be found in health stores or online in powder and pill form. It’s sometimes used as an ingredient in snack bars. A typical daily dose is between 150 and 1,000mg. Retailers claim that GC will:
- Suppress hunger
- Stop the body from producing fat
- Help maintain blood sugar and cholesterol levels
- Increase metabolism
The active ingredient in GC is hydroxycitric acid (HCA), an organic acid found in the fruit’s rind. Studies show that HCA can curb appetite (by raising the brain’s level of serotonin) and boost fat-burning. HCA also blocks citrate lyase, an enzyme your body uses to produce fat.
Hydroxycitric acid has been known to produce negative effects when combined with other medications and conditions. We will elaborate on these dangers below.
In regards to actual weight loss, results are not impressive. According to a study published in the Journal of Obesity, participants who took GC pills lost only 2 more pounds than those who didn’t. All participants followed a low-calorie diet and an exercise program.
Remember, dietary supplements do not have to be approved by the FDA before they appear on shelves. Furthermore, supplements can basically claim whatever they want as long as they include a disclaimer stating that the claims have not been evaluated by the FDA.
Is GC Safe for Teenagers?
In an era in which teen obesity is on the rise, it’s not uncommon for kids in this age group to seek quick fixes to weight loss. Plus, we know how teens are attracted to fads of any kind. There are lots of reasons a teen would choose CG. First of all, taking a pill is easier than going to the gym or changing your diet. Pills are also attractive to teens wishing to hide their weight and body concerns from family and friends.
When a teen wants to lose weight, it’s important to determine the reason. Is he or she actually overweight? Or is it that the teen wants to look like the people he or she sees in the magazines? Remember that you don’t have to reach a certain weight on the scale or a certain size to be healthy.
That being said, most sources agree that GC is fairly safe for teenagers. As long as they stick to the correct dosage, side effects are mild. And teenagers are rarely afflicted with conditions or taking medication that can cause a negative reaction when combined with CG. Side effects include:
- Upset stomach
- Dry mouth
The biggest concern here is to make sure you’re getting a pure product, and not one that’s full of fillers. And just because you are taking a weight loss supplement doesn’t mean that you don’t have to exercise. Speak with friends and family about improving diet and exercising more frequently. You’ll be surprised how many of them want to join you!
There are doctors out there who advise teens not to take GC, and although they may be a minority, their claims are serious. GC can cause liver failure, says Dr. Robert Rahimi, a Texas hepatologist. He reminds us that GC was an ingredient in Hydroxycut, a supplement that was removed from the market after several deaths occurred. Rahimi says that he sees multiple patients each month who show abnormal liver tests after taking GC.
Dr. Olivia Liao, an ophthalmologist in Massachusetts, says that more data is required before we can determine the supplement’s safety.
Is GC Safe During Pregnancy?
Why would a pregnant woman seek to lose weight? Since she can’t engage in normal exercise during a large portion of the pregnancy, previously fit women may feel uncomfortable and embarrassed with the weight they may be gaining in other parts of the body from the sedentary lifestyle that may accompany pregnancy. A diet pill is attractive to pregnant women because it’s easy and they won’t have to engage in any sort of exercise that may be uncomfortable, dangerous, or even impossible while pregnant.
Sources agree that pregnant or nursing women should not take this supplement. Since GC suppresses one’s appetite, a baby might be starving to death and the woman would never know it. Fat is vital for a developing fetus.
HCA can travel through breast milk, and you definitely don’t want to be sending an appetite suppressant to an infant! Quality milk is essential for healthy growth. Eating less and/or taking diet supplements is not recommended while breastfeeding.
Let’s face it: looking “hot” is not the goal of pregnancy; having a healthy baby is! Leave the dieting and weight loss goals for afterwards.
Is GC suitable for Diabetics?
Since weight loss is often a prerogative for diabetics, I wanted to discuss the relationship between CG and blood sugar. The exotic fruit tends to make it easier for the human body to use glucose. Glucose is a sugar that acts as fuel for your cells.
Those with Type 2 Diabetes (but not Type 1) may benefit from this tropical fruit.
Diabetics are particularly interested in this weight loss option after studies showed that mice taking GC showed lower insulin levels. This sounds great, but can be potentially dangerous. Taking CG with medication aimed to regulate blood sugar could result in dangerously low glucose levels.
Keep in mind that GC does not interact well with most diabetes medications including insulin and pills. With two different things trying to control blood sugar, a diabetic could end up with hypoglycemia.
Ask your doctor about taking Garcinia Cambogia as a diabetic.
Other Conditions and Concerns
As advertised, this exotic fruit can help you improve on that bad cholesterol level while you drop pounds. Indeed, the fruit has been shown to lower triglycerides and LDL and raise HDL. However, only take CG if you aren’t already taking cholesterol medication.
Many doctors advise those with liver or kidney problems to avoid Garcinia Cambogia. Furthermore, the exotic fruit does not play nice with the following:
- Iron (taken for anemia)
- Allergy and asthma medications
- Pain medications
- Warfarin (blood thinner)
- Statins (drugs to lower cholesterol)
- Medicine for psychiatric conditions
DO NOT take GC if you suffer from Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia. GC affects the level of serotonin in the brain. Those with dementia should avoid GC due to the possibility of acetylcholine forming in the brain. Plus, HCA can make dementia worse.
Study results are mixed and the potential for harm is high when taking in combination with other medications. More research is necessary before we know for sure that Garcinia Cambogia is effective and safe for long-term use. I would advise anyone thinking about trying GC to speak with a doctor beforehand. If you are seriously trying to lose weight, your money would be better spent on a dietician and/or personal trainer.
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