Garcinia cambogia is an Asian fruit and popular weight loss supplement. The peel of the Garcinia cambogia includes high levels of hydroxycitric acid (HCA). HCA is the active ingredient responsible for the weight loss benefits of this fruit.
What Is Garcinia Cambogia?
Garcinia cambogia, also known as Garcinia cambogia HCA, Garcinia gummi-gutta, tamarind, or brindleberry, is a pumpkin-like fruit that can varies in color from yellow to green and sometimes reddish. The fruit ranges in size from an orange up to a grapefruit.
Garcinia cambogia is grown for its fruit in central and west Africa, India, and much of Southeast Asia, in areas that consist of moist forests. The Garcinia cambogia fruit is extremely sour, and as such it’s usually not eaten fresh like an apple, but instead used in cooking — especially in curry dishes. The rink, or skin, is an important souring ingredient in kaeng som — the Thai version of a sour curry.
Garcinia cambogia supplements don’t include all of the fruit — they make use of extracts of the fruit’s peel. This is because the peel holds a high quantity of hydroxycitric acid (HCA) — a substance that has been demonstrated to have weight loss properties.
How HCA (Hydroxycitric Acid) Contributes to Weight Loss
Hydroxycitric acid, or HCA, is a type of citric acid present in a number of tropical plants — including Garcinia cambogia. HCA can contribute to weight loss by blocking the production of fat and by reducing appetite.
HCA Blocks Fat Production
HCA has been found to inhibit the citrate cleavage enzyme — an enzyme that helps the body produce and store fat. This results in less fatty acid being produced and more fat being burned as calories rather than being stored.
Studies have shown that HCA lowers high levels of fat in the blood and reduces oxidative stress in the body (oxidative stress being an imbalance between the creation of free radicals and the body’s ability to use antioxidants to neutralize them).
One study demonstrated that HCA is effective in reducing accumulated belly fat in overweight people. In the eight week study moderately obese people each took 2,500 mg of Garcinia cambogia daily, and the result was significant improvements in several risk factors for disease, including lowering “bad” LDL cholesterol levels, blood triglycerides, and fat metabolites.
HCA Reduces Appetite
Studies involving both rats and humans have shown similar results in that Garcinia cambogia supplements reduce the appetite of subjects — they tend to eat less. In humans, the common feedback was that people taking the supplements felt full on food portions smaller than they normally eat without taking supplements.
How this reduction in appetite is achieved isn’t exactly clear. It’s suspected, though, that HCA increases brain levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin, and serotonin is well-known as an appetite suppressant.
Garcinia Cambogia and Standardized HCA
Garcinia cambogia supplements list the mg of Garcinia cambogia per serving of the supplement. It’s important to understand that the quantity of Garcinia cambogia is only part of the story. What you should be more interested in is the quantity of HCA per serving.
The citric acid HCA is one component of the Garcinia cambogia plant. This means that the amount of HCA in a supplement doesn’t correlate to 100% of the amount of Garcinia cambogia in the supplement. Because HCA is the active ingredient in Garcinia cambogia that can contribute to weight loss, the mg or HCA is more important than the mg of Garcinia cambogia.
The front label of a Garcinia cambogia supplement will often list just the mg of Garcinia cambogia. You’ll need to refer to the back label — the label of ingredients — to see the quantity of HCA. There you’ll see wording similar to:
Garcinia cambogia extract standardized to X% hydroxycitric acid (HCA)
In the above, X will be a number usually in the 20 to 70 range, with 50 to 60 being the most common. What this tells you is the mg of HCA in a serving. For instance, if a supplement serving consists of 1500 mg of Garcinia cambogia extract, standardized to 50% hydroxycitric acid (HCA), that supplement will include 750 mg of HCA (50% of 1500 mg) per serving.
The recommended dose of HCA is 800 mg to 1,500 mg of HCA per day. Getting this amount of HCA is usually accomplished by taking two doses of Garcinia cambogia HCA daily. Note that the 800 mg to 1,500 mg is also the range of HCA administered daily to participants in a number of studies.