I've been hearing a lot about a weight-loss supplement called Garcinia cambogia. Does it work? Is it safe to take?

OPSS Answer

Garcinia cambogia (GC) is a tree native to Southeast Asia and Africa. It produces a small, pumpkin-like fruit that is popular in the cuisines of Thailand and India. The fruit of GC is believed to offer some health benefits and is used in traditional Indian Ayurvedic medicine.

Extracts of GC fruit contain hydroxycitric acid (often abbreviated as HCA on labels), a substance believed to affect appetite control and weight loss. However, there is insufficient reliable evidence to support the claims that GC extracts help with weight loss. Regarding safety, GC has not been evaluated for use longer than 12 weeks.

Numerous products containing Garcinia cambogia extract are sold as dietary supplements. These products often contain other ingredients in addition to GC, and these ingredients can significantly affect the safety of a product containing GC. For example, products with GC as the only active ingredient are rated “5” (mid-range for safety and/or effectiveness) by the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, but there are products combining other ingredients with GC that received ratings from “4” all the way to “1,” NMCD’s lowest rating. In addition, a recent investigation of 11 popular products containing Garcinia cambogia revealed that only five contained their labeled amounts of Garcinia’s active ingredient.

FAQ updated 19 May 2014

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