Evidence Based
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Garcinia Cambogia: Benefits, Dangers, Side Effects & Reviews

Written by Joe Cohen, BS | Reviewed by Ana Aleksic, MSc (Pharmacy) | Last updated:
Medically reviewed by
Jonathan Ritter, PharmD, PhD (Pharmacology) | Written by Joe Cohen, BS | Reviewed by Ana Aleksic, MSc (Pharmacy) | Last updated:

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Garcinia cambogia is a plant known for its weight loss action, especially its extracts. Garcinia cambogia not only prevents obesity, lowers cholesterol and triglycerides, but it may also boost the immune system, fight cancer, and prevent ulcers. Keep reading to learn more about the health benefits and side effects of Garcinia cambogia.

What Is Garcinia Cambogia?

Garcinia belongs to family Guttiferae (Clusiaceae), which includes over 200 species, today mostly found throughout Asia and Africa. Garcinia Cambogia, also known as Garcinia gummi-gutta or Malabar tamarind, originated in Southeast Asia, India, and Africa [1, 2].

The plant rind is used to polish gold and silver, while the plant resin is used as a pigment for paintings and watercolors, and the gum is used as a varnish [3].

The fruit of the plant has a yellow or red color and resembles a pumpkin. Although the fruits can be eaten, their taste is very acid and are usually are not consumed raw [1].

The peel of the fruit is commonly used in Asia to preserve food and enhance flavor. Traditionally, it was used as a remedy for constipation, rheumatism, and menstrual pain [1].

Extracts from Garcinia cambogia and compounds from the fruit are best known for lowering body weight, reducing appetite and preventing obesity [4, 5, 6, 7].

However, Garcinia cambogia supplements have a variety of other benefits, including:

However, Garcinia cambogia may be toxic to the liver, may cause liver damage or failure, and other side effects [26, 27, 28, 29].

Components

The main component of Garcinia cambogia fruit is the hydroxycitric acid (HCA) and its lactone, which is responsible for weight and appetite loss. This way, it also blocks fat accumulation [30, 31].

Both the fruit and the bark contain [32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38]:

  • Xanthones also found in the root [32]:
  • Benzophenones

Parts of the plant also contain many alkaloids, flavonoids, phenolic compounds.
The Garcinia cambogia fruits also contain [32]:

How It Works

The hydroxycitric acid from Garcinia cambogia prevents obesity by:

  • Blocking an enzyme (ATP citrate lyase) that leads to fat production(via acetyl-coenzyme A), and the levels of an enzyme that makes fats (fatty acid synthase) [39, 33, 1, 2].
  • Decreasing the activity of the genes which promote fat production (C/EBP-α, PPAR-γ, SREBP1c, and aP2) [40, 41, 42, 43].
  • Increasing the levels of a fat-burning enzyme (lipoprotein lipase) [44].

The hydroxycitric acid from Garcinia cambogia lowers appetite by:

  • Blocking the ATP citrate lyase, in response to which the body produces more glycogen in the liver, increasing the feeling of satiety [37, 45, 46].
  • Increasing the levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that suppresses the feeling of hunger [47, 48].

The hydroxycitric acid or Garcinia cambogia lower fat (lipids) levels by:

  • Blocking the activity of obesity-related genes (C/EBP-α, PPAR-γ, SREBP1c, CCAT, and aP2) [40, 41, 42, 49].
  • Decreasing the production of triglycerides, phospholipids, cholesterol, and fat (free fatty acids) in the liver [50].

Garcinia cambogia boosts immune function by:

Garcinia cambogia acts as an antioxidant as:

  • Decreasing the fat damage caused by oxidative stress, [54]
  • Reducing brain, liver, and kidney oxidative stress markers (malondialdehyde (MDA), catalase, protein carbonyl (DNPH), catalase, protein tyrosine nitration, and butyrylcholinesterase, and increasing brain nitric oxide) [17, 14, 16].

Garcinia cambogia fights cancer by:

  • Reducing cancer and tumor growth (by blocking ATP citrate lyase and Ki-67) [55, 2, 21].
  • Increasing cell death (via increasing caspase-3) [19].
  • Preventing cancer growth ( via activation of proteins, enzymes, and DNA binding ) [20, 56, 57].

The hydroxycitric acid in Garcinia cambogia enhances exercise performance by:

  • Increasing fat breakdown and decreasing carbohydrates breakdown, which spares glycogen to be used for exercise [58, 59].

Health Benefits

1) Boosts Weight Loss

In 99 obese men, Garcinia cambogia together with a weight-loss drug (orlistat), lowered the BMI, belly fat (visceral fat), and overall fat under the skin (subcutaneous), as well as the waist circumference in a 3-month study [8].

In two, 12-week studies, Garcinia cambogia reduced weight by about 3.7 kilos, 1.3 kilos more than the placebo in 89 mildly overweight adults, and by 3.5 kilos, of which 85% was fat, in 20 obese adults [60, 61].

After 16 weeks, Garcinia cambogia extract decreased total fat, belly fat (visceral fat), and fat under the skin (subcutaneous) in 18 adults, compared to placebo group of 21 adults [62].

In two 8-week studies, hydroxycitric acid decreased the body weight and BMI by 5%-6% in 60 moderately obese adults, and by 5.4% in 82 obese adults [5, 63].

In an 8-week study on 40 obese adults, Garcinia cambogia reduced belly and under-the-skin fat better than the placebo [64].

Garcinia cambogia extract reduced the body weight by 4.67% in 30 overweight or obese adults (compared to only 0.63% in 28 adults receiving placebo) in a 60-day study [65].

Hydroxycitric acid decreased body weight in a study of 21 obese adults after 2 weeks [66].

In obese rats, Garcinia cambogia blocked fat build-up, and reduced body weight [67, 14, 68].

In chicken cells, the hydroxycitric acid or Garcinia cambogia increased fat breakdown, leading to fat loss [45, 45].

Did Not Cause Weight Loss In These Cases

In a 12-week trial of 135 overweight adults, hydroxycitric acid from Garcinia cambogia did not decrease body weight or fat more than the placebo [4].

Similarly, in a 10-week study , Garcinia cambogia did not decrease the body weight of 86 overweight adults [69].

In 10 cyclists, hydroxycitric acid did not affect fat or carbohydrate breakdown [70].

2) Lowers Appetite

In a 6-week study on 24 overweight adults, hydroxycitric acid, the main component of Garcinia cambogia, reduced the food consumption while maintaining the feeling of satiety compared to placebo [71].

After 8 weeks, hydroxycitric acid decreased food consumption in a study of 60 moderately obese adults [5].

However, in a 12-week study of 89 mildly overweight adults, Garcinia cambogia decreased their body weight but did not affect their appetite [60].

In various other studies, after 2 weeks of hydroxycitric acid consumption, 21 obese, and 21 overweight adults lost weight, but their appetite and energy were unchanged [66, 72, 73].

Garcinia cambogia extracts reduced food consumption and appetite in rats within an hour [74].

In normal and obese rats, hydroxycitric acid from Garcinia cambogia lowered appetite and food intake [37, 75, 14, 58].

3) Decreases Cholesterol

In a 3-month study on 99 obese men, Garcinia cambogia together with a weight-loss drug (orlistat), reduced total cholesterol levels and increased HDL-cholesterol levels [8].

In an 8-week study on 82 obese adults, hydroxycitric acid (the main component of Garcinia cambogia) decreased LDL-cholesterol levels by 12.9% and increased HDL-cholesterol levels by 8.9% [9].

In 60 moderately obese adults hydroxycitric acid with or without Gymnema Sylvestre extracts reduced the total cholesterol and LDL levels during an 8-week study [5].

In an 8-week study on 35 healthy adults, Garcinia cambogia decreased cholesterol levels more than the placebo [76].

However, in 86 overweight adults undergoing a 10-week study, Garcinia cambogia did not impact the cholesterol levels [69].

In rats, Garcinia cambogia decreased total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, and VLDL cholesterol blood levels [77, 78, 79, 80].

4) Reduces Triglyceride Levels

In 82 obese adults, hydroxycitric acid, the main component of Garcinia cambogia, decreased blood triglycerides by 6.9% in an 8-week study [9].

In a 60-day study of 43 obese women, Garcinia cambogia reduced the triglyceride levels by 28% [10].

In an 8-week study on 60 moderately obese adults, hydroxycitric acid lowered blood triglycerides with or without Gymnema Sylvestre extract [5].

In 35 healthy adults, 8-week Garcinia cambogia consumption reduced blood triglycerides more than the placebo [76].

In normal and obese rats, flavonoids and hydroxycitric acids from Garcinia cambogia reduced blood triglycerides without side effects [77, 14].

5) Helps Protect Against Diabetes

Hydroxycitric acid in Garcinia cambogia did not affect 8 patients with diabetes type 2, but it did lower the blood sugar levels in 12 healthy adults in a study [11].

In mice, Garcinia cambogia reduced the levels of leptin and insulin, improving the blood sugar (glucose) breakdown [13].

In rats, the hydroxycitric acid in Garcinia cambogia decreased the number of sugars taken up in the gut, lowering the blood sugar levels after a meal [81].

In obese rats, hydroxycitric acid reduced fasting levels of insulin and blood sugar, preventing insulin resistance [14].

In human muscles, the hydroxycitric acid in Garcinia cambogia increased the rate of blood sugar storage and enhanced insulin sensitivity [82].

6) Enhances Exercise Performance

In a 5-day experiment of 6 male athletes, hydroxycitric acid increased fat breakdown and decreased carbohydrates breakdown. This helped boost endurance performance while sparing sugar reserves [59].

5-day Garcinia cambogia also increased fat breakdown and enhanced exercise performance in 6 untrained women [83].

7) May Reduce Inflammation

The hydroxycitric acid in Garcinia cambogia reduced inflammatory compounds (cytokines CPR, TNF-α) in obese rats[14].

In rats with gut inflammation (colitis), Garcinia cambogia extracts reduced inflammation by blocking the production of inflammatory enzymes and molecules (myeloperoxidase (MPO), cyclooxygenase (COX-2), inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS)) [15].

In mice with multiple sclerosis, hydroxycitric acid decreased the nerve damage and lowered inflammation. It decreased inflammatory compounds (cytokines IL-6, TNF-α, nitric oxide, and malondialdehyde), and increased the levels of antioxidant enzymes (superoxide dismutase, glutathione reductase) [53].

8) Is An Antioxidant

In obese rats, Garcinia cambogia extracts decreased oxidative damage, protecting the kidneys, brain, and liver (via reducing oxidative stress markers) [14, 16, 17, 18].

9) May Fight Cancer

In human cells, Garcinia cambogia components (guttiferone K, hydroxycitric acid, and garcinol) blocked tumor growth and killed lung and colon cancer [19, 20, 21].

Garcinia cambogia xanthones killed mouth, leukemia, breast, stomach, and lung cancer in a cell study [19].

In cells, Garcinol blocked the cancer growth in breast, colon, esophageal, lung, kidney, pancreas, prostate, liver, brain and blood cancers [56, 84].

10) May Prevent Ulcers

In rats, Garcinia cambogia decreased the amount and acidity of the stomach fluid and helped to prevent damage to the stomach. It activated the stomach’s natural defense, helping to prevent ulcers [22, 23].

11) Kills Bacteria

Extracts of Garcinia cambogia fruit blocked the growth of the following bacteria [24, 25]:

Escherichia coli (gut infection)

Klebsiella pneumoniae (lung infection, pneumonia)

Pseudomonas aeruginosa (lung, urinary, and blood infections)

Bacillus subtilis (gut infection)

Staphylococcus aureus (skin infections, airway infections, food poisoning).

12) May Increase Mineral Levels

In rats, Garcinia cambogia together with a high-cholesterol diet increased the levels of phosphorus, iron, zinc, and copper compared to the other diet-groups [85].

13) May Flush Excess Fluids

In rats, the extracts of Garcinia cambogia leaves increased flushing of excess fluids, acting as a diuretic. In fact, this may contribute to its weight-loss effect, as herbs that are used for weight loss usually also act as mild diuretics [86].

14) May Fight Malaria

In mice, bioflavonoids from Garcinia killed the Plasmodium parasite, which causes malaria, reduced the infection, and increased the survival rates [87, 88].

Limitations and Caveats

Although there is a sufficient number of studies about the weight loss and appetite reduction benefits of Garcinia cambogia, the results are mixed. In most cases, the number of participants was limited or the sample very specific (obese or overweight).

With regard to the other benefits, studies are limited and most of them are on animals or cells.

More human studies are needed to confirm its effectiveness.

Dangers & Side Effects

1) Can Cause Liver Damage

Garcinia cambogia and its main component, hydroxycitric acid, caused acute liver and irreversible liver damage in a series of case reports. The dosage varied from 240 mg to 500 mg hydroxycitric acid daily [26, 27, 28, 29, 89, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100, 101, 102, 103].

In mice, Garcinia cambogia damaged and scarred the liver (liver fibrosis) [104].

2) May Influence Sex Hormones

In a 12-week study on 44 adults, Garcinia cambogia did not impact testosterone, estrone, and estradiol levels [63].

Similarly, in rats, Garcinia cambogia did not affect any sex hormones [105].

However, in one study with rats, Garcinia cambogia extract caused testes damage and shrinking. This may be a concern for men, but probably only at very high doses [67].

3) May Impair Mental Health

In patients with or without psychiatric disorders, Garcinia cambogia caused delusions, high self-esteem, reduced need for sleep, increased activity, and rapid speech – symptoms of mania and psychosis [106, 107, 108, 109, 110].

A 33-year-old woman, suffered hallucinations, delusions, and impaired coordination after an 8-week Garcinia cambogia consumption [111].

4) May Cause Heart Problems

A 48-year old woman suffered irregular heart rate (arrhythmia), heart muscle inflammation (myocarditis), and heart failure from Garcinia cambogia [112].

Following a week of Garcinia cambogia supplementation, a 51-year old woman was admitted to the hospital with increased blood pressure and heart muscle damage (cardiomyopathy) [113].

Common Side Effects

Garcinia cambogia commonly causes the following side effects [2, 4, 89, 114]:

  • A headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Skin rash

However, Garcinia cambogia may cause more serious side effects, such as:

People with liver disease should probably avoid Garcinia due to its potential to damage the liver.

Garcinia cambogia should not be taken by pregnant or breastfeeding women [2].

Rare Side Effects

Rare side effects of Garcinia cambogia include:

Drug Interactions

The Garcinia cambogia extract may decrease blood sugar levels; it should be avoided in patients who take medications for diabetes type 2 [4].

Garcinia cambogia can increase serotonin levels and may cause serotonin syndrome if combined with antidepressants (including reuptake inhibitors, SSRIs) [119].

Garcinia cambogia blocks the activity of the CYP2B6 enzyme. This may dangerously increase the levels of other drugs (such as blood thinners, antidepressants, anti-inflammatory, chemotherapeutics, opioids, and antiepileptics) [120, 121].

Garcinia cambogia may raise red blood cells, which could unpredictably affect the action of drugs for anemia [80].

Genetics

Garcinia cambogia blocks the activity of obesity-related genes (C/EBP-α, PPAR-γ, SREBP1c, CCAT, and aP2) [40, 41, 42, 49].

Garcinia cambogia extracts block the activity of the CYP2B6 enzyme [120].

Garcinia cambogia will be less effective in reducing weight or appetite in people with genetic variations in the genes: PLIN4 (11482G), FTO (-rs9939609), and ADRB3 (Trp64Arg) [12].

Is Your Weight Influenced by Genetics?

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If you’re sick and tired of guessing about your health, SelfDecode can help you find specific answers that conventional doctors/diagnostics may never uncover.

Dosage & Supplementation

In clinical trials, the dosage of hydroxycitric acid varies between 300 mg to 2,800 mg per day [60, 71, 4, 10, 9].

The highest levels of Garcinia cambogia extract which is safe to use without adverse effects is 2,800 mg/day [122].

Garcinia cambogia supplements can be found in powder form, liquid extracts, tablets or capsules [123].

Most supplements contain hydroxycitric acid extracted from the dried fruit rind of Garcinia cambogia, in various doses, ranging from 250 mg to 900 mg [123].

There are also weight loss supplements which contain hydroxycitric acid together with calcium, potassium, green tea extract, vitamins, and other nutrients [14, 123].

Garcinia Cambogia In Combination With Other Supplements

Glucomannan

In 214 overweight or obese adults, 6-month consumption of Garcinia cambogia together with glucomannan decreased body weight by 16%, total fat by 12%, and deep fat (visceral fat) by 15% [12].

In the same study, the cholesterol levels decreased by 8%, the triglycerides by 10%, and the blood sugar levels by 3% in 3 months and by 13%, 15.3%, and 6% in 6 months, accordingly [12].

Konjac

In a 12-week study on 58 obese adults, Garcinia cambogia with another plant extract (Amorphophallus konjac) greatly decreased the total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol levels in 32 participants but did not lower body weight, waist circumference or body composition compared to placebo [124].

Asparagus, Green Tea, Black Tea, Guarana, Mate, and Kidney Beans

In 98 overweight adults, Garcinia cambogia together with these botanical extracts decreased fat mass but did not lower their body weight, BMI, or waist-to-hip ratio compared to placebo in a 12-week study [125].

Seaweed

In 28 healthy adults, a combination of Garcinia cambogia, l-carnitine and a seaweed extract of Ascophyllum nodosum reduced feelings of hunger and increased the feeling of fullness, and satiety [126].

Pear Pomace Extract

Garcinia cambogia together with pear pomace extract can prevent obesity, promote weight loss and fat burning [40].

Combined, they blocked the activity of fat-producing genes (C/EBP-α, and PPAR-γ), decreased fat production, and increased fat breakdown (hormone-sensitive lipase) [40].

Apple Cider Vinegar

In rats, apple cider vinegar reduced the body weight, chest, and stomach circumference and prevented obesity [127, 128].

Garcinia cambogia can reduce body weight, body fat, food consumption, and lower appetite [4, 5, 6, 7].

Garcinia and apple cider are often used together to boost weight loss. Users report mixing two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar in a glass of warm water and taking two standard pills of natural garcinia cambogia.

However, there are no studies confirming the benefits of this combination.

Green Coffee Bean

In mice, and rats, green coffee beans decreased body weight, and fat, preventing obesity [129, 130].

Garcinia cambogia and green coffee bean are often consumed together for a faster weight loss. However, there are no studies confirming the benefits of this trend.

User Experiences/Reviews

Many users reported that Garcinia cambogia helped them to lose weight, reduced their appetite and made them feel more energetic and lively.

One user experienced increased sex drive and stamina.

Users with fibromyalgia experienced reduced joint pain with Garcinia cambogia.

However, many users reported that Garcinia cambogia did not affect their health or help with weight loss in any way.

Many users also experienced dizziness, headaches, shortness of breath, diarrhea, dry mouth, stomach cramps, nausea, hair loss, insomnia, allergic rash, chest pain, and low energy.

One user shared that he even felt hungrier after taking Garcinia.

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About the Author

Joe Cohen, BS

Joe Cohen won the genetic lottery of bad genes. As a kid, he suffered from inflammation, brain fog, fatigue, digestive problems, anxiety, depression, and other issues that were poorly understood in both conventional and alternative medicine.Frustrated by the lack of good information and tools, Joe decided to embark on a journey of self-experimentation and self-learning to improve his health--something that has since become known as “biohacking”. With thousands of experiments and pubmed articles under his belt, Joe founded SelfHacked, the resource that was missing when he needed it. SelfHacked now gets millions of monthly readers.Joe is a thriving entrepreneur, author and speaker. He is the CEO of SelfHacked, SelfDecode and LabTestAnalyzer.His mission is to help people gain access to the most up-to-date, unbiased, and science-based ways to optimize their health.
Joe has been studying health sciences for 17 years and has read over 30,000 PubMed articles. He's given consultations to over 1000 people who have sought his health advice. After completing the pre-med requirements at university, he founded SelfHacked because he wanted to make a big impact in improving global health. He's written hundreds of science posts, multiple books on improving health, and speaks at various health conferences. He's keen on building a brain-trust of top scientists who will improve the level of accuracy of health content on the web. He's also founded SelfDecode and LabTestAnalyzer, popular genetic and lab software tools to improve health.

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