Garcinia cambogia became popular world-wide after being featured on the Dr. Oz show in 2012.
It is a small, green fruit, shaped like a pumpkin.
The skin of the fruit contains hydroxycitric acid (HCA). This is the active ingredient in garcinia cambogia extract, which is marketed as a diet pill
How it works: Animal studies show that it can inhibit a fat-producing enzyme in the body and increase levels of serotonin, potentially helping to reduce cravings (1, 2).
Effectiveness: One study with 130 people compared garcinia against a dummy pill. There was no difference in weight or body fat percentage between groups (3).
A 2011 review that looked at 12 studies on garcinia cambogia found that, on average, it caused weight loss of about 2 pounds (0.88 kg) over several weeks (4).
Side effects: There are no reports of serious side effects, but some reports of mild digestive problems.
Bottom Line: Even though garcinia cambogia may cause modest weight loss, the effects are so small that they probably won't even be noticeable.
MYTH: The African herb hoodia is an effective appetite suppressant
FACT: It's still unclear whether hoodia makes it easier to skip dinner and save a few hundred calories, although there is some anecdotal evidence of the herb's powers. "Hoodia is reported to arrest hunger for those making long journeys in the desert," explains Roberta Anding, RD, a clinical dietitian and the director of sports nutrition at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.
The active ingredient in hoodia is believed to be a compound called P57. Research suggests that animals who have had P57 injected into their brains eat less, but this effect is unlikely to be replicated in humans taking hoodia capsules, Anding says.
Hoodia hasn't been studied in humans, and until it is the plant's safety and ability to stop hunger are anyone's guess.
Green-tea supplements burn fat
FACT: "Green-tea extract may promote weight loss," says Anding. But taking a green-tea supplement—or drinking cup after cup of the tea itself—isn't likely to produce significant or lasting weight loss.
"Any effect you see from green tea is probably due to the caffeine," says Tod Cooperman, MD, president of the independent testing company ConsumerLab.com, although a compound called EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) may also be at work. "A stimulant will cause you to burn calories if it causes you to move more," Dr. Cooperman explains. "And green tea contains a fair amount of caffeine."
If you're sensitive to caffeine, steer clear of caffeine-based supplements, as too much can affect heart rhythm and disturb your sleep.
Weight Loss Supplements With Top Scientific Ratings
With all the new weight loss medications entering the market – and engendering controversy – many people are also looking to supplements to aid weight loss. But a visit to those shelves at your local Whole Foods or other health food store, and you're guaranteed to feel overwhelmed. Which really work and which don't? And are they safe?
For information, I looked at the recommendations of prominent naturopathic doctors and the organization Natural Standard, a reputable database of the latest research on supplements. You've likely never heard of many of the supplements listed here, but they've all a Natural StandardGrade A or B for having positive scientific evidence supporting their use for weight loss.
(And if you'd like to hear about three more new weight loss supplements with scientific cred, check out this follow-up.)
1. Hydroxycitrate, Hydroxycitric Acid or HCA HCA is actually a salt derived from the rind of dried fruit, in particular the Southeast Asian plants brindal berry and Garcinia cambodia. A traditional Indian folk remedy, HCA has been used to treat joint and stomach problems. It's sold in drug stores and supplement stores as HCA, brindleberry or brindal berry and garcinia, and is the primary ingredient in diet products with names like Citrilite, Citrin, PhyrtriMax, Bio-Max 3000, and Garcinia Trim-Pulse. Research backs the effectiveness of HCA at reducing fat absorption, increasing fat metabolism, inhibiting appetite, and lowering LDL cholesterol.
2. Chitosan Read about the origins of chitosan and it sounds pretty gross. Chitosan is a fiber that comes from chitin, which is the main component in the shells (or exoskeletons, for you scientific types) of insects and crustaceans. Recommended by wholistic practitioners to lower cholesterol , chitosan has also been promoted as a type of dietary fiber that may help reduce the absorption of fat.
3. Whey protein Healthand sports supplement stores have been touting the benefits of whey protein for years, but mainly for building muscle, which it appears to do. However, whey protein also suppresses appetite, thus helping you eat less. Whey protein, which as you can guess is derived from the whey of milk, is an easily digestible form of protein. It contains high levels of the amino acid cysteine. And having more muscle helps with weight loss too.
4. Beta Glucan A concentrated soluble fiber derived from yeasts, mushrooms, and algae, beta-glucans come in many forms but all have the effect of lowering cholesterol with the additional benefits of weight loss and helping control diabetes.
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