Garcinia cambogia is a popular weight loss supplement.
It is derived from a fruit of the same name, also called Garcinia gummi-gutta or Malabar tamarind.
The peel of the fruit contains high amounts of hydroxycitric acid (HCA), which is the active ingredient believed to be responsible for most of its weight loss benefits ().
This article reveals whether garcinia cambogia can help you lose weight and belly fat.
Garcinia cambogia is a small, pumpkin-shaped, yellow or greenish fruit.
The fruit is so sour that it is generally not eaten fresh but rather used in cooking ().
Garcinia cambogia supplements are made from extracts of the fruit's peel.
The peel of the fruit contains high amounts of hydroxycitric acid (HCA), an active substance that has been shown to have some weight loss properties (, , ).
The supplements generally contain 20–60% HCA. Nevertheless, studies show that those with 50–60% HCA may provide the most benefit ().
Summary Garcinia cambogia supplements are made from extracts of the peel of the Garcinia gummi-gutta fruit. They contain high amounts of HCA, which is linked to weight loss benefits.
Many high-quality human studies have tested the weight loss effects of garcinia cambogia.
What's more, most of them indicate that the supplement can cause a small amount of weight loss (, ).
On average, garcinia cambogia has been shown to cause weight loss of about 2 pounds (0.88 kg) more than a placebo, over a period of 2–12 weeks (, , , , , , , , , ).
That said, several studies have not found any weight loss advantage (, , ).
For example, the largest study — in 135 people — did not find any difference in weight loss between those taking garcinia cambogia and the placebo group ().
As you can see, the evidence is mixed. Garcinia cambogia supplements can produce modest weight loss in some people — but their effectiveness cannot be guaranteed.
Summary Some studies have determined that garcinia cambogia causes modest weight loss, while other studies report no noticeable effects.
There are two main ways that garcinia cambogia is thought to aid weight loss.
1. May Reduce Your Appetite
Studies in rats show that those given garcinia cambogia supplements tend to eat less (, ).
Similarly, some human studies have found that garcinia cambogia suppresses appetite and makes you feel full (, , , , ).
Its mechanism isn't fully known, but rat studies suggest that the active ingredient in garcinia cambogia can increase serotonin in the brain (, ).
Since serotonin is a known appetite suppressant, higher blood levels of serotonin could reduce your appetite ().
However, these results need to be taken with a grain of salt. Other studies have observed no difference in appetite between those taking this supplement and those taking a placebo (, , , ).
These effects may depend on each individual.
2. May Block Fat Production and Reduce Belly Fat
Most importantly, garcinia cambogia impacts blood fats and the production of new fatty acids.
Human and animal studies show that it may lower high levels of fat in your blood and reduce oxidative stress in your body (, , , , ).
One study also suggests it may be especially effective at reducing the accumulation of belly fat in people who are overweight ().
In one study, moderately obese people took 2,800 mg of garcinia cambogia daily for eight weeks and drastically improved several risk factors for disease ():
- Total cholesterol levels: 6.3% lower
- “Bad” LDL cholesterol levels: 12.3% lower
- “Good” HDL cholesterol levels: 10.7% higher
- Blood triglycerides: 8.6% lower
- Fat metabolites: 125–258% more excreted in the urine
The main reason for these effects may be that garcinia cambogia inhibits an enzyme called citrate lyase, which plays an important role in the production of fat (, , , , ).
By inhibiting citrate lyase, garcinia cambogia is thought to slow or block fat production in your body. This may reduce blood fats and lower your risk of weight gain — two major disease risk factors ().
Summary Garcinia cambogia may suppress appetite. It also blocks the production of new fats in your body and has been shown to lower cholesterol levels and blood triglycerides in overweight people.
Animal and test-tube studies suggest that garcinia cambogia may also have some anti-diabetes effects, including (, , ):
- Decreasing insulin levels
- Decreasing leptin levels
- Reducing inflammation
- Improving blood sugar control
- Increasing insulin sensitivity
Additionally, garcinia cambogia could boost your digestive system. Animal studies suggest that it helps protect against stomach ulcers and reduce damage to the inner lining of your digestive tract (, ).
However, these effects need to be studied further before firm conclusions can be drawn.
Summary Garcinia cambogia may have some anti-diabetes effects. It may also help protect against stomach ulcers and digestive tract damage.
Most studies conclude that garcinia cambogia is safe for healthy people in the recommended dosages, or up to 2,800 mg of HCA per day (, , , ).
That said, supplements are not regulated by the FDA.
That means there's no guarantee that the actual content of HCA in your supplements will match the HCA content on the label.
Therefore, make sure to buy from a reputable manufacturer.
People have also reported some side effects of using garcinia cambogia. The most common ones are (, ):
- Digestive symptoms
- Skin rashes
However, some studies have indicated more serious side effects.
Animal studies show that a very high intake of garcinia cambogia can cause testicular atrophy, or shrinking of the testicles. Studies in rats show that it may also affect sperm production (, , ).
There is one report of a woman who developed serotonin toxicity as a result of taking garcinia cambogia with her antidepressant medications ().
Additionally, several case studies suggest that garcinia cambogia supplements may cause liver damage or even liver failure in certain individuals ().
If you have a medical condition or are taking any medications, consult your doctor before taking this supplement.
Summary Some people experience digestive symptoms, headaches and skin rashes when taking garcinia cambogia. Animal studies suggest that a very high intake may cause toxicity.
Many health food stores and pharmacies offer several varieties of garcinia cambogia.
Choose one from a reputable manufacturer that contains 50–60% HCA.
Recommended dosages can vary between brands. Generally, it is recommended to take 500 mg, three times per day, 30–60 minutes before meals.
It is always best to follow the dosage instructions on the label.
Studies have only tested these supplements for up to 12 weeks at a time. Therefore, it may be a good idea to take a few weeks off every three months or so.
Summary Look for a supplement that contains 50–60% HCA and is made by a reputable manufacturer. Follow the dosage instructions on the label.
Garcinia cambogia is a fruit-derived supplement taken to boost weight loss, though studies disagree on its effectiveness.
Some research shows that it may cause slightly more weight loss than not taking any supplement. This effect is unconfirmed but promising.
The positive impacts of garcinia cambogia on blood fats may be its best benefit.
That said, if you really want to lose weight, you might have better luck by changing your diet and lifestyle.