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Is weight loss supplement Garcinia cambogia or Hydroxycitric Acid safe to use?

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Wednesday Nov 06, 2013 (foodconsumer.org) -- Some food consumers may have heard of this: Garcinia cambogia a popular weight loss dietary supplement used to help weight loss is toxic.  A recent review finds evidence suggesting that this supplement is absolutely safe to use.

Obesity is associated with a range of serious chronic diseases including heart disease, heart attack, high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus and cancer.  Thus weight loss has become a serious business.  Garcinia cambogia and its active ingredient hydroxycitric acid (HCA) as an effective weight loss supplement has been used worldwide for decades although its safety has been subject to a long-lasting debate.  The review provides some comforting evidence on the safety of Garcinia and its active ingredient HCA.

According to the review, the majority of study reports proved that Garcinia/HCA is effective at preventing obesity or inducing weight loss without causing any toxicity or serious side effects.  Although some clinical toxicity reports on weight loss diet supplements have found some toxicity such as spermatogenesis associated with the diet supplements, no direct evidence suggests the toxicity results from Garcinia and or HCA because multiple herbs or components were often used in the same dietary supplements. 

On the other hand, Garcinia has been used for centuries in Asia as a flavoring agent in place of tamarind or lemon, which indicates that Garcinia is safe to use .  And its active ingredient hydroxycitric acid largely found in Garcinia or specifically G. cambogia, G. atroviridis, and G. indica have been widely used as an weight loss herbal supplement for decades all over the world, the reviewers claim. 

According to the review, Garcinia and or HCA render a weight loss effect through the following mechanisms.

"HCA is able to inhibit lipogenesis, a process in which carbohydrate is converted to fat in the body, via the inhibition of ATP citrate lyase (EC 4.1.3.8) in cells. Prevention of carbohydrate conversion to fat by HCA thus induces the body to oxidize the excess carbohydrates, promoting glycogen storage, which in turn may play a part in suppressing the appetite. Furthermore, HCA suppressed the feeling of hunger by increasing the release/availability of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates eating behavior and appetite control. It had also been reported that HCA decreased serum leptin in mice and human, as well as expression level of abdominal fat leptin in rats."

The reviewers thoroughly and critically reviewed the relevant studies and found the following:

1, An array of toxicological and safety studies have established a safety profile on G. cambogia extract/HCA as weight loss dietary supplements for treating obesity.

2,  Studies on cytotoxicity, genotoxicity, acute toxicity, sub-chronic 90-day safety, two-generation reproductive and teratogenicity studies, and clinical trials have proved that G. cambogia extract/HCA are safe for human consumption to treat obesity.

3, Recent animal and clinical and toxicologic studies have shown G. cambogia/HCA is generally safe to use and is classified as NOAEL in a dose of up to 1240 mg/kg/day. (NOAEL stands for no observed adverse effect level.)

4, The safety of Garcinia is further substantiated by the fact that G. cambogia extract has been used as an antiobesity herbal supplement for decades all over the world without any birth defect or reproductive problem reported associated with its use.  This further suggests that HCA is unlikely to induce any reproductive or developmental toxicity when used as a weight loss alternative medicine. 

The  authors did recognize the need for research on the efficacy and safety of long term G. cambogia extract/HCA consumption though.

In summary, the authors concluded "to date, there is no case study or report showing the direct adverse effect of HCA. The structure, mechanism of action, long history of the use of Garcinia/HCA and comprehensive scientific evidence had shown “no observed adverse effect level (NOAEL)” at levels up to 2800 mg/day, suggesting its safety for use." (David Liu PHD)

Reference

Li Oon Chuah, Swee Keong Yeap, Wan Yong Ho, Boon Kee Beh, and Noorjahan Banu Alitheen, “In Vitro and In Vivo Toxicity of Garcinia or Hydroxycitric Acid: A Review,” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 2012, Article ID 197920, 12 pages, 2012. doi:10.1155/2012/197920)
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