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Vitamins, Minerals and Dietary Supplements

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Hydroxycitric Acid

What is hydroxycitric acid? Why do we need it?

Hydroxycitric acid (HCA) is a chemical compound found in the garcinia cambogia, a small, pumpkin-shaped fruit native to Southeast Asia. The garcinia (also known as the Malabar tamarind) is often used as a condiment in curry dishes.

Animal studies suggest that HCA may aid in weight loss. Laboratory studies have shown that HCA reduces the conversion of excess carbohydrates into fat by preventing certain enzymatic processes from taking place. HCA also appears to suppress appetite, and appears to work better on subjects that have high simple-sugar diets as opposed to high-fiber diets. However, the majority of these studies have been conducted in animals. Similar trials in humans have yet to produce definitive results. As a result, the effectiveness of HCA for weight loss remains unclear as of this writing.

How much hydroxycitric acid should I take?

Because HCA is not an essential nutrient, optimal levels and recommended daily allowances have yet to be established. While some practitioners recommend taking 500 milligrams three times per day (before each meal) to help promote weight loss, this amount is far below that used in clinical animal studies on a pound-for-pound basis.

What forms of hydroxycitric acid are available?

HCA is found only in a few plants, the chief of these being garcinia cambogia. Large amounts of HCA are found in the plant's rind. In addition to garcinia, HCA supplements are available in a variety of forms, including powders, capsules, tablets, energy bars and chewing gum.

What can happen if I take too much hydroxycitric acid? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?

HCA use has not been linked to any adverse effects. High-fiber diets appear to inhibit the absorption of hydroxycitric acid into the body; as a result, people who are on high-fiber diets and are attempting to lose weight may require larger daily HCA supplements. As of this writing, there are no known drug interactions with HCA. As always, make sure to consult with a licensed health care provider before taking hydroxycitric acid or any other dietary supplement or herbal remedy.

References

  • Badmaev V, Majeed M, Conte AA. Garcinia cambogia for weight loss. JAMA 1999;282:233-4.
  • Heymsfield SB, Allison DB, Vasselli JR, et al. Garcinia cambogia (hydroxycitric acid) as a potential antiobesity agent: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA 1998;280:1596-600.
  • Martinet A, Hostettmann K, Schultz Y. Thermogenic effects of commercially available plant preparations aimed at treating human obesity. Phytomedicine 1999;6:231-8.
  • Mattes RD, Bormann L. Effects of (-)-hydroxycitric acid on appetitive variables. Physiol Behav 2000;71:87-94.
  • Sergio W. A natural food, Malabar tamarind, may be effective in the treatment of obesity. Med Hypotheses 1988;27:39-40.

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