Herbal Anti-Obesity Compound Not Effective

Reprinted from Eating Disorders Review
January/February 1999 Volume 10, Number 1
©1999 Gürze Books

The herbal compound, Garcinia cambogia, which contains the active ingredient hydroxycitric acid, is no more effective for weight loss than placebo, according to results of a recent study (JAMA 280:1596, 1998).

During a 12-week, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial at an outpatient weight control research unit, 135 subjects were randomized to receive either active hydroxycitric acid (n=66) or placebo (n=69). Subjects in both groups lost a significant amount of weight during the 12 weeks, but the differences between groups were not significant. In addition, the estimated percentage of body fat mass loss and the fraction of weight loss as fat weren’t different between the groups.

Other studies claimed the product was effective

At least 14 commercial weight-loss products contain hydroxycitric acid, which is obtained from extracts of plants native to India, mainly G. cambogia and G. indica. The manufacturers and several previous studies have claimed that G. cambogia lowers body weight and reduces fat mass in humans. Its action is described as competitive inhibition of the enzyme adenosine triphosphate-citrate pro 3S-lyase. Some investigators showed that the active ingredient, hydroxycitric acid, suppressed de novo fatty acid synthesis but also increased rates of hepatic glycogen synthesis, suppressed food intake, and decreased weight gain.

When the authors of the current study carefully analyzed the previous studies, they found that most studies involved small numbers of subjects, were uncontrolled, and used inaccurate measurements of body fat changes.

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