garcinia cambogia tree with fruit

Merely one of many fat loss miracles featured on the Dr. Oz show, I’m sort of surprised that garcinia cambogia is still so popular.

The others, such as yacon syrup and green coffee bean, seemed to fade out of the public eye once they got their 15 minutes of fame. But not garcinia. No, garcinia seems to be here to stay. Every time I find a new fat burner pill, there’s a very good chance that it’s based on garcinia cambogia (with some raspberry ketones thrown in for good measure).

Let’s see if we can figure out why this one has withstood the test of time, and even better, if it’s beneficial for endurance athletes.

What is Garcinia Cambogia?

Garcinia is a type of plant which can be found growing in Indonesia and Southeast Asia. The garcinia cambogia plant bears a fruit that looks like a little green squash. I highly doubt it’s as good as the mangosteen (a related fruit), but it is eaten, and the rind is used as a condiment.

The active ingredient in the weight loss pills is extracted from the rind of the fruit. So, really, you’re buying an expensive bottle of condiments! I imagine it’s akin to the people of Indonesia paying $20 for a handful of Heinz ketchup packets. (Hey, lycopene is a powerful antioxidant. Who’s to say the tomato isn’t a superfruit?)

It’s been around for a while. Back in 2008, I had something called ACT Body Trim, which contained garcinia cambogia as an active ingredient. It wasn’t featured on the Dr. Oz show until late 2012, so I was way ahead of the curve and didn’t even know it!

What You Heard on the Dr. Oz Show

“I can tell you about a revolutionary fat buster. You’re hearing it here, first!”

Wait, what? Did he not see that I reviewed a diet product containing garcinia cambogia back in 2009?

He’s a busy doctor, so he probably doesn’t have time to read I’ll let it slide, this time! 🙂

So, on this episode we saw Dr. Julie Chen as a guest. She said this is a “dual action fat buster” because it does two things:

For starters, it suppresses your appetite. Since eating less is the most basic way to lose weight, I think everyone will understand and appreciate this.

It also helps block the formation of fat and makes it more likely that you’ll build and store glycogen instead. This is a little more complex, so they did a fun example with tubes and balloons showing how your glycogen stores will fill up, while your fat storage area stays relatively empty.

Dr. Chen also mentions how this substance provides other health benefits, including lowering cholesterol and helping improve any issues with insulin resistance.

And then they wrap up by saying it’s an important tool to use in addition to a healthy diet.

Though they didn’t go into detail about the scientific studies that actually support these claims, they did reinforce the message that this supplement is to be used in addition to your current diet and exercise regimen. I applaud them for that.

How it Really Works (i.e. What You Didn’t Hear on Dr. Oz)

Garcinia cambogia contains a compound known as hydroxycitric acid (HCA). This is what is ultimately responsible for blocking fat formation and suppressing your appetite.

HCA inhibits the enzyme known as citrate lyase, which is a critical component of the metabolism of carbohydrates and production of fatty acids. As the theory goes, when citrate lyase can’t do its job, the fatty acids can’t be produced. That means that any ingested carbohydrates will have to be converted to glycogen.

It seems plausible at first. But what their demonstration on the show conveniently left out is what happens when your body’s glycogen stores are completely filled up. Your body can’t store glycogen indefinitely.

For athletes, it’s not a big concern, since we’re always burning through our glycogen stores. But for the average person watching Dr. Oz, they need to realize that if you’re overeating, you’ll fill up your glycogen stores and your body will be forced to store extra ingested calories as fat. You can’t trick your body forever, sorry!

Hopefully though, the appetite suppression kicks in in time!

HCA is also responsible for suppressing your appetite, and it does this by increasing serotonin levels. Serotonin is that “feel good chemical” everyone talks about. It improves your mood and makes you feel good, which makes you less likely to eat out of boredom or sadness.

It certainly won’t stop you from overeating, though! So you should still pay attention to what’s on your plate.

The Studies on Garcinia Cambogia

If you managed to find the article on the Dr. Oz website (I believe it has been removed due to legal proceedings), they did mention a little bit more about the studies that convinced them that this is such a miracle fat burner. But by “a little bit,” I do mean just a little bit. It’s only slightly more informative than the infomerical-esque TV segment.

So, I did my own research, and found these articles and studies:

Garcinia cambogia (hydroxycitric acid) as a potential antiobesity agent: a randomized controlled trial.

This was a study from 1998, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. It’s often referenced, so you’d think it shows how awesome Garcinia cambogia is.

Instead, it says this: “Garcinia cambogia failed to produce significant weight loss and fat mass loss beyond that observed with placebo.”

OK, so it says that Garcinia cambogia is no more effective than a placebo. But then why would someone cite this study in support of the supplement?

I believe the answer lies in this paragraph:

“Patients in both groups lost a significant amount of weight during the 12-week treatment period (P<.001); however, between-group weight loss differences were not statistically significant (mean [SD], 3.2 [3.3] kg vs 4.1 [3.9] kg; P = .14). There were no significant differences in estimated percentage of body fat mass loss between treatment groups, and the fraction of subject weight loss as fat was not influenced by treatment group."

See, despite Garcinia cambogia being no more effective than a placebo, the subjects taking it did indeed lose weight. So it’s not a bold faced lie to say that the study shows people losing weight when taking Garcinia cambogia. It’s more of a half-truth.

Everyone conveniently leaves out the detail that the placebo group lost just as much weight! So the weight loss was due to the diet, and had nothing to do with the Garcinia.


Dietary supplements for body-weight reduction: a systematic review.

Here’s a meta-analysis and review from 2004, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It looked at a wide variety of supplements, including Garcinia cambogia, to see if dietary supplements were effective in reducing body weight.

This is what they determined:

“The evidence for most dietary supplements as aids in reducing body weight is not convincing. None of the reviewed dietary supplements can be recommended for over-the-counter use.”

I almost had to LOL.


The Use of Garcinia Extract (Hydroxycitric Acid) as a Weight loss Supplement: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomised Clinical Trials

Here’s a 2010 review, published in the Journal of Obesity, which looked at studies specifically related to Hydroxycitric Acid (HCA).

“The evidence from RCTs suggests that Garcinia extracts/HCA generate weight loss on the short term. However, the magnitude of this effect is small, is no longer statistically significant when only rigorous RCTs are considered, and its clinical relevance seems questionable. Future trials should be more rigorous, longer in duration, and better reported.”

In other words, there’s no quality evidence to support any type of weight loss with Garcinia extracts.


To recap, that makes one study and two research reviews encompassing multiple studies, none of which show any benefits. So wait, where’s that study that Dr. Oz talks about??

Ah, here it is:

Bioefficacy of a novel calcium-potassium salt of (-)-hydroxycitric acid.

It’s from 2005, so it’s fairly recent, but I’m just seeing the abstract, not the full study. And the abstract is not informative whatsoever. Conveniently, I can’t find the details anywhere else. Yeah, that makes me a little suspicious.

Oh wait, what’s the name of that journal? Mutation Research. Oh, that explains it. A journal that has nothing to do with the topic, where the study was likely conducted on rodents.


Is this a joke?

There’s no evidence, yet two doctors on TV are talking about the studies showing all these benefits.

From what I can see, it’s very misleading. But just to be sure I wasn’t missing something, I checked out a few websites I trust.

First, WebMD, which will give you a very dry, mundane, honest answer on just about any drug or supplement.

They make two important points:

  • “Developing research suggests that garcinia might prevent fat storage and control appetite; however, whether these effects occur in humans is unclear.”

OK, so the stuff might work for rodents, but there’s no evidence it does anything for humans. Gotcha.

  • “There is some mixed evidence that garcinia might help people feel full even when eating less, but it’s too early to recommend garcinia for this use.”

OK, it might help you feel full or it might not. There’s an earth-shattering revolution!

Next, I went over to, who also reviewed the studies. They confirmed my assumptions.

The studies on rats seemed to be good; however, human studies show little if any effect.

Then on to Science Based Medicine, with their article, Garcinia Probably Works But Is Far From a Weight Loss Miracle.

They came to the same conclusion. The studies on rats and guinea pigs were promising, but with humans, there’s simply nothing.

It’s confirmed! Despite lots of hype on TV, the supposed studies showing the benefits don’t exist. And apparently that’s not an uncommon practice for Dr. Oz.

How to Use Garcinia Cambogia

If you’re going to try it, thinking that maybe, just maybe you’ll reap the rewards like a good Dr. Oz audience member, here’s what to do.

For the pills, get ones with at least 50% HCA. Most brands I’ve seen claim 60% HCA, with some extra-strength options offering 80% HCA.

Take 500-1000 mg about 30 minutes before each meal, for 2-3 meals per day, and make sure to take no more than 3000 mg total per day.

And most importantly, track your progress to see if you get results!

The Benefits for Endurance Athletes

This is normally the part I’m exciting to write about, but since there is no evidence that Garcinia cambogia does anything useful in humans, I don’t have a lot to go on.

Storing glycogen rather than fat is great, but we don’t need an extra supplement to do that. Our bodies do it naturally, especially since we coax them into doing that simply by exercising. And by eating a nutritious post-workout meal.

You could try it as an appetite suppressant, but it’s not proven to do that, either. Since I was able to get decent results from the $5.99 Natrol Acai Berry Diet pills, and excellent results from the $26 Lean Out, why would I pay more for something that might not do a darn thing?

garcinia cambogia in the wild

Where to Buy Garcinia Cambogia

If you want some, you can get it just about anywhere these days. Stick with reputable brands, though.

The shady stuff that starts as a free trial, those are companies just trying to capitalize on the hype and make a quick buck. They don’t care if their supplement is crap. And if they don’t care about you, you shouldn’t care about them.

puritan's pride garcinia cambogia

Consumer Lab did some testing and found that most Garcinia cambogia pills don’t actually contain as much as they list on the label.

According to Prevention, Puritan’s Pride and Vitamin Shoppe offer the least-expensive options that passed’s tests.

I’m assuming this Puritan’s Pride Super Citrimax Garcinia Cambogia on is it. The retail price is $22, but it’s on sale for about $12. And it’s only $10 for this Vitamin Shoppe one.

Another option might be VitaCost, since their pills are based on CitriMax (which I’m thinking is the same thing as in the Puritan’s Pride pills). It’s $11 for 100 capsules.

Also, I’m intrigued by the one from Virtuvian Natural Labs. It’s expensive at $50, but it’s potent – 75% HCA. I don’t know anything about the company, but people are actually giving it good reviews.

Whatever you do, don’t click the links in Facebook comments on news sites. Or Youtube comments. 99.9% of those are spammers pushing terrible products.

The links will take you to products like this:

Miracle Garcinia Cambogia

miracle garcinia cambogia

Miracle Garcinia Cambogia. Lose Weight. Increase Metabolism. Claim Your Bottle Now!

And this:

Trim & Cleanse

trim and cleanse system

Find out how to burn fat quickly and cleanse your body all in one! Click Here!

My Final Verdict Is…

While I initially thought Garcinia cambogia would have some promise, my research leads me to think it’s a total waste of money to use for weight loss.

Even for 10 or 11 bucks per bottle (unless you get scammed with some free trial offer and end up paying more), it doesn’t seem worth it.

However, using it to increase serotonin levels in the brain, to improve general happiness and well-being (especially when fatigued from winter training and lack of sunlight), still interests me. I might give it a shot.


What do you think about Garcinia cambogia? Planning to try it?


Show References

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Related: Surviving the Dr. Oz Diet

Photo Credits: Adapted from Alex Popovkin’s Garcinia gardneriana tree | Arian Zwegers

This article was originally published on December 9, 2014. It was updated and republished on July 23, 2018.

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  1. Unreliable research yet Dr. Oz has a special about it? Surprise, surprise.

  2. @Francis


  3. Doesn’t it lower blood sugar? Or is that the opposite of what athletes want?

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