What is Garcinia Cambogia?
Garcinia Cambogia is a very widespread plant in some subtropical regions of the Far East, Indonesia, south-central India, Cambodia, and Vietnam. The fruit is externally similar to a pumpkin, with dimensions and internal structure comparable to those of a grapefruit. It has been known for centuries in traditional oriental medicine for some of its beneficial properties on fat and carbohydrate metabolism.
From some recent scientific evidence, it seems that the properties attributed to the fruit are derived from a substance present mainly in the peel, hydroxycitric acid, also known by the English acronym HCA. This, extracted from the dried peel of the fruit, appears as a fine white powder.
From the chemical point of view, HCA is a carboxylic acid with six carbon atoms that, in contact with air, undergoes rapid oxidation, losing its effectiveness. For this reason, the substance used to prepare food supplements is stabilized with calcium and potassium salts (calcium or potassium hydroxycitrate).
Properties and mechanisms of action
Hydroxycitric acid has the ability to reduce the synthesis and accumulation of fatty acids in adipose tissue.
The sugars, fats, and proteins that are consumed with food are degraded at the level of the mitochondria through the Krebs cycle, a mechanism at the end of which there is an enormous production of energy.
Under conditions of excess energy, in lipogenic tissues (liver, intestine, and adipose tissue) part of the citrate, produced in the cycle, is broken down into oxaloacetic acid and acetyl-CoA by the enzyme ATP-citratoliasis. Oxaloacetic acid constitutes the starting product for the synthesis of fats that are subsequently stored in the subcutaneous adipose tissue. Hydroxycitric acid, thus inhibiting the action of the ATP-citratoliasis enzyme, causes a reduction in the flux of carbon atoms during cholesterol biosynthesis.
Another property that is often associated with Garcinia is the inhibition of the hunger reflex: the dried and grated rind of the fruit has been used for centuries to make dishes more filling. It seems that HCA is capable of inhibiting the reuptake of serotonin, also known as the “hormone of happiness”, capable of causing a decrease in stress levels and regulating the feeling of hunger. Therefore, by increasing the levels of serotonin in the circulation, hydroxycitric acid could cause a reduction in food intake and especially carbohydrates. However, the studies carried out in this regard are not enough to date to be able to reach a true conclusion.
HCA also inhibits pancreatic alpha-amylase, which reduces carbohydrate metabolism. Once ingested, complex carbohydrates must be hydrolyzed into monosaccharide units. The enzymes involved in the process are the following: alpha-amylase, present in saliva and pancreatic juice, converts complex carbohydrates into oligosaccharides, maltase, and lactase, located in the small intestine, convert oligosaccharides into monosaccharides. Monosaccharides that the body does not use immediately are stored as energy reserves in the form of glucose in the liver and as fats in adipose tissue.
Therefore, it is assumed that the possible antiobesity effect attributed to hydroxycitric acid is due to the suppression of fatty acid synthesis and the reduction of carbohydrate metabolism.
Studies and conclusions
Roche Pharmaceuticals had already studied HCA in animals in 1970. These studies, using the sodium salt of hydroxycitric acid, showed in the animals examined weight loss, reduction of adipose tissue without a decrease in protein content. In 1998, a study was published in 135 obese subjects versus placebo with a hydroxycitrate salt (1500 mg/day) administered for 12 weeks, but no difference in weight loss was found between the two groups. A 2011 review of the use of this herbal medicine concludes that Garcinia Cambogia is capable of causing short-term weight loss, but long-lasting and rigorous studies are needed to assess its usefulness.
The intake of Garcinia does not present any side effects of special relevance. However, it is recommended that you contact your doctor before starting treatment. In the case of pregnancy and lactation, the administration of the plant should be avoided.