Garcinia Cambogia is also known as the Malabar Tamarind which is considered a small, sweet tropical tree fruit shaped almost like a pumpkin. In the late 1960s, some scientists discovered that an acid in the fruit is somewhat similar to the citric acid that is found in fruits like oranges and lemons.

That acid found in GC is called hydroxycitric acid, or HCA. It has been a roller coaster ride of popularity over the last 20 years or so. It is alternately shown to be a miracle weight loss supplement.

Since about late 2012, HCA has taken a steady ascent, and people around the world chat about “Garcinia” like that’s the name of their new personal trainer. (For the record, Garcinia Cambogia, hydroxycitic acid, and HCA all refer to the same thing.) It can feel like anyone with even a passing interest in supplements has gotten asked by a small army of friends, loved ones, and cab drivers: “Is garcinia actually legit?”

HCA isn’t a miracle; it’s more of a tool. Anyone who has ever suffered the indignity of smashing their finger with a hammer can attest that tools only work when you know what to do with them and then follow through on that knowledge.

Luckily, in recent years we have learned a lot about not only what HCA supplements will do in the body, but also how you can make the most of them. Here’s what you need to know about this fat-loss supplement.

HCA’s Early Promise

HCA got its first taste of widespread popularity back in the ’90s after some studies concluded that it caused weight loss in animals. One thing we know is that HCA blocks a portion of an enzyme called citrate lyase, which helps turn sugars and starches into fat.

Block that enzyme, and carbohydrates get diverted into energy production rather than accumulating as body fat. Then, when you start to burn fat through adequate training, there is less to replace it, and your overall fat level will go down.

HCA seems to have an ability that helps suppress your appetite, but not in the same way as a stimulant-based diet pill. Rather, it increases the level of satiety. The satisfaction you will receive from food will make it much easier to eat less. The mechanism by which it achieves this isn’t entirely clear yet. A nutritionist by the name of Shari Lieberman suggested that a metabolic change brought on by HCA can send an appetite-suppressing signal to your brain through the amino acid 5-hydroxytryptophan, which is a direct precursor to the so-called “happy hormone,” also known as serotonin. Given that the subsequent studies have also shown elevated serotonin levels in subjects who took HCA supplements, she was likely on to something.

With these two vital bullet points in its favor, HCA seemed on the verge of the big time, but the buzz quickly faded after an extensive study that was published in 1998 in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that it had “no effect” on human subjects.

End of the line, right? Not quite. Subsequent research has produced some several conclusions and helped convince us among many other previously skeptical people, that HCA has real potential as a weight-loss supplement.

It’s All About How You Take It

Some vitamin studies are commonly done by people who use the wrong dosage amount or the wrong form of the supplement and then seem almost gleeful when they’re able to proclaim that the supplements “don’t work.” Prejudice confirmed; case closed.

Dr. Preuss went on to lead the most promising human studies into HCA, points out that there are at least three different forms of hydroxycitrates: those who are mixed with calcium, potassium, or magnesium salts. The reason to add these types of salts is to decrease the degradation of free HCA into HCA lactone, an inactive form of this compound. These salts, which are combined at a 1-to-1 or higher ratio in most commercial HCA supplements, also help your body more quickly absorb the hydroxycitrate.

“If you have almost a pure calcium hydroxycitrate, it’s just not going to work.” He said he prefers hydroxycitrate that is bound to both calcium and potassium. He also says that the bond dramatically increases the absorption and effectiveness of HCA.

Dr. Preuss and his co-workers put this idea to the test in a study where they followed 30 healthy but overweight people whose ages were between 21-50 over an 8-week period. All of the subjects consumed a diet of 2,000 calories per day and walked for more than half an hour for at least five days per week. One group was also given Super CitriMax, a patented form of HCA bound with both calcium and potassium. The other group was given a placebo. At the end of the study, the placebo group had lost an average of only three pounds, but the HCA group had lost an average of a 12 pound. This makes it a whopping 400 percent more weight. Their average BMI nearly fell by 6.3 percent compared to the placebo group, it fell only 1.7 percent.

On top of this all, the HCA group has experienced an almost double boost in the serotonin levels compared to the placebo group. Higher serotonin levels are commonly associated with fewer cravings, as well as a greater sense of calmness. In a second study that is very similar, Preuss and his colleagues tested 60 people, and this time, the HCA group lost an average of 10.5 pounds compared to the placebo group, which lost an average of 3.5 pounds.

“Perhaps the most remarkable result was in appetite control,” Preuss says of the second study. “The placebo group had no change, but the HCA group had a 16 percent reduction of food they ate per meal!”

The Right Way To Supplement With HCA

It is straightforward to view supplements purely from the perspective of either “I take it” or “I don’t take it.” But with some of the supplements, that is precise enough to see an effect. But this lesson here is how you take HCA matters. As such, Preuss has taken to the new wave of HCA popularity as an opportunity to remind us all about how to get the most out of this supplement.

Recommendations:

  • Be sure to take an adequate dose. For a Ca,/K preparation used successfully and reported in a peer-reviewed publication, the dose of the extract was near 1.5 g, three times per day before meals. In this 60 percent HCA preparation, that approximates 0.9 g of HCA before each meal.
  • Take the preparation on an empty stomach about 30-60 minutes before each meal.
  • Remember, “If you don’t comply, don’t complain.”
  • Take the right dose at the right time.

Remember that he says “near” 1.5 g three times daily. Why not exactly 1.5? Given that HCA supplements can come in a range of different potencies and mixtures, it can be hard to be exact. Aim for the 1.5 g benchmark, but don’t be obsessive about it.