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Hydroxycitric acid (HCA), a derivative of citric acid, is found primarily in a small, sweet, purple fruit called the Malabar tamarind or, as it is most commonly called, Garcinia cambogia. Test tube and animal research suggests that HCA may be helpful in weight loss because of its effects on metabolism. However, studies in humans have found mixed results.
HCA is not an essential nutrient. The Malabar tamarind is the only practical source of this supplement.
A typical dosage of HCA is 250 to 1,000 mg 3 times daily. Supplements are available in many forms, including tablets, capsules, powders, and even snack bars. Products are often labeled Garcinia cambogiaand standardized to contain a fixed percentage of HCA. Various proprietary forms of HCA are also available, often claimed by their promoters to be more effective.
What Is the Scientific Evidence for Hydroxycitric Acid?
It remains unclear whether HCA offers any weight-loss benefits.
In an 8-week double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of 60 overweight individuals, use of HCA at a dose of 440 mg 3 times daily produced significant weight loss as compared to placebo. 1 In contrast, a 12-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of 135 overweight individuals, who were given either placebo or 500 mg of HCA (as Garcinia cambogiaextract standardized to contain 50% HCA) 3 times daily, found no effect on body weight or fat mass. 2 However, this study has been criticized for using a high-fiber diet, which is thought to impair HCA absorption. 3 A 12-week double-blind trial of 89 individuals found that HCA had no effect on appetite. 4 Another study tested HCA to see if it could cause weight loss by altering metabolism, but no effects on metabolism were found. 5
- Thom E. Hydroxycitrate (HCA) in the treatment of obesity [abstract]. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 1996;20(suppl 4):75.
- Heymsfield SB, Allison DB, Vasselli JR, Pietrobelli A, Greenfield D, Nunez C. Garcinia cambogia (hydroxycitric acid) as a potential antiobesity agent: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 280(18):1596-600.
- Badmaev V, Majeed M, Conte AA, et al. Garcinia cambogia for weight loss [letter]. JAMA. 1999;282:233-234.
- Mattes RD, Bormann L. Effects of (-)-hydroxycitric acid on appetitive variables. Physiol Behav. 71(1-2):87-94.
- Kriketos AD, Thompson HR, Greene H, et al. (-)-Hydroxycitric acid does not affect energy expenditure and substrate oxidation in adult males in a post-absorptive state. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 1999;23:867-873.