We all need a little help sometimes, especially when it comes to weight loss. Going against your biological evolutionary instincts by consuming less energy than you expend certainly isn’t easy. But that’s what weight loss takes, convincing your biology that just half a sandwich is fine, or that you can do without bacon and cheese on your burger, or that that pint of ice cream in the fridge isn’t going to give you anything other than a brain freeze and guilt. But if you’re willing to engage in the hard work and realize healthy food choices and exercise are 95% of weight loss, then there are some compounds that may further help your weight loss efforts and account for that other 5%.
One of those compounds might be hydroxycitric acid (HCA). Garcinia cambogia is a fruit native to Indonesia that resembles a small pumpkin. HCA is extracted from the rind of the fruit. Garcinia cambogia also grows in parts of Asia and Africa, and many cultures use HCA not only as a flavor enhancer for food, but also as an appetite suppressant and a way to make food more filling. Commercially, HCA is available in the U.S. in tablet supplement form. So does it work, and if so, how does it work?
It is important to keep in mind that we cannot say for sure whether or not it works because there isn’t a plethora of clinical, placebo-controlled, double-blind studies proving its efficacy. More studies are needed, but some do show a pronounced weight-loss effect while others do not. Some studies that show a helpful weight-loss effect were either performed on non-humans (rats or mice), or were done in vitro (in a test tube). One can’t necessarily extrapolate those findings to humans. But some studies do show it to be effective at helping to achieve weight-loss goals, and historical anecdotal evidence from cultures that frequently use HCA also seem to suggest at least some level of efficacy.
As far as how HCA works to help achieve weight-loss, there are two main mechanisms of action. The first is that it inhibits, or turns down, the action of an enzyme that helps turn excess carbohydrates and sugar into stored body fat. This can obviously help lead to weight loss, but also potentially a reduction in bad (LDL) cholesterol and reduced triglyceride levels as well. As such, it may help prevent the onset of heart disease and/or type 2 diabetes.
The second way HCA works to help achieve weight loss is by what it does to your brain. HCA increases serotonin levels in your brain. Serotonin is a major neurotransmitter, or chemical messenger, in your brain that is involved in appetite, sleep, mood, and learning, among other things. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter that is the target of anti-depressant medications, as well as being a main neurotransmitter that is responsible for the effects of recreational drugs like marijuana, ecstasy, and LSD as well as weight-loss drugs like Meridia and Belviq. Because of HCA’s interaction with serotonin levels, it has been surmised that it may lead to less emotional eating. The theory goes that if your brain has proper levels of serotonin, you’ll make better food choices and only eat when you are hungry instead of in response to emotional distress or depression. Emotional eating is an all too common way that people undermine their weight loss efforts. We are human beings, and thus we are emotional and sensitive creatures. And because emotional eating often takes the form of ice cream, candy, or other snack foods (who binge eats broccoli when they’re upset?), it can really hamper one’s weight loss efforts.
Taken in combination, it is easy to see why HCA might work as a weight-loss supplement. Concerning the food you do eat, HCA may help prevent some of the excess carbohydrates and sugar from turning into fat. And because of its action on serotonin, HCA may also help prevent you from eating too much food, especially in an emotional eating context. So if you’re eating less, and what you are eating isn’t becoming stored body fat as easily, one can see why HCA might be effective. Only more studies will tell for sure. As always, definitely consult with your physician before taking any supplement. HCA may have detrimental drug interactions with other medications you may be on. Recommended dosages seem to be about 1000-1500mg per day, with 300-500mg taken three times a day about half an hour before a meal. So maybe give it a shot, but always remember that the vast majority of weight loss comes from healthy eating habits and consistent exercise and sleep. If those things aren’t on point in your diet and lifestyle, all the HCA in the world (or any other weight-loss supplement) won’t make a bit of difference.
Article Courtesy: Andrew Steingrube
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