Health risks using garcinia cambogia

Health risks using garcinia cambogia
The herb is considered beneficial for overall health in the traditional Ayurvedic medical system.

Garcinia Cambogia: Weight-Loss Supplement May Be Toxic to Some

By Agata Blaszczak-Boxe, Staff Writer

Published: 04/28/2014 10:37 AM EDT on LiveScience

The use of Garcinia cambogia, a popular weight-loss supplement, may pose health risks to people who are taking certain antidepressants, a recent case report suggests.

Last year in Oregon, a 35-year-old woman who had been taking Garcinia cambogia supplements for two or three months while also taking an antidepressant started stuttering and sweating profusely. In the emergency room of a local hospital, the medical staff noted that the woman's heart rate and blood pressure were high, and that she had also developed foot clonus, involuntary muscle spasms that cause a person's foot to flex.

The woman's symptoms were characteristic of serotonin toxicity, a drug reaction that occurs when levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin are too high. After the woman was given medication for serotonin toxicity and spent a few days at the hospital, her symptoms subsided and she eventually recovered. [14 Oddest Medical Cases]

"I am hesitant to label it [Garcinia cambogia] as a dangerous supplement, because until we see more than one case, we want to make sure that this actually is something that is going to occur," said Dr. Robert Hendrickson, one of the authors of the case report.

However, previous studies on people and animals have shown that Garcinia cambogia may, indeed, increase serotonin levels. And taking the supplement in combination with antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which also cause serotonin levels to rise, could lead to serotonin toxicity, said Hendrickson, a toxicologist at the Department of Emergency Medicine of Oregon Health and Sciences University.

Hendrickson added that, based on the animal and human data suggesting both SSRIs and Garcinia increase serotonin levels, he recommends that people who are taking an SSRI not use Garcinia, at least until further research is done. "Not because I know that it will be dangerous, but because there is a chance that it could be," he said.

"If I had a family member or a patient who was considering starting Garcinia and they were on an SSRI, I would recommend that they don't do it for now," Hendrickson told Live Science.

Garcinia cambogia, also known as tamarind, is a small, pumpkin-shaped fruit, and diet supplements made from it are touted for helping people lose weight. However, researchers have so far found only mixed results when looking at whether the supplement really helps weight loss. And one study in rats suggested that extremely high doses of Garcinia may cause testicular atrophy, and toxicity.

The woman in the case report had been previously diagnosed with serotonin toxicity while she was taking a different kind of antidepressant. At that time, she had also been taking Garcinia for a month or two, but she didn't tell the doctor who prescribed her antidepressant that she had also been taking the weight-loss supplement, Hendrickson said.

Therefore, her doctor attributed her first case of serotonin toxicity to her first antidepressant, and switched her to another one.

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Then, she developed her second case of toxicity, for which Hendrickson saw her.

"The question is whether this person was uniquely susceptible to this problem, or if this is a bigger problem," Hendrickson said. "And I suspect, over the next year or two, if this is a bigger problem — given the number of people taking Garcinia — we will see if there are a lot more people with this toxicity."

The researchers said they cannot be absolutely sure that it was, indeed, the use of Garcinia that caused the patient to develop serotonin toxicity. Another potential, but less likely, trigger of the reaction, could have been the SSRI that she had been taking. Moreover, it is also possible that although the supplement she was taking was labeled as Garcinia, it might not have contained the supplement, but rather some other substance, Hendrickson said.

"There is a big difference between a pharmaceutical, like a medication, and a supplement," Hendrickson said. Medications are highly regulated. "Supplements, on the other hand, are completely unregulated," he said. Whereas people can be relatively certain that a bottle of medication contains the ingredients that it is supposed to contain, the same cannot be said about supplements. [Aspirin to Zoloft: How 4 Common Medicines Work]

"There is no regulatory agency that's watching that says that you had to test it and prove that there is Garcinia in it," Hendrickson said, adding that there is also currently no way to test whether a certain pill really contains Garcinia or not.

Previous research has shown that some supplements did not contain the herbs or other substances that their bottles said they contained. Moreover, there have also been instances in which other substances sold as supplements contained pharmaceutical agents, Hendrickson said.

For instance, valerian root supplement pills that are sold as an herbal sleep aid have been found to contain valium, as it was cheaper for the pill manufacturer to use the drug than the herb, he said.

However, most capsules labeled Garcinia likely do include Garcinia, Hendrickson said. And because previous studies have shown that Garcinia causes a serotonin increase, it is quite likely that this also occurred in the case discussed in the study, the researchers said.

The study was published online April 4 in the Journal of Medical Toxicology.

Garcinia Cambogia: Weight-Loss Supplement May Be Toxic to Some

The use of Garcinia cambogia, a popular weight-loss supplement, may pose health risks to people who are taking certain antidepressants, a recent case report suggests.

Last year in Oregon, a 35-year-old woman who had been taking Garcinia cambogia supplements for two or three months while also taking an antidepressant started stuttering and sweating profusely. In the emergency room of a local hospital, the medical staff noted that the woman's heart rate and blood pressure were high, and that she had also developed foot clonus, involuntary muscle spasms that cause a person's foot to flex.

The woman's symptoms were characteristic of serotonin toxicity, a drug reaction that occurs when levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin are too high.

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In fact, their population is growing by the months and years that pass by.

After the woman was given medication for serotonin toxicity and spent a few days at the hospital, her symptoms subsided and she eventually recovered. [14 Oddest Medical Cases]

"I am hesitant to label it [Garcinia cambogia] as a dangerous supplement, because until we see more than one case, we want to make sure that this actually is something that is going to occur," said Dr. Robert Hendrickson, one of the authors of the case report.

However, previous studies on people and animals have shown that Garcinia cambogia may, indeed, increase serotonin levels. And taking the supplement in combination with antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which also cause serotonin levels to rise, could lead to serotonin toxicity, said Hendrickson, a toxicologist at the Department of Emergency Medicine of Oregon Health and Sciences University.

Hendrickson added that, based on the animal and human data suggesting both SSRIs and Garcinia increase serotonin levels, he recommends that people who are taking an SSRI not use Garcinia, at least until further research is done. "Not because I know that it will be dangerous, but because there is a chance that it could be," he said.

"If I had a family member or a patient who was considering starting Garcinia and they were on an SSRI, I would recommend that they don't do it for now," Hendrickson told Live Science.

Garcinia cambogia, also known as tamarind, is a small, pumpkin-shaped fruit, and diet supplements made from it are touted for helping people lose weight. However, researchers have so far found only mixed results when looking at whether the supplement really helps weight loss. And one study in rats suggested that extremely high doses of Garcinia may cause testicular atrophy, and toxicity.

The woman in the case report had been previously diagnosed with serotonin toxicity while she was taking a different kind of antidepressant. At that time, she had also been taking Garcinia for a month or two, but she didn't tell the doctor who prescribed her antidepressant that she had also been taking the weight-loss supplement, Hendrickson said.

Therefore, her doctor attributed her first case of serotonin toxicity to her first antidepressant, and switched her to another one. Then, she developed her second case of toxicity, for which Hendrickson saw her.

"The question is whether this person was uniquely susceptible to this problem, or if this is a bigger problem," Hendrickson said. "And I suspect, over the next year or two, if this is a bigger problem — given the number of people taking Garcinia — we will see if there are a lot more people with this toxicity."

The researchers said they cannot be absolutely sure that it was, indeed, the use of Garcinia that caused the patient to develop serotonin toxicity. Another potential, but less likely, trigger of the reaction, could have been the SSRI that she had been taking.

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Moreover, it is also possible that although the supplement she was taking was labeled as Garcinia, it might not have contained the supplement, but rather some other substance, Hendrickson said.

"There is a big difference between a pharmaceutical, like a medication, and a supplement," Hendrickson said. Medications are highly regulated. "Supplements, on the other hand, are completely unregulated," he said. Whereas people can be relatively certain that a bottle of medication contains the ingredients that it is supposed to contain, the same cannot be said about supplements. [Aspirin to Zoloft: How 4 Common Medicines Work]

"There is no regulatory agency that's watching that says that you had to test it and prove that there is Garcinia in it," Hendrickson said, adding that there is also currently no way to test whether a certain pill really contains Garcinia or not.

Previous research has shown that some supplements did not contain the herbs or other substances that their bottles said they contained. Moreover, there have also been instances in which other substances sold as supplements contained pharmaceutical agents, Hendrickson said.

For instance, valerian root supplement pills that are sold as an herbal sleep aid have been found to contain valium, as it was cheaper for the pill manufacturer to use the drug than the herb, he said.

However, most capsules labeled Garcinia likely do include Garcinia, Hendrickson said. And because previous studies have shown that Garcinia causes a serotonin increase, it is quite likely that this also occurred in the case discussed in the study, the researchers said.

The study was published online April 4 in the Journal of Medical Toxicology.

What to Know About Garcinia Cambogia

What Should I Know About It?

Show Article Table of Contents

Garcinia cambogia is a fruit that grows in India, Southeast Asia, and some regions of Africa. Long used in herbal medicine, garcinia cambogia is thought to offer a variety of health benefits.

A number of studies have shown that garcinia cambogia contains compounds with antioxidant effects. In addition, garcinia cambogia contains hydroxycitric acid (a substance often touted as a natural weight loss aid).

When used as an herbal weight loss aid, garcinia cambogia is said to suppress appetite, boost metabolism, prevent fat buildup, and reduce abdominal fat.

In alternative medicine, garcinia cambogia is said to protect against the following health problems:

To date, research on the health effects of garcinia cambogia is lacking. However, there's some evidence that garcinia cambogia may offer certain benefits. Here's a look at some key findings from the available studies:

There is currently a lack of clinical trials testing the effectiveness of supplements containing garcinia cambogia as a weight loss aid. However, several preliminary studies indicate that garcinia cambogia may help protect against obesity.

In a 2005 study from Food and Chemical Toxicology, for instance, garcinia cambogia was found to fight the buildup of body fat in rats.

In addition, a 2008 study from Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry found that garcinia cambogia helped reduce the buildup of visceral fat in mice.

Antes de ser aprovada a sua venda, cada um destes suplementos, tem uma fase de teste: eles são proibidos apenas os produtos que produzem intoxicação imediata ou morte.

(A type of fat located in the abdominal cavity, visceral fat may reduce risk of major health issues like heart disease and diabetes when it occurs in excess.)

In a small study published in Phytotherapy Research in 2008, scientists determined that using garcinia cambogia in combination with glucomannan may help lower cholesterol levels in obese people.

For the study, 58 obese people took either a placebo or a combination of garcinia cambogia and glucomannan for 12 weeks. By the end of the study, members of the treatment group had experienced a significantly greater reduction in cholesterol levels (compared to members of the placebo group).

It's unknown whether garcinia cambogia on its own can help reduce cholesterol. It's also important to note that the combination of garcinia cambogia and glucomannan failed to reduce body weight in study participants.

Preliminary research suggests that garcinia cambogia may aid in diabetes control. In a 2003 study published in Fitoterapia, for example, tests on mice revealed that garcinia cambogia may help improve blood sugar metabolism.

Garcinia cambogia may help treat ulcers, according to an animal-based study published in Phytotherapy Research in 2002. In tests on rats, scientists discovered that garcinia cambogia might help alleviate ulcer symptoms by reducing acidity in the stomach.

Due to a lack of research, little is known about the safety of long-term use of garcinia cambogia. However, there's some concern that garcinia cambogia may trigger a number of side effects, including stomach upset, nausea, and headache.

Supplements haven't been tested for safety and due to the fact that dietary supplements are largely unregulated, the content of some products may differ from what is specified on the product label. In some cases, the product may deliver doses that differ from the specified amount. In other cases, the product may be contaminated with other substances such as metals or medications.

While consumers face such risks when purchasing any dietary supplement, these risks may be of greater magnitude in the purchase of supplements marketed for weight loss.

Also keep in mind that the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established. You can get additional tips on using supplements here.

Natural Alternatives

Some studies suggest that other natural remedies may help promote weight loss. For instance, there's some evidence that drinking green tea and maintaining optimal levels of vitamin D may help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Research also indicates that practicing mind-body techniques like yoga, meditation, and tai chi may support your weight loss efforts as well.

Where to Find It

Widely available for purchase online, supplements containing garcinia cambogia are sold in many natural-foods stores, drugstores, and stores specializing in dietary supplements.

Using It for Health or Weight Loss

Due to the limited research, it's too soon to recommend garcinia cambogia for any health purpose.

Meeting all these qualifications is Garcinia Cambogia Extra – is made in FDA registered and cGMP-certified laboratories, ensuring you that each and every capsule satisfies the manufacturing, testing, and quality assurance of Good Manufacturing Practices.

If you're considering using it, talk to your doctor to weigh the potential risks, benefits and appropriateness. Keep in mind that alternative medicine should not be used as a substitute for standard care. Self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.

Hayamizu K, Hirakawa H, Oikawa D, Nakanishi T, Takagi T, Tachibana T, Furuse M. "Effect of Garcinia cambogia extract on serum leptin and insulin in mice." Fitoterapia. 2003 Apr;74(3):267-73.

Kim KY, Lee HN, Kim YJ, Park T. "Garcinia cambogia extract ameliorates visceral adiposity in C57BL/6J mice fed on a high-fat diet." Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2008 Jul;72(7):1772-80.

Mahendran P, Vanisree AJ, Shyamala Devi CS. "The antiulcer activity of Garcinia cambogia extract against indomethacin-induced gastric ulcer in rats." Phytother Res. 2002 Feb;16(1):80-3.

Márquez F, Babio N, Bulló M, Salas-Salvadó J. " Evaluation of the safety and efficacy of hydroxycitric acid or Garcinia cambogia extracts in humans." Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2012;52(7):585-94.

Oluyemi KA, Omotuyi IO, Jimoh OR, Adesanya OA, Saalu CL, Josiah SJ. "Erythropoietic and anti-obesity effects of Garcinia cambogia (bitter kola) in Wistar rats." Biotechnol Appl Biochem. 2007 Jan;46(Pt 1):69-72.

Saito M, Ueno M, Ogino S, Kubo K, Nagata J, Takeuchi M. "High dose of Garcinia cambogia is effective in suppressing fat accumulation in developing male Zucker obese rats, but highly toxic to the testis." Food Chem Toxicol. 2005 Mar;43(3):411-9.

Vasques CA, Rossetto S, Halmenschlager G, Linden R, Heckler E, Fernandez MS, Alonso JL. "Evaluation of the pharmacotherapeutic efficacy of Garcinia cambogia plus Amorphophallus konjac for the treatment of obesity." Phytother Res. 2008 Sep;22(9):1135-40.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.