Why You Should Be Skeptical About “The Holy Grail of Weight Loss”

The weight loss drug Garcinia Cambogia Extract (HCA) has been making the rounds on American television in recent months and is being touted as “the Holy Grail of weight loss.” Does that sound like some rubbish marketing hype to you? Well, it should, because that’s exactly what it seems to be.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, the celebrity doctor made famous by Oprah Winfrey, gave HCA that decorative testimonial, going on to tell viewers, “Anytime I see a scientist get this excited about something like Garcinia Cambogia Extract, and when I looked through some of the research and called these scientists myself, I get excited.”

Top that off with a “credible”¯ review from Oprah Winfrey and the fact that Garcinia Cambogia is labelled a mysterious oriental fruit with unknown heritage, and you’ve got yourself the perfectly marketable, profitable product.

HCA: The Potent Fat Burner

“Burns fat”¯ is the one phrase that will never get old in the weight-loss industry. Type in “garcinia cambogia”¯ in Google, and you’ll see hundreds of sites designed solely to capitalize on this new craze.

Some other health claims from websites selling HCA include: “effective appetite suppressant if you’re an emotional eater,” “all-natural,” “increased energy throughout the day” and “prevents fat from being made,” just to name a few.

Then of course there’s the fine print at the bottom of most websites: “These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Individual weight loss results will vary.”

Aha! There’s the truth.

Hiccups in Dr. Ozs Excited-ness

Naturally, I wanted to investigate the science of these miraculous claims. In doing so, I discovered a plethora of problems with Dr. Oz’s excited-ness over HCA:

  • The scientific study this miracle was first based upon was just an 8 week study published in 2000 (nearly one and a half decades ago). It has taken 13 years for scientists to get excited, produce and sell it.
  • The “groundbreaking”¯ studies cited by supplement websites such as this one and this one are also extremely short studies in the research world; 12 weeks and 8 weeks, respectively. What happens after 12 weeks?
  • There are numerous papers such as this 10 week study and this 12 week study that conclude HCA has no effect on weight loss. Conveniently you’ll never hear about these studies.
  • Independent, unbiased compendiums of nutrition and supplement reviews, such as Examine, conclude that “Garcinia cambogia usage as a fat burner does not appear to extend to humans.” These researchers investigate and analyze all of the scientific data available on a topic, not just one side of the spectrum. The following conclusions were also made about HCA and fat loss: “Numerous review articles assessing the evidence of Garcinia Cambogia conclude that there is no significant benefit of this compound in humans,” and “The studies that are associated with both weight loss and Garcinia Camboga are confounded with many ingredients, and the observed effects on fat loss cannot be attributed to Garcinia itself.”

Still in Search of the Holy Grail

The dramatic scientific conclusions that have Dr. Oz jumping up and down and shouting Holy Grail don’t seem so exciting after all. Unfortunately, it appears the Garcinia Cambogia miracle drug is yet another brilliant marketing ploy by the weight loss industry.

Thanks for the hot tip, Doc.

Perhaps I’m being overly-skeptical. Maybe scientists truly have discovered a fruity miracle cure to obesity, but we just don’t have the conclusive science to back it up yet. Or perhaps it works because it’s the ultimate placebo.

If you’ve used HCA before, successfully or not, we’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below.

98 comments

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