Weight loss wonders abound, but some prove more sinister than others. Here are the facts on the latest fat-loss craze, Garcinia Cambogia, and the healthier alternatives, writes Emma Bangay.
Cultivated in Indonesia, India and South East Asia, Garcinia Cambogia has long been used in dishes including curries and chutneys to create a ‘full feeling’ and eliminate overeating.
The rind of Garcinia Camogia contains hydroxy citric Acid (HCA) that some research claims suppresses the appetite by inhibiting a key enzyme the body requires to make fat. Without this key enzyme, the body doesn’t receive the same message to store fat or produce bad cholesterol.
No wonder buzz abounds, and with Dr Oz waxing lyrical about it a few years ago, sales have soared. But what works for weight maintenance in its native land, in the right dose, within healthy meals, does not translate to the western pill-form.
All the fancy packaging, jaw-dropping before and after shots and online claims aside, this healthy eating element is key, notes nutritionist, chef and author, Zoe Bingley-Pullin.
“On its own, a pill or herb doesn’t work for weight loss,” warns Zoe, who is also an ambassador for protein specialist IsoWhey, which has recently launched Garcinia & Green Coffee Bean – a dietary supplement containing hydroxycitric acid (HCA) from garcinia and green coffee bean extract. “But within a high quality weight loss product, you’re assured you are getting the healthy doses and benefits of the key herbs, as well as nutrients for additional metabolic support,” she adds. “Success is in using a well-rounded weight management formula as a balanced edition to a healthy diet – not a lone herb itself.”
With time, the taste of Garcina Cambogia has soured as reports of serious side effects - including liver damage and toxicity in mice - emerge. It has also come to light that many brands have failed independent and laboratory quality and quantity testing.
Many of the purported ‘successful’ studies involving Garcinia Cambogia have actually only been carried out on rats, and yes, they have been successful on some level but the human studies have not been so glowing with groups only showing weight loss when also placed on a low calorie, high fibre diet.
“I am yet to see anything on the market that I would consider recommending for weight loss,” Zoe says, adding that the adage of a consistency and complimentary dietary steps are the only answer to weight loss and wellbeing.
Zoe admits that there are supplements - such as whey protein - that can assist a balanced diet with essential minerals and vitamins - but nothing in pill form that has been shown to cater for a healthy weight loss and still maintain vital nutrients and minerals in the body.
“There may be something in the future that can do this, but not now,” notes Zoe, citing current studies into appetite hormones and the ways food can stimulate and support them.
The best way to lose weight wisely is by upping your vegetables and your vigor, she says. “None of this three times a week gym sessions. It’s about raising that heart rate every day for thirty minutes.” Aside from this, Zoe notes that naturally thermogenic foods – such as caffeine, green tea and chili - can boost the metabolism but consumers have to be aware that these foods may also be leaching key minerals from your system, even if they are natural. “You may be negating their benefits,” she says, adding that vitamins and minerals are an essential addition to any balanced diet.
“But,” admits Zoe, “even nutritionists like me don’t need to sit on our high horses and dictate healthy habits to people,” she says. “The fast, fat-burning option is always going to be alluring, so it’s about educating yourself on what you can do to save time and your health.”
“If you get to the point where you are looking for a quick fix, then make sure it is a healthy and smart one,” she adds. “Use technology to help, not hinder the process."
So, rather than sitting down to your computer to trawl for a weight-loss herb such as Garcinia Cambogia, “translate it into something positive like ordering fresh produce online rather than diet pills, or booking a free consultation with a nutritionist,” she says. Every step deserves congratulations, adds Zoe.
“Whether it is going from no vegetables in your diet, to frozen vegetables, then maybe eventually onto fresh vegetables, every step in the right direction is a good step and each one takes you 100% further than you were before,” says Zoe.