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What is Hydroxycitric Acid (HCA) or Garcinia cambogia?

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There is a lot of buzz around the effectiveness of Hydroxycitric Acid, otherwise known as HCA for healthy weight loss in the health and fitness world both in America and the rest of the world. With a long history of use in Eastern cultures, since its appearance on the Dr Oz show, its international interest seems to have reached higher levels.

What is the big deal about this biochemical substance? Hydroxycitric Acid (HCA) is a major biochemical constituent found in Garcinia cambogia, a plant native to India and South East Asia. Also known commonly as Tamarind, this is an ingredient used as a spice in Asian and Indian cuisine. Tamarind has a very distinct sweet and sour taste that makes it an ideal flavour addition to many South Asian dishes.
HCA has been touted as a ‘’weight-loss’’ and ‘’appetite suppressant’’ and is now being used as a main ingredient in many supplements for those specific actions. Dozens of scientific journals have published articles showing the actual biochemical pathways that explain exactly how HCA works in the body in order to augment weight loss and the control of appetite.

Curbs Sugar Cravings

After a meal, the body works to break down the particles of food into their simplest useable form – Glucose. The glucose is then released into the blood stream that then tells the pancreas to release Insulin. The insulin then tells the glucose where to go, which is normally inside the cells.
Carrying excess weight, particularly around the stomach, results in an insulin imbalance. The result is that glucose levels to go a bit haywire, resulting in a feeling of hunger very quickly after eating. This leads to binge eating, often reaching for high sugar foods like junk food and candy, in order to satisfy that craving. This type of snacking leads to increased caloric intake that then leads to more weight gain, which inevitably leads to more sugar imbalances. A vicious cycle ensues.
Biochemical studies of HCA on glucose and insulin responses in the blood in rats were performed and results showed that consumption of HCA prior to a meal significantly reduced the rate at which glucose was released into the bloodstream. This actually slows down the whole glucose process, which allows you to feel fuller for longer, thereby curbing those sugar cravings.

Curbs Emotional Eating

Excess intake of calories is definitely a major factor in weight gain, but for many individuals, eating is not only just a physiological need to nourish their body, but has an emotional component as well. The brain has been shown to have ‘’reward’’ behaviour with high sugar and high fat foods through the release of certain neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin and opioids (“Feel Good Hormones”)
Studies on rats showed HCA had an effect on serotonin release, potentially making this reduce emotional eating, which has a huge impact on weight management.

Helps to Reduce Fat Production

When the body has an excess of glucose in the bloodstream, the natural response is to store the glucose in the form of fat. In fact, anything that is taken into the body in excess and not used in the form of energy (whether it be through exercise, growth or any other functions) gets stored as fat. The body is very efficient in this sense, although it is very unfortunate for those of us who tend to store a lot of fat around our abdomen, bum and thighs.

In some scientific articles, HCA was also shown to compete with the enzyme ATP Citrate Lyase, which is an essential component to the manufacturing of fatty acids in our bodies. Although Fatty Acids are used for many of our body’s essential processes, an excess of Fatty Acids gets stored as Fat. HCA has been shown to interrupt this production by competing with one of the enzymes in this reaction, which shows potential for HCA’s role in fat-loss.

Improves Blood Lipid Levels

A human study published in Diabetes Obesity and Metabolism showed significant reduction in BMI, cholesterol and lipoproteins in those dosed with HCA (alone and in combination with other blood glucose moderating plant products) which shows HCA’s potential as an anti-diabetic supplement. (Preuss HG, et al. 2004)

Is it Safe?

Fears of liver toxicity led to several animal and subequent human trials in order to ascertain whether HCA was deemed safe for consumption in weight-loss programmes.

Results of both animal and human trials showed no hepatotoxicity or endocrine changes with long-term intake, specifically to the sex hormones.

How Should I Take It?

Dosage is one of the most important factors when adding Garcinia cambogia supplements into your weight moderation regime. Depending on how much weight needs to be lost and what your current diet is, dosages range from about 300mg per day of Garcinia cambogia (at 50% HCA concentration per capsule) to 2000mg a day. Less than 300mg has been shown to have absolutely no beneficial effect on weight management, and it is recommended to start at the lower dosages at first and then work upwards towards 2000mg a day if there are no noticeable results in the lower range.

The Garcinia cambogia should be taken in separated doses about 30 minutes before a meal. For example, one can take between 300mg and 1000mg before breakfast and then the same amount before another meal within the day.

Garcinia cambogia is not a miracle cure – it should be used under the supervision of a knowledgeable and trained practitioner of medicine or an herbalist, especially if one is already on glucose regulating medication.

Weight loss and Diabetes management should always be in combination with healthy diet and lifestyle changes as well.

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