HCA

(Hydroxycitric Acid)

Nonessential Micronutrient

OVERVIEW

Summary

Although the debate regarding the potential benefits of HCA is ongoing, that doesn’t mean we have to ignore its documented potential to help block the conversion to and storage of fat — leading to accumulation — or its influence on appetite suppression. These effects may make HCA a worthwhile choice as a natural weight-loss aid.

Other names for HCA

hydroxycitric acid, hydroxycitrate, Garcinia cambogia, Citrin™, Citrimax™

Where to find HCA

HCA is extracted from the rind of the fruit Garcinia cambogia (also called brindle berry or Malabar tamarind), which is found in the tropical jungles of Asia.

PERFORMANCE BENEFITS

Why athletes use HCA

Active individuals use HCA to both support fat loss and increase energy levels and because, unlike many other weight-loss or stimulant products, HCA doesn’t cause negative side effects, such as the jitters. But that doesn’t mean it’s a miracle worker. In fact, claims for how (and even if) it works are still hotly debated. Critics profess that further studies need to be conducted on humans, while proponents of this “fat-loss” aid stand by their animal research. So, the jury is still out on this one, but it might be worth a try regardless.

Ways that HCA can enhance Fat Loss:
  • Suppress fatty acid mobilization, blocking the conversion of carbohydrates to fat, resulting in less fat storage
  • Support weight loss as a natural appetite suppressant, reducing the urge to overeat

HEALTH BENEFITS


Signs of HCA deficiency

No deficiency conditions are known to exist.

Potential uses for HCA

Research indicates that HCA may be useful in the treatment of:

  • Obesity
  • Diabetes

DISCUSSION


More about HCA

HCA is found throughout Southeast Asia in a fruit called Garcinia cambogia, which has been used for centuries by Ayurvedic healers as a natural appetite suppressant and digestive aid. Later, it was used as a food preservative and flavoring agent in India. But, it’s only recently become known for its potential ability to slow fat storage in the human body.

What does it do?

When we eat food (calories), whatever is not used as energy, we store in our livers and muscle tissue as glycogen — this is why it’s oftentimes called “stored energy.” Once these glycogen stores are filled though, the excess calories are converted to fat, leaving us faced with the all-too-common battle of the bulge. HCA may help because it appears to block the conversion of “unused” food to fat and therefore may limit that undesirable fat accumulation. It has even been shown to help suppress the appetite, which is another bonus for those looking to lose weight.

Researchers believe HCA works by inhibiting an enzyme called ATP-citrate lyase, which is partly responsible for fat production from carbohydrates. When this happens, more carbohydrate calories can be stored as glycogen, which can then be used for energy production, and less carbohydrate calories are converted to fat for storage.

What’s more, HCA may help stop our brains from telling our stomachs it’s time to eat, so we don’t consume as many calories. In fact, studies have shown HCA may help reduce calorie intake by as much as 10% by suppressing the appetite and therefore causing less of an “urge” to eat as much as normal.

In conclusion

Claims for both these mechanisms are still highly debatable. Critics profess that further studies need to be conducted on humans to support them, while proponents of this “fat-loss” aid stand by their (animal) research as full support. One could conclude that if it “works” in animals, it would then work in humans (though no one has yet convinced the opposing scientific community of this). Until then, the jury is still out on this one, but it might be worth a try regardless.

NOTES ON USAGE

Amount
  • The suggested amounts range from 1,500 to 3,000 mg per day, divided in 3 doses.
  • Studies typically use 1,500 mg (as hydroxycitric acid or HCA), divided in 3 doses throughout the day.
Timing

HCA should be taken about 30 minutes before meals and should not be consumed with high-fiber supplements or meals because this may reduce its effectiveness.

Tip

Check the actual milligrams of hydroxycitric acid (HCA) on the label if using a standardized extract form of Garcincia cambogia. It should contain at least 50% extract (e.g., a 50% extract of 500 mg Garcincia cambogia would yield approximately 250 mg of HCA).

Synergists of HCA

Chromium may enhance the positive effects of HCA.

HCA is typically used in thermogenic formulas or weight-loss aids, combining such ingredients as caffeine, Citrus aurantium, and carnitine.

Safety of HCA

If you are pregnant or lactating, HCA is not recommended.

Those with Alzheimer’s disease should avoid it as well.

Toxicity of HCA

No known toxicity.

Bans and restrictions

None reported.

RELATED RESEARCH

  • Conte, A.A., “The Effects of (-)-Hydroxycitrate and Chromium (GTF) on Obesity,” J Am Coll Nutr 13 (1994) : 535.
  • Heymsfield, S.B., et al., “Garcinia cambogia (Hydroxycitric Acid) as a Potential Antiobesity Agent: A Randomized Controlled Trial,” JAMA 280.18 (1998) :1596-600.
  • Sullivan, A.C., et al., “Reactivity and Inhibitor Potential of Hydroxycitrate Isomers with Citrate Synthase, Citrate Lyase, and ATP Citrate Lyase,” J Biol Chem 252.21 (1977) : 7583-90.