Garcinia cambogia is an herbal extract with from southeast Asia with purported properties that speed up metabalism and reduce appetite, making it one of the trendiest weight loss supplements.
As is often the case with obscure herbal supplements like forskolin, garcinia cambogia extract rocketed to fame after being featured on the Dr. Oz Show.
If you need some extra help losing weight, and you’ve done your homework on the positives and negatives, a garcinia cambogia supplement could be what you need to lose a few more pounds.
First, we’ll review and rank the best garcinia cambogia supplements on the market. Then, we’ll dive into how it works and how to take the supplement.
Starting with our #1 top choice:
1. VitaBalance Garcinia Cambogia Plus
Losing weight isn’t easy.
Keeping it off is even harder.
So why make it harder on yourself than you need to?
You can stop yo-yo dieting and recharge your energy levels while revving up your metabolism with VitaBalance Garcinia Cambogia Plus.
Garcinia cambogia is 95% hydroxycitric acid, which studies have shown to support weight loss, assist weight control, and prevent fat from forming in the first place. That’s probably why Georgetown University calls it “an exceptionally effective fat buster.”
There’s no better source for hydroxycitric acid than garcinia cambogia…
And no better way to enjoy its benefits than with VitaBalance Garcinia Cambogia Plus. This formula gives you 100% pure garcinia cambogia extract. The only other essential trace minerals in this formula are calcium, potassium, and chromium…
So you can experience the full potential of this powerful plant.
No harmful additives. No impurities. Manufactured in an FDA registered facility that adheres to GMP guidelines.
The all-around garcinia cambogia winner of 2019.
2. BioSchwarts Garcinia Cambogia
This is a great choice for quality and value. Often known as a reliable, high-quality brand, BioSchwartz provides 480 mg of pure HCA per capsule (800 mg of garcinia cambogia per capsule in total), and the only other ingredient is the cellulose-based, vegan-friendly capsule. Hard to argue with this level of purity.
Because of its simple, minimalist approach, Nutrigold Garcinia Cambogia Gold is an excellent choice for purity-conscious consumers.
3. DietWorks Garcinia Cambogia
The DietWorks Garcinia Cambogia supplement comes in a very large package, so it’s a good value buy in terms of cost per serving. It’s a fairly standard garcinia cambogia supplement, offering 500 mg of garcinia cambogia extract per capsule, of which 60% is hydroxycitric acid.
Notably, it does not contain chromium, and the only calcium and potassium it contains is bound up in the salt forms of hydroxycitric acid.
It’s a simple supplement, with only a cellulose-like polymer used to bind the ingredients into the capsule, plus rice flour and magnesium stearate and silica.
In terms of lab testing, it’s quite pure, offering within three percent of its label claimed amount of hydroxycitric acid.
DietWorks Garcinia Cambogia is a great choice if you’re looking for something simple that delivers what you want and nothing more. You get exactly what you want in exactly the amount you paid for.
4. Natrogix Garcinia Cambogia
Natrogix makes a garcinia cambogia supplement that contains exceptionally pure garcinia cambogia (95% HCA by weight), so each capsule provides nearly 700 mg of pure HCA.
There’s a solid amount of chromium amino acid chelate as well, which is thought to aid the function of HCA in your body. Notably, though, this HCA and chromium combination has not been evaluated inside the body for efficacy or safety.
5. NutriRise Garcinia Cambogia
This garcinia cambogia extract supplement is a high-powered capsule that provides 2000 mg of pure HCA per capsule.
If you are looking for a once-daily solution for garcinia cambogia, this is a good choice, though others may want to opt for a lower dose option if you are looking to follow research protocols that involve spacing out your garcinia cambogia intake into two or three capsules per day.
6. Potent Organics Garcinia Cambogia
Potent Organics is another product that doubles down on the highly pure HCA formulations: its 700 mg capsules contain 95% HCA, so it’s a quite highly refined garcinia cambogia source. It contains chromium, calcium, and potassium as well, and the capsule design is good but not great.
7. Swanson Super CitriMax
The name “CitriMax” might be confusing—it’s suggestive of citrus fruit, not garcinia cambogia. But CitriMax is really just a proprietary formulation of hydroxycitric acid, the main ingredient in garcinia cambogia extract.
Many garcinia cambogia supplements on the market, including Swanson Super CitriMax, use it to deliver the garcinia cambogia extract in an efficacious way.
The Swanson Super CitriMax formulation is a fairly high-powered dose of garcinia cambogia extract. The formulation includes 1500 mg of the Super CitriMax preparation, which includes 900 mg of pure hydroxycitric acid. That’s 60% HCA by weight, a fairly standard industry amount.
Lab testing, however, uncovered that the true HCA content is much higher. The lab-determined hydroxycitric acid concentration is almost 80%!
While this might mean you’re getting extra hydroxycitric acid for your money, it also means that Swanson isn’t very good at controlling the amount of each ingredient in the supplement, which could bode poorly for your success taking this supplement.
Outside of the active ingredients, the other constituents are pretty simple. Just a gelatin based capsule along with cellulose, magnesium stearate, and stearic acid as binders.
8. Quality Encapsulations Garcinia Cambogia
As the number one best seller among all fat burning and weight loss supplements on Amazon, Quality Encapsulations is certainly a popular choice. But how does its quality stack up? Its ingredient list is fairly typical, containing 500 mg of garcinia cambogia extract per capsule. Some 60% of this is hydroxycitric acid.
Like some of its competitors, a portion of the hydroxycitric acid is delivered as a chromium salt, as opposed to the typical calcium and potassium salts.
The usefulness of this is unclear—since chromium is not a cheap ingredient, the manufacturer certainly feels that it is an important and valuable addition to the formulation, but solid scientific evidence for its efficacy at enhancing garcinia cambogia’s weight loss effect is lacking.
The rest of the ingredients are aggressively simple. In fact, there’s only one! Just gelatin to make up the capsule. There are no binders, no fillers, and no extra ingredients.
Unfortunately, independent lab testing uncovered some significant problems with the quality of the garcinia cambogia extract in Quality Encapsulations’ supplement.
Though the label claims each capsule should consist of hydroxycitric acid as 60% of the garcinia cambogia content, lab testing determined that only 49% of the garcinia cambogia was actually HCA. This means you are getting less than you paid for, and hurts confidence in the supplement’s efficacy.
9. Nature Wise Garcinia Cambogia
The garcinia cambogia extract supplement offered by Nature Wise combines the standard hydroxycitric acid regimen with a few additional ingredients. Like a number of other garcinia cambogia competitors, Nature Wise chose to include a chromium salt alongside the garcinia cambogia.
In the case of this supplement, however, it appears that the chromium is actually a separate ingredient in the form of chromium picolinate. It’s unclear if this would have any major effect on the activity of the garcinia cambogia, assuming chromium even effectuates a change at all.
Nature Wise’s formulation also includes black pepper extract, which is also known as piperine. This extract has been investigated for its weight loss effects too, and is sometimes paired with Coenzyme Q10 (COQ10) supplements to increase energy levels.
In theory, this makes sense for weight loss: increase your energy levels and increase your metabolism, and you’ll burn off more energy. Again, however, the combination of garcinia cambogia and black pepper extract is untested, so you’re on your own if you venture into this territory.
Each capsule contains 400 mg of garcinia cambogia, and 60% of this is claimed to be hydroxycitric acid. Independent lab testing found that it actually contains more like 66% HCA; while this means you get slightly more HCA for your money’s worth, it also may indicate quality control problems in the manufacturing process.
10. Nature’s Design Garcinia Cambogia
The garcinia cambogia offering from Nature’s Design has a more commercial flavor to it. Not literally, of course, but in terms of marketing and contents—it doesn’t follow the standards of some of the more scientific garcinia cambogia extracts; it does not use a potassium or calcium salt to deliver the hydroxycitric acid, and although it contains chromium picolinate, it’s not in a very high dose (only 20 mg per capsule). Most other supplements contain more like 100 or 120 mg per capsule.
The garcinia cambogia extract is provided in the 95% concentrated form, like some of its competitors, but the absolute amount is fairly low, at 500 mg per capsule.
More standard formulations, even ones that are only 50% HCA by weight, provide the same amount of hydroxycitric acid in absolute terms (seeing as they provide more like 1000 mg of garcinia cambogia). For this reason, it appears that Nature’s Design is using a more expensive process (extraction and concentration) without much of a clear advantage.
Its other ingredients also indicate it’s not too concerned with pure and simplistic supplement design. It contains dicalcium phosphate to get the capsules to bind together more effectively, and silicon dioxide as an anti-caking agent.
Since other companies seem to be able to put out quality supplements without these additives, it makes you question whether other corners were cut too. Unfortunately, no independent lab testing is available to verify the contents of Nature’s Design Garcinia Cambogia extract.
Who should buy garcinia cambogia?
Garcinia cambogia has been tested in clinical research as a supplement for weight loss. So, in this sense, the target market for this supplement is pretty clear: people who want to lose weight, or maintain weight loss after completing a diet.
Since garcinia cambogia works using a number of different mechanisms, it seems like it would be effective in a wide variety of situations.
This is in contrast with a supplement like a carb blocker, which is only maximally effective when you are consuming a fairly high-carb diet.
So, garcinia cambogia, even though it produces modest amounts of weight loss, does appear to be a flexible weight loss supplement that works simultaneously through multiple different pathways.
How we ranked
We formulated our rankings of the top garcinia cambogia supplements by first aggregating all of the garcinia cambogia products currently available, then applying several exclusion criteria.
We focused only on products whose sole active ingredient was garcinia cambogia—multi-ingredient products are the focus of our weight loss pill rankings, but for garcinia cambogia, we wanted products that came as close as possible to the recommendations from scientific research.
After eliminating multi-ingredient products, we looked at the dose of garcinia cambogia. We specifically focused on the levels of hydroxycitric acid, or HCA—this is thought to be the primary active ingredient in garcinia cambogia that is responsible for its weight loss effects.
Additionally, clinical research often measures out dosage in terms of milligrams of HCA, so the levels per capsule were a primary review criteria. Dosages used in randomized controlled trials ranges from one gram daily to 1.8 grams daily, usually split into two to three equal doses per day (1).
To this end, we looked for garcinia cambogia supplements that provided between 400 and 900 mg of HCA per tablet or capsule.
We relied on data from independent laboratories for data to compare the advertised amount of HCA to the actual amount of HCA per tablet.
Neither too much nor too little HCA is a good thing; too little means you aren’t getting an adequate dose to achieve the results you want, and too much is liable to put you at a higher risk for side effects, which garcinia cambogia is known for.
After applying some final criteria regarding supplement design and purity, we finalized our list of the best garcinia cambogia products out there.
These products deliver a pure and high-quality dose, without unnecessary additives or other biologically active ingredients.
Garcinia cambogia first rose to prominence for fat-burning effects. There’s seemingly no end to the torrent of exotic plants, fruits, and vegetables that are claimed to hold the key to fast, safe, and effective weight loss.
Though a cynic might dismiss the constant parade of new weight loss supplements from these plants as a waste of time, it is admittedly the case that many drugs that are now mainstays of medical treatment were once exotic or little-known herbal extracts.
The short answer for garcinia cambogia: there is some evidence that it might help, but studies can’t prove it.
Interest in garcinia cambogia first arose after research in rodents appeared to demonstrate a fat-burning effect.
A 2003 study published by K. Hayamizu and other researchers at Kyushu University in Japan investigated the effect of a garcinia cambogia extract in mice who were fed an obesity-inducing diet (2).
Lab mice were fed a diet consisting of 10% pure sugar by weight, a standard procedure for inducing fat gain in lab animals (and one that many humans unwittingly replicate). Half the mice were given fed a 3.3% garcinia cambogia extract, while the other half were given no special supplementation.
Over the course of the four-week study, the mice fed garcinia cambogia did gain any less weight than those which were not, but they did have beneficial effects on glucose metabolism and levels of a hormone called leptin, which signals fullness.
Theoretically, if leptin levels are raised enough, you should feel full faster and eat less at meals.
Though leptin levels rose, the mice’s body weight did not change, which could be for any number of reasons—perhaps the study wasn’t long enough to effect a change, the change in leptin levels wasn’t of great enough of a magnitude to change appetite, or possibly the appetite lowering effects were countered by another effect of the garcinia cambogia extract.
Another more thorough study found that garcinia cambogia had a more direct anti-obesity effect. A 2013 study in the World Journal of Gastroenterology by researchers at Kyungpook National University in South Korea (2). Over the course of 16-week study, obesity-prone mice were fed a high-fat diet; half of the mice’s food had 1% garcinia cambogia extract by weight added to it.
At the study’s conclusion, neither group of mice differed with respect to their body weight or food consumption, but the mice fed garcinia cambogia extract did have less visceral fat (“belly fat“) than the mice on the standard diet.
Further, by analyzing the activity of enzymes inside fat cells, the researchers were able to determine that this was likely a direct result of an inhibition in the activity of a particular enzyme that is responsible for synthesizing fatty acids inside fat cells.
Clinical trials in humans suggests that garcinia cambogia is associated with a small but significant amount of weight loss. A systematic meta-analysis published in 2010 in the Journal of Obesity pooled the results of 12 separate randomized trials on using garcinia cambogia for weight loss (3).
This study was important because it was able to gain insights not possible from the smaller studies considered alone. The results showed that the weight loss effect was small but statistically significant when combining the results of all the studies.
However, the results were not significant when the authors only considered the statistically rigorous studies. After considering the results, the research team recommended larger and higher-quality studies into the potential benefits of garcinia cambogia for weight loss, but the initial results from studies in humans do show some promise.
In one study, researchers discovered that the mice fed garcinia cambogia extract showed increased fibrosis in their liver and signs of increased oxidative stress throughout their body. This raises concerns about the safety of garcinia cambogia extract in humans; if it causes liver damage, taking it could be a very bad idea.
The hepatoxicity of garcinia cambogia extract, or its potential to cause liver damage, was questioned by a later paper published by D.L. Clouatre and H.G. Preuss in the same scientific journal (4).
Clouatre and Preuss argued that garcinia cambogia extract has several studies that attest to its safety. Perhaps to no surprise, Clouatre and Preuss work for a supplement manufacturing company in Washington, which introduces some potential for bias.
Regardless, human trials of garcinia cambogia extract as a weight loss have been conducted. An experiment described in the Journal of the American Medical Association studied 135 overweight volunteers split into two groups (5).
Per standard protocol, one group was given a garcinia cambogia extract to take every day (1500 mg of hydroxycitric acid, the main ingredient in garcinia cambogia), while the other group was given a placebo.
After twelve weeks of treatment, which also incorporated a high fiber diet for all participants, the results showed that the garcinia cambogia extract had no effect on weight lost, percentage of body fat lost, or proportion of lost weight that was fat.
Both groups did lose weight to the tune of about seven to nine pounds, on average. This, however, was assuredly the result of the high fiber diet and not the garcinia cambogia extract.
A few other small trials of garcinia cambogia extract have been conducted, but some of the data are unpublished.
In a 2004 review article by Max H. Pittler and Edzard Ernst at the Universities of Exeter and Plymouth in the United Kingdom, the evidence for garcinia cambogia extract as a weight loss supplement was described as “not compelling” (6).
In the same meta-analysis discussed above, the authors of the review attempted to identify whether there was a relationship between the dosage of garcinia cambogia and the amount of weight lost.
They did so by plotting, for all twelve studies that they evaluated, the dosage of HCA per day against the average amount of weight lost by the participants in the experimental group.
While the amount of weight lost ranged from zero to up to about ten pounds, there was no significant trend in greater amounts of weight lost for greater per-day dosage of HCA. In fact, one study which used a fairly low dosage of 1.5 grams per day of HCA produced nearly exactly the same amount of weight lost as a study that used double the dose.
From these results, it seems that lower doses of garcinia cambogia generate the same amount of weight lost as larger doses. To this end, it seems smarter and safer to use a dose of 1.5 grams of HCA per day, split into two or three daily doses.
Increasing beyond this level does not appear to help, and might be harmful based on the side effect profile of garcinia cambogia.
Q: What is garcinia cambogia?
A: Garcinia cambogia comes from the fruit of a plant native to Indonesia. It’s an extract of the flesh or rind of this fruit, and is thought to work as a weight loss supplement thanks to its inclusion of the compound hydroxycitric acid, or HCA.
HCA is a popular but controversial molecule, due to some reports showing that it causes liver toxicity, and other reports showing that it’s a safe and effective weight loss supplement.
Q: Does garcinia cambogia really work?
A: Garcinia cambogia does appear to generate modest amounts of weight loss in randomized trials when compared to a placebo supplement.
Unlike in the marketing claims that you’ll see from some manufacturers of weight loss supplements, the amount of weight lost is pretty modest, and is typically less than ten pounds across an eight or 12 week period, compared to placebo.
However, it’s important to note that these studies all examine garcinia cambogia in isolation, not alongside dietary improvements and exercise.
Q: Is garcinia cambogia safe?
A: Garcinia cambogia has been studied in a number of small to medium-sized clinical trials with only minor side effects, but there are some concerning case reports related to liver toxicity.
One such report was published in 2016 in the World Journal of Gastroenterology (7), and detailed the case of a 34-year-old man who had been taking a garcinia cambogia supplement for the past five months who presented to a medical clinic with symptoms of liver failure.
Medical testing revealed that the man’s liver was failing, likely as a result of the presence of toxic compounds in the body.
Since the man was not a drug user, was not drinking alcohol, and was not taking any other supplements, the medical team indicated that this provided strong evidence that the garcinia cambogia supplement was the cause of the man’s liver injury.
Another case report had similar findings (8), and garcinia cambogia has been linked to serotonin toxicity as well (9). So, while it may be effective, there are definitely safety concerns about garcinia cambogia.
Q: How does garcinia cambogia create weight loss?
A: According to a scientific overview published in 2015, garcinia cambogia is able to create weight loss through three primary mechanisms (10).
The first is an increase in satiety (fullness) which leads to a decreased desire to eat more food. The actual mechanism of this change appears to have something to do with regulating serotonin levels, which are linked to your body’s appetite. So, in other words, garcinia cambogia acts as an appetite suppressant.
The second mechanism at play is an ability of garcinia cambogia to increase the oxidation of fat for energy, which means that this supplement shifts your body’s metabolism to a more beneficial set-point for fat loss.
Finally, garcinia cambogia decreases the rate of something called de novo lipogenesis, which literally means ‘new fat synthesis.’ Your body initiates this process when you eat a meal that’s rich in carbohydrates or sugar, and manufactures lipids (fat) to store in fat cells. Since garcinia cambogia reduces this process, it can help prevent additional weight gain as well.
Q: What effects does garcinia cambogia have on your liver?
A: From animal models, we know that garcinia cambogia affects liver function because it decreases your body’s rate of de novo lipogenesis, or new fat synthesis.
This happens primarily in your liver, and incidentally is also why obesity and a diet high in sugar or refined carbohydrates are associated with fatty liver disease.
So, given that garcinia cambogia reduces the synthesis of fat in the liver, it suggests that there is a biochemical interaction going on between the active ingredient in garcinia cambogia and your liver cells. There are concerns that hydroxycitric acid, or HCA, which is in garcinia cambogia, could be toxic to liver cells.
This is supported by research in mice, which has found that HCA helps with fat loss but also causes inflammation and scarring in the liver (11).
Case reports in people taking HCA-containing supplements have also noted serious liver problems that can occur, likely as a result of HCA.
Some articles argue that HCA is not toxic to the liver (12), and instead ascribe these case reports to improperly manufactured supplements (notably, one of the authors of this study is from a company that makes supplements that use HCA).
While the issue of liver toxicity is not yet fully settled, it’s clear that garcinia cambogia does not have the same level of safety that can be claimed by some other supplements, such as protein powders for weight loss or other compounds that are derived from natural and safe foods.
Q: What effects does garcinia cambogia have on your heart?
A: Unlike the liver, where there are several studies which have expressed concerns with the safety of garcinia cambogia, whether there are any negative effects of this supplement on heart health remains less well-examined.
One case report describes a patient who developed acute heart inflammation after taking a garcinia cambogia supplement for two weeks (14), but aside from this, there isn’t any research, even in animals, on what kind of mechanism might account for this kind of result.
Q: What is in garcinia cambogia?
A: Garcinia cambogia is a natural extract of the fruit of the garcinia gummi-gutta plant species. It produces a pumpkin-like fruit, and garcinia cambogia is extracted from the flesh or rind of this fruit.
The active ingredient is thought to be hydroxycitric acid, or HCA. In animal studies, HCA exerts weight loss effects by reducing appetite, inducing fullness (satiety), decreasing the synthesis of new fat, and increasing the oxidation of fat already in your fat cells. However, some research also suggests that HCA could damage your liver.
Q: How do you use garcinia cambogia for weight loss?
A: Most research on garcinia cambogia follows roughly the same protocol: people take a garcinia cambogia supplement two or three times per day, shooting for a total dosage of 1.5 to 3.0 grams of hydroxycitric acid total per day.
Meta-analytic research has found that taking a higher dose is not associated with a greater amount of weight loss, so doses of 1.5 grams of HCA total should be more than adequate to produce whatever weight loss effect you can get from garcinia cambogia.
The amount of weight loss is usually modest, with averages around five or six pounds across eight to 12 weeks being a typical amount of weight lost in the clinical research done so far.
Q: Does garcinia cambogia work well with apple cider vinegar for weight loss?
A: It’s difficult to say whether garcinia cambogia would combine well with apple cider vinegar: while these two supplements are both commonly used for weight loss, they have not been studied together in a scientific study.
Further, the actual mechanism behind how apple cider vinegar might produce weight loss is not known, so it’s difficult to infer whether it could be beneficial or detrimental to combine with garcinia cambogia.
The bottom line on garcinia cambogia extract is there is little evidence suggesting it helps weight loss.
None of the above studies found a direct fat loss effect due to garcinia cambogia.
Although it may have some minor effects when it comes to modulating the activity of enzymes inside fat cells and levels of leptin, the fullness hormone, neither of these changes have enough of an effect to actually induce any weight loss.
Further, the research showing chronic liver damage in mice fed garcinia cambogia extract is troubling—though these mice probably ate much more garcinia cambogia by body weight than most humans would, it is still cause for concern.
Overall, there are no guarantees that you will lose weight with garcinia cambogia, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not worth a try. Combine it with a healthy diet and regular exercise and you might end up surprising yourself.
For BodyNutrition‘s #1 garcinia cambogia recommendation, click here.