The garcinia gummi-gutta plant, sometimes also referred to by its previous scientific name of garcinia cambogia, is another in a long line of herbal extracts with purported weight loss effects.
It’s a tree native to Indonesia whose fruit has been used for a wide range of applications in southeast Asia.
As is often the case with unknown herbal supplements, 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 10 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:
Often known as a reliable, high-quality brand, Nutrigold’s Garcinia Cambogia supplement continues that reputation. This formulation is a “Citrimax”-based one, meaning its Garcinia Cambogia is prepared via a proprietary method that extracts the hydroxycitric acid and delivers it as a calcium and potassium salt.
Each capsule contains 500 mg of Garcinia Cambogia, of which 60% is hydroxycitric acid.
The other ingredients are good news for vegetarians and vegans, too: the capsule is made from plant cellulose, as opposed to animal derived gelatin. It also contains rice concentrate to fill the rest of the capsule and to deliver the Garcinia Cambogia extract in a more even, balanced manner.
Independent laboratory testing found that Nutrigold’s claimed amount of Garcinia Cambogia in each capsule was almost exactly its true amount—the lab-determined concentration of hydroxycitric acid was less than 1% off from the label-claimed amount.
Because of its simple, minimalist approach, Nutrigold Garcinia Cambogia Gold is also a very cost-effective supplement. Since there are very few ingredients other than the proprietary Garcinia Cambogia extract (Citrimax), this keeps costs down.
It’s a great choice for value and quality.
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.
This Garcinia Cambogia supplement is another top-seller online. Like the Felixis Labs supplement, it’s a high-powered formulation, with 95% of its Garcinia Cambogia extract delivered in the form of hydroxycitric acid.
Each capsule is a veritable HCA bomb, delivering 700 mg of Garcinia Cambogia extract each. The other ingredients are standard fare: calcium carbonate, potassium chloride, and chromium amino acid chelate. The other ingredients are similarly standard: a vegetable based capsule and a few stabilizers.
No independent lab testing is available to verify Pinnacle Nutrition’s contents. For this reason, it’s hard to compare and contrast with Felix Lab’s Garcinia Cambogia extract supplement, since they’re virtually identical otherwise.
For these reasons, they end up almost tied in the rankings. Pinnacle Nutrition comes out barely ahead simply by virtue of the fact that it is currently slightly cheaper than the Felixis Lab Garcinia Cambogia extract supplement, but that may change, as supplement prices often fluctuate.
This Garcinia Cambogia extract supplement is a high-powered capsule containing 700 mg of Garcinia Cambogia extract per pill. Further, fully 95% of the Garcinia Cambogia extract is hydroxycitric acid, so it delivers a much higher amount of the presumed active ingredient than some of its competitors.
Felixis Lab’s formulation also contains the standard potassium and calcium, as well as chromium in an amino acid chelate.
The high hydroxycitric acid content can only be achieved through concentrated extractions in a lab—raw Garcinia Cambogia contains only about 50-60% hydroxycitric acid by weight.
Scientific research on Garcinia Cambogia is about evenly divided between studies that use the raw Garcinia Cambogia extract and studies that purify and concentrate the Garcinia Cambogia, using only its main active ingredient, hydroxycitric acid.
If you want to go with a maximum-power Garcinia Cambogia supplement to see if it really works for you, this is a good choice. Do be aware that its effects might be stronger than a standard Garcinia Cambogia supplement, for better and for worse.
The capsule is based on vegetable cellulose instead of gelatin, and the only other ingredient is magnesium stearate as a stabilizer, so there’s no extra ingredients to water down the high-dose HCA.
As a top-seller on Amazon and an “Amazon’s Choice” designation, Naturabest’s Garcinia Cambogia formulation has quite the reputation to live up to. Each capsule contains 500 mg of Garcinia Cambogia extract, of which 50% is pure hydroxycitric acid or HCA—thought to be the active ingredient in Garcinia Cambogia extract.
Alongside the Garcinia Cambogia, each capsule also contains 25 milligrams of calcium, 25 mg of potassium, and 100 milligrams of chromium.
Although the manufacturer claims that these two minerals enhance the activity of the Garcinia Cambogia, helping you lose weight more effectively, there is scant scientific evidence to back this claim up.
Certainly there are other formulations that also include these ingredients, but the efficacy of the additional ingredients is questionable, especially considering the absolute quantities of potassium and calcium are very small—only a few percent of your recommended daily intake.
If you consumed pretty much any other food item within a few hours of taking the Garcinia Cambogia supplement, you’d almost surely get more calcium and potassium than contained in a capsule of Naturabest Garcinia Cambogia.
On the bright side, the inactive ingredient list is quite short. Only gelatin, cellulose, and magnesium stearate make up the rest of the constituents. The gelatin, of course, comprises the capsule itself, and the other two act as binding agents to help release the Garcinia Cambogia more effectively.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Though it’s a popular seller and seems fairly standard when it comes to ingredients, there are serious problems with Health Plus Prime Garcinia Cambogia. though it claims to provide a hefty 700 mg of Garcinia Cambogia extract complex per capsule, of which 80% is supposed to be hydroxycitric acid, independent lab testing says otherwise.
According to analytical tests, the actual hydroxycitric acid content is vastly lower—instead of each capsule containing 560 mg of hydroxycitric acid, it contains only 46 mg! This means that HCA accounts for only about 8% of the Garcinia Cambogia extract, calling into question the contents of the entire supplement.
One might reasonably ask, is there really any Garcinia Cambogia in this supplement at all? Given that even the raw extract of the Garcinia Cambogia fruit contains about 50% hydroxycitric acid by weight, even a bottom-shelf supplement should contain this much.
For now, stay away from this brand, until further testing determines what’s going on.
Part 2: What is garcinia cambogia and how does it work?
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 (like forskolin).
The short answer for garcinia cambogia: there is some evidence that it might help, but studies can’t prove it.
Lab animal research on garcinia cambogia extract
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 (1).
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 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.
Notably, the researchers also 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 (3).
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.
Studies in humans on garcinia cambogia‘s weight loss properties
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 (4).
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” (5).
Garcinia cambogia extract: little evidence so far
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.