Hydroxycitric acid (HCA), as its name suggests, is a natural derivative of citric acid. It can be found in the rind of fruits such as Malabar Tamarinds and some species of the Garcinia genus native to South India and Southeast Asia.
The rind of fruit containing hydroxycitric acid has been sprinkled onto food in Asia for centuries. It gives a distinctive and tasty sweet and flavour, and natives report that doing so increases meal satience (i.e. to make food more filling and satisfying) (Sergio, 1988). This traditional property of HCA makes it very attractive for weight loss, as an appetite suppressant as it may make you feel fuller. Consequently, research has been conducted into the efficacy of HCA as a dietary supplement for fat and weight loss. It has been shown that HCA is effective as an appetite suppressant and as a weight loss aid (Preuss et al, 2004). The results of another study were quite interesting, as it showed that despite HCA showing no effect on satiety, supplementation provided significant improvements in weight loss compared to a placebo (Mattes & Bormann, 2000).
This brings us to the other mechanisms of action for HCA. Research suggests that HCA triggers safe weight-loss. In the case of athletes and bodybuilders, HCA increases the breakdown of fats and may improve the synthesis of acetycholine, a neurotransmitter responsible for muscular contraction. Increases in acetycholine synthesis improve athletic performance by increasing endurance. When used in conjunction with pyruvate and carnitine, HCA may be even more effective at promoting fat loss. Hydroxycitric acid is unique in that it has been shown to stimulate weight loss without stimulus to the central nervous system. Research indicates that HCA can offer immune system protection.
For the above reasons, HCA is a popular ingredient in commercial weight and fat loss preparations such as fat loss protein powders and protein powders for women. Look for supplements with HCA combined with pyruvate and carnitine for added effectiveness.
HCA supplementation has been used safety for centuries in everyday Asian dishes. Studies have shown that HCA is a safe supplement (Ohia et al, 2002). Consequently, anyone can benefit from the use of HCA without fear of side effects.
Mattes & Bormann (2000), Effects of (-)-hydroxycitric acid on appetitive variables. Physiology & Behaviour. 71: 87-94
Onakpoya et al (2011), The Use of Garcinia Extract (Hydroxycitric Acid) as a Weight loss Supplement: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomised Clinical Trials. Journal of Obesity, 2011 (online)
Ohia et al (2002), Safety and mechanism of appetite suppression by a novel hydroxycitric acid extract (HCA-SX). Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry, 238. 89-103.
Preuss et al (2004), Effects of a natural extract of (–)-hydroxycitric acid (HCA-SX ) and a combination of HCA-SX plus niacin-bound chromium and Gymnema sylvestre extract on weight loss. Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, 6: 171–180
Sergio (1988), A Natural Food, The Malabar Tamarind, May Be Effective in the Treatment of Obesity. Medical Hypothesis, 27: 39-40