Known also as bridle berry and Malabar tamarind, hydroxycitric acid has been used traditionally in Indian and Thai cooking as a food flavoring and preservative. According to the American Physiological Society, it is also used within Indian folk medicine as a tea for its laxative properties, and as a treatment for rheumatism. According to WebMD, early studies conducted on mice found hydroxycitric acid to suppress the appetite and stimulate weight loss by slowing down fat-producing enzymes. However, controlled experiments using people have yielded conflicting results. WebMD suggests that Hydroxycitric acid’s effectiveness within mice may result from the comparatively higher doses, which have not been proven safe in humans. Nevertheless, hydroxycitric acid is readily marketed as a weight-loss facilitator.

Natural Food Sources

Hydroxycitric acid is the active ingredient contained within the rind of the garcinia cambogia fruit, whose tropical evergreen tree is indigenous to Southeast Asia, Africa and Australia. An orange fruit similar in appearance to a small pumpkin, its rind is commonly dried and used as a condiment. Information on garcinia cambogia, from states that it helps to lower cholesterol and is rich in vitamin C. It is also a source of Garcinol, an ingredient used traditionally to treat diarrhoea, gastric ulcers and dysentery.

Weight Loss Foods

Because of its purported ability to burn fat within the body and suppress the appetite, hydroxycitric acid is widely used as an ingredient in weight-loss foods, from snack bars to diet drinks. In fact, some popular companies such as Hydrocut and CitriMax use it as their “selling point,” making it a primary ingredient. However, concerns are being voiced over the exaggeration of hydroxycitric acid’s weight-loss properties and the potential health risks of associated weight loss products. In May 2009, a press release from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned consumers to stop using Hydrocut products, stating its connection to reported liver damage.

Side Effects

According to WebMD, tests on hydroxycitric acid itself have not revealed any associated side effects. It is structurally similar to citrate, a naturally occurring chemical within the body, as well as citric acid, found in citrus fruits such as oranges. However, websites such as recommend against its use by pregnant or lactating women. It also advises that garcinia cambogia be avoided by diabetes sufferers because of its ability to reduce blood sugar levels.