One of my patients came to see me the other day, Denise. She has about 40 pounds that she is desperate to lose. She also is a big fan of a certain TV personality who has lots of advice on dietary and weight loss supplements.
Denise asked me about two supplements mentioned in recent shows: 5-HTP and Garcinia cambogia. She isn’t the first one to ask, so I thought I’d look into it.
5-HTP, also called 5-hydroxytryptophan, is an amino acid produced from tryptophan. It is a precursor in the production of serotonin. Oral supplements of 5-HTP will cross the blood-brain barrier, whereas serotonin will not.
Small, short scientific studies suggest that 5-HTP is effective for modest weight loss (the longest study I saw was 12 weeks and participants lost an average of 5% of their body weight). It appears to decrease appetite and help people feel full more quickly when eating.
5-HTP also seems to be helpful in the treatment of depression, anxiety, migraine and fibromyalgia.
For weight loss, 5-HTP is usually dosed 300 mg 3x daily. However, 5-HTP does interact with several medications. You should check with your doctor for specific advice whether 5-HTP is safe for you to use.
The other supplement, Garcinia cambogia, is produced from the rind of the fruit of a plant grown in Indonesia. The active ingredient is hydroxycitric acid (HCA).
Studies are mixed for the effects of Garcinia cambogia on weight loss. I found no large, well-designed studies that show consistent efficacy for weight loss, in spite of all the hype. The best evidence is for a modest effect (8.2 lbs lost vs. 5.3 lbs on placebo in over 12 weeks).
The most concerning problem with Garcinia cambogia supplements, however, is the lack of quality. ConsumerLab.com tested 13 commercially available products and found that 7 of them did not pass the tests. One product had only 14% of the claimed amount!
(This is why I subscribe to the ConsumerLab.com website. They are one of the only third-party supplement testing companies that is NOT supported by the companies whose products they test.)
Many patients struggling with obesity are desperate to do anything they can to make the weight come off. The problem is that supplements have risks, which are not well understood, and companies eager to make money by selling popular supplements are not always scrupulous about quality testing on their products.
I am blessed to work with one of the finest and most ethical supplement companies in the world. Please check here to find out more.