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The demand for fat burning pills seems to be growing, for obvious reasons. What seems to have been missed is the fact that the most sought after popular fat burner — Garcinia Indica — is available right in our backyards.
Popularly known as kokum in India, Garcinia Indica has been used for centuries in Asian countries for culinary purposes as a condiment and flavoring agent in place of tamarind and lemon. It’s used in juices, pickles and to add sourness to curries.
Kokum tree is predominantly grown in the tropical humid rainforests of Western Ghats in South India. The fruits are green when raw and red to dark purple when fully ripe. Kokum is widely used as a beverage and also has been used as a medicine in traditional Indian Ayurveda.
A myriad of health effects have been attributed to Garcinia, which range from anti-obesity effects, anti-inflammatory, anticancer to digestive benefits. The anti-obesity effects of Garcinia Indica come specifically from its hydroxycitric acid (HCA), and have been elucidated in several studies over the past few decades. However, there are controversial results regarding its efficacy and safety as an anti-obesity dietary supplement. Despite this, the market is flooded with a plethora of over-the-counter slimming aid containing Garcinia & HCA.
A typical reduction of food appetite is reported and increased availability of mood enhancing neuro-transmitter Serotonin has been observed in animal and human studies with Garcinia. Besides this effect, it helps to enhance fat oxidation, reduces the tendency to store fat and leptin resistance. In other words, it suppresses fatty acid synthesis, formation of fat cells, food intake and induces weight loss. While several studies report strong evidence, others show negative anti-obesity effects.
Besides weight loss, it is also found to be useful in treating obesity-related complications such as inflammation, oxidative stress and insulin resistance.
Kokum has been associated with several other nutritional and health benefits owing to its phytochemicals like anthocyanins and several other phenolic components. A recent animal study published in 2014 in the Journal of Biomedicine & Aging Pathology, reported that intake of Garcinia improved ulcers, owing to its underlying antioxidant activity.
Another useful component of kokum is Garcinol, which has been found to be neuro-protective, contributing to brain health and preventing Alzheimer’s.
Different parts of this plant, including its fruit, rind and seed, have different applications in food and medicine. Rind is typically used for food and in pharma industry, while the kokum seeds are used to prepare butter, which is often used in cosmetics and medicines.
While it is clear that kokum and various parts of the plant have a role to play in weight loss and obesity management, it must be emphasised that there is no miracle or magic about it. A carefully planned diet and exercise are key to obesity management. Fat burners, be it herbs, vitamins or minerals, can only be supportive and work as adjuncts. It will be wise to take any of these in its natural form as food. A glass of kokum juice is a cooling digestive beverage and certainly needs no prescription.
Author is a clinical nutritionist and founder of http://www.theweightmonitor.com and Whole Foods India