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Healthy hour: Is this Indonesian superfruit the answer to weight loss?

First came quinoa, then came kale – and each time we jumped on the health/weight-loss bandwagon hoping for miraculous results. The latest is the powdered rind of the Indonesian-native fruit malabar tamarind, which is said to re-engineer your fat-burning abilities. We set out to investigate its superfood credentials…

What is it?
The malabar tamarind, or Garcinia cambogia, is a little pumpkin-shaped green and yellow fruit that grows in the forests of South East Asia. Traditionally, it is used in curries, chutneys and soups, and for pickling, for its sweet-sour taste that adds plenty of flavour and depth to savoury dishes. But it’s the chemical hydroxycitric acid (HCA) found in the rind of the fruit that has been turned into a ‘magical’ weight-loss pill, which proponents claim will decrease your appetite and prevent your body from storing fat. Firstly, it tricks you into feeling more satisfied after eating, rather than simply taking away your need to eat. HCA reacts with a certain amino acid that triggers the release of serotonin (the happy hormone), which will reportedly make you completely content with eating less. Secondly, HCA blocks the enzyme citrate lyase that helps turn sugar and starch into fat. In other words, it will assist in making carbohydrates more readily available to use as energy, thereby increasing weight loss.

Should we jump on board?
Although many arguments have been made for Garcinia cambogia, the opposing arguments raise some concern. Long-term use and the effects thereof is still unknown and there is no reliable research done on whether or not it is safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women to consume. Some tests on mice have shown Garcinia cambogia to be the cause of testicular atrophy as well as toxicity. And there’s even talk that it has to be taken with the right combination of vitamins and minerals in order to truly reap the benefits. With all of this in mind, do you still think it’s a good idea to reach for the bottle of pills to deal with your weight woes? It’s probably best to hold off.

Look at history
This isn’t the first ‘miracle’ weight-loss product we’ve seen on the market and it certainly won’t be the last. But society today has managed to convince us that outer beauty is all that matters, when in truth it is so much more than that. If you’re constantly searching for the next weight-loss solution and quick fixes, you’re neglecting a big part of your health (and causing yourself undue stress!). Looking after the physical is important, but the first step is to realise that physical changes won’t happen overnight. A combination of nutritious food, being active and practising mindfulness of your emotional and mental well-being will offer results far beyond your expectations. Skinny does not equal healthy. Healthy means taking proper care of yourself from the inside out – the rest will follow naturally.

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