Caralluma fimbriata, a cactus that grows in India, has been eaten as a vegetable for centuries. Because it has also been used traditionally to suppress hunger and increase stamina, it is sometimes referred to as “famine food.”
The 12-week study included 33 people who were either overweight or obese. Each was given guidance on how to reduce their caloric intake to a level that was 500 calories lower than the amount recommended to maintain a normal weight for their height. They participated in regular exercise, attended weekly support sessions, and were randomly assigned to receive either 500 mg of Caralluma fimbriata twice daily or a placebo.
Food diaries showed that both groups ate approximately the same amount of calories and lost the same amount of weight (about 5.25 pounds) during the study; however, people in the caralluma group experienced some extra positive changes:
Together these findings suggest that the caralluma group lost more abdominal fat than the placebo group. Increased abdominal fat is part of a condition known as metabolic syndrome and is closely associated with cardiovascular disease. The caralluma group also had less desire to eat, as measured by surveys done during the study, than the placebo group. Whether the herb’s effect on appetite might support long-term dieting and weight loss could not be determined from this study.
“The decline in waist circumference following Caralluma fimbriata supplementation is vital as it implicates the potential role of this plant extract in the treatment of central obesity and the prevention of metabolic syndrome and other lifestyle related diseases,” the study’s authors said.
While these findings add support for use of Caralluma fimbriata as a dieting aid, it is important to bear in mind that inaccurate marketing, sometimes to the point of deception, is common in weight loss products. If you decide to talk to your doctor about adding a caralluma extract to your weight loss program, here is some advice:
(Complement Ther Med 2013;21:180–9)