Hydroxycut for Weight Loss

Supplement ingredients, potential benefits, and risks

Frustration with lack of weight loss results from diets and exercise programs is often the motivating factor for people to consider using supplements like Hydroxycut. The claims are you can lose almost 11 pounds in just 60 days combined with a low-calorie diet. If you add a moderate exercise program, you should be able to lose approximately 4 pounds in eight short weeks.

Hydroxycut has impressive marketing to sell their weight loss products. They claim to be the number one weight loss supplement brand for over 20 years. According to their website, more than 100 million bottles have been sold. Other statements include that Hydroxycut really works and is backed by science. The brand makes some amazing claims, but that doesn’t mean they are all valid.  

The supplement is sold online or easily purchased over-the-counter at drug or grocery stores. Before deciding to use Hydroxycut or any weight loss supplement, having an understanding of the product, ingredients, potential benefits, and risks are important. 

What is Hydroxycut?

Hydroxycut is a registered trademark brand representing many products marketed for weight loss. Each product has a different blend of ingredients. Most of the ingredients are advertised for weight loss, yet not backed by research showing true weight loss, according to Melissa Majumdar, MS, RD, CSOWM, LDN, CPT, and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Media Spokesperson.

Most supplements, including Hydroxycut, contain herbal and proprietary blends for enhanced weight loss. "Proprietary blends" is a fancy way to market combined ingredients for better results, but not entirely accurate. If a label contains a proprietary blend, that means the company doesn’t have to break down the specific amount of each ingredient. So, you really don’t know what you’re getting with these combination weight loss products.

Research has been conducted on a few individual ingredients like caffeine showing a possible benefit for weight loss. In fact, studies indicate most ingredients work better individually and not combined in a proprietary blend where the dose remains unknown. If you are considering Hydroxycut, keep in mind not all individual ingredients have been researched for weight loss effectiveness.

Hydroxycut promotes several types of weight loss products including premium, organic, non-stimulant, and sports enhancement. They are also available in pills, capsules, shakes, and even chewable gummies. There appears to be a special Hydroxycut blend for everyone, but does it work and is it safe?

How Does it Work?

Hydroxycut claims it can help people lose 4.5 times as much weight than diet and exercise alone. The brand indicates that key weight loss ingredients including a coffee extract called C. canephora robusta help achieve these results. 

The primary active ingredient in Hydroxycut is caffeine. While caffeine is known to increase resting metabolic rate by 7–15 percent over four hours, this may or may not contribute to weight loss, according to Majumdar. 

Some people are also sensitive to caffeine and experience jitteriness, anxiety, nausea, and insomnia. Those who consume caffeine on a regular basis can build a tolerance to the ingredient and experience no benefit.

Another active ingredient in Hydroxycut is garcinia cambogia, a plant extract containing hydroxycitric acid (HCA). Although research has been conducted on potential benefits HCA may have on appetite, it has not been shown to help with weight loss, says Majumdar. 

Does it Work?

There are no human studies showing the effectiveness of Hydroxycut, according to Majumdar.

The Hydroxycut website mentions a small research study on coffee extract, one of the individual ingredients in their product, and the potential effect on weight loss. The study included 50 individuals who did lose weight using coffee extract on a bland low-calorie diet. However, this study is yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal.

The Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) indicates that garcinia cambogia has little to no effect on body weight and has some safety concerns, according to Majumdar.

The bottom line is more studies are needed to show the effectiveness and safety of the individual ingredients listed in Hydroxycut for weight loss.

Ingredients 

Hydroxycut produces a number of weight loss supplements with varying ingredients, says Majumdar. Most of them do contain caffeine, herbs, and other proprietary blends.

Although caffeine is considered the main active ingredient, the following list includes other ingredients found in Hydroxycut:

  • Caffeine
  • Chromium
  • Potassium
  • Magnesium
  • Garcinia cambogia
  • Gymnema sylvestre extract (leaf)
  • Phosphatidylserine-enriched soy lecithin
  • Yohimbine
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Hydroxy tea, (green tea extract, white tea extract, oolong tea extract, ginger extract, raspberry ketone, quercetin dihydrate)
  • Lady’s mantle leaf extract (Alchemilla vulgaris)
  • Olive leaf extract (Olea europaea)
  • Komijn (Cumin seed) extract (Cuminum cyminum)
  • Mint leaf extract (Mentha longifolia)
  • Acerola fruit concentrate
  • Goji fruit extract
  • Blueberry fruit extract
  • Pomegranate fruit and seed extract
  • Bilberry fruit extract

Hydroxycut, taken in daily amounts recommended by the label, contains 600 milligrams of caffeine. The U.S. daily average recommended intake for caffeine is 168–280 milligrams, says Majumdar. 

Hydroxycut was originally formulated using ephedra as a key ingredient. Ephedra is a powerful stimulant and was banned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2004 because it caused serious side effects. The product had to be reformulated before being placed back on the market as a weight loss supplement.

Is It Safe?

Supplements including Hydroxycut are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, there are times when the FDA gets involved with reviewing supplements if public health issues are a concern. Several supplements, including Hydroxycut, were indicated in serious health cases, including a few deaths.

Hydroxycut was voluntarily recalled from the market in May 2009 due to hepatic toxicity (liver poisoning). Hydroxycut was subsequently reformulated and remarketed, says Majumdar. 

What We Know

Hydroxycut is not a safe supplement at this time. It has been indicated as a contributing factor in several health conditions including rhabdomyolysis, hepatic toxicity, seizures, cardiovascular issues, and more. At this time, it’s not well understood which of the Hydroxycut ingredients are problematic and if there is a dose-response effect to Hydroxycut.

Garcinia cambogia was indicated by ODS to be associated with negative side effects including a headache, nausea, upper respiratory tract symptoms, gastrointestinal symptoms, mania, and liver damage, according to Majumdar.

A case report published in Hospital Pharmacy indicated an 18-year-old female with no significant past medical history presented with life-threatening ventricular arrhythmia (abnormal heartbeat) following about 10 days of use of Hydroxycut Gummies.

The Journal of Medical Case Reports published a case involving a 65-year-old woman who developed reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome (RCVS) two weeks after beginning to take the weight-loss supplement Hydroxycut. RCVS is a syndrome characterized by narrowing of the cerebral arteries causing severe headache and neurologic problems.

A case was published in the Journal of Military Medicine where three U.S. Army soldiers developed exertional rhabdomyolysis after using Hydroxycut. Exertional or exercise-induced rhabdomyolysis is the breakdown of muscle from extreme physical exertion. It appears the soldiers were taking extremely high doses of caffeine and stimulant blends contained in Hydroxycut, which was indicated as a contributing factor to their diagnosis. 

In general, determining the safety of supplements is difficult because they are not regulated by the FDA like food and drugs. That means the safety and quality of the supplement are not regulated, nor are the ingredients checked for consistency with the supplements facts label, says Majumdar. 

Should I Take Hydroxycut?

Majumdar highly recommends against using Hydroxycut.

Along with changes in nutrition, physical activity, and behavior modification, people can lose weight without taking supplements. Sometimes guidance from clinicians like registered dietitians (RD) is recommended.

Some RDs have advanced training and experience specializing in weight loss. Registered dietitians credentialed as a Certified Specialist in Obesity and Weight Management (CSOWM) may be a consideration if you are struggling with weight loss, suggests Majumdar.

Depending on their weight and co-morbidities, some people may also qualify for FDA approved weight loss medication, says Majumdar. These would be prescribed by a physician specializing in weight loss and may include:

  • Orlistat (Xenical, Alli)
  • Lorcaserin (Belviq)
  • Phentermine-topiramate (Qsymia)
  • Naltrexone-bupropion (Contrave)
  • Liraglutide (Saxenda)

A Word From Verywell

Hydroxycut is a popular weight loss supplement but not necessarily the best option for your health. According to weight management experts, there are better ways to lose weight than taking supplements. Learning how to eat better, exercise, and changing your lifestyle are safe and effective methods of losing weight. You may want to consider getting help from a clinician or registered dietitian specializing in weight loss. Losing weight is a great goal but doing it the right way and staying healthy through the process is recommended. 

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Article Sources
  • Drayton A. Hammond, PharmD, MBA, BCPS et al. Ventricular Tachycardia Precipitated by the Use of the Diet Supplement Hydroxycut Gummies. Hospital Pharmacy Journal, 2015. DOI: 10.1310/hpj5007-615.

  • Food and Drug Administration. Liver toxicity following consumption of dietary supplement. Hydroxycut, Health Hazard Evaluation Board, 2009.

  • Gregory L Cvetanovich et al. Reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome in a patient taking citalopram and Hydroxycut: a case report. Journal of Medical Case Reports, 2011. DOI: 10.1186/1752-1947-5-548.

  • Melinda L. Carol. Hydroxycut Weight Loss Dietary Supplements: A Contributing Factor in the Development of Exertional Rhabdomyolysis in Three U.S. Army Soldiers. Military Medicine, Volume 178, Issue 9, 2013. DOI: 10.7205/MILMED-D-13-00133.

  • Tse-Ling Fong MD et al. Hepatotoxicity Due to Hydroxycut: A Case Series, The American Journal of Gastroenterology, 2010. DOI: 10.1038/ajg.2010.5.