Hydroxycut is one of the most popular weight loss supplements in the U.S., selling over 100 million bottles.
In this article we’ll review the ingredients in some of Hydroxycut’s most popular products based on medical research to give our take on whether this product is safe and likely to be effective for weight loss. We’ll also highlight some concerning side effects found in research studies.
Is Hydroxycut Toxic to the Liver?
There is a concerning amount of research on acute liver injury associated with Hydroxycut use. A medical review from 2008 highlighted two case reports of patients who developed hepatitis shortly after taking Hydroxycut. Hepatitis is a serious medical condition where the liver becomes inflamed, and can lead to death if not treated appropriately.
The review authors couldn’t definitively conclude that the hepatitis was caused by Hydroxycut, because the patients could have just happened to get sick right after taking it, but the authors described Hydroxycut supplementation in both cases "as the most likely etiology for acute liver injury."
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which regulates supplements in the U.S. published a Health Hazard Evaluation of Hydroxycut, concluding that “it is very likely that exposure to Hydroxycut can cause idiosyncratic hepatotoxicity”. In layman’s terms, that means that the supplement can harm the liver.
A more recent case report from a medical journal detailed a 22 year old woman who experienced acute liver injury due to Hydroxycut use. The patient was successfully treated and discharged, but the study authors noted the risks of Hydroxycut use, and even described the standard symptom duration of what they called “Hydroxycut-induced liver injury”, meaning there’s a medical standard for these side effects which is concerning.
Hydroxycut has been used millions of times, and we're not suggesting that liver injury is likely or common with Hydroxycut use. However we do consider these side effects are concerning even if they're unlikely.
Does Hydroxycut Work?
In this section we will review the ingredients in Hydroxycut Original (formerly called "Hydroxycut Pro Clinical"), which is the brand's most popular product, and give our take on whether or not the supplement is likely to be effective for weight loss.
The first section of the formulation, shown above, is just a vitamin blend containing vitamins like Vitamin B12 and Riboflavin (Vitamin B2). We have not come across any medical research suggesting that vitamin supplementation is effective for weight loss, nor does Hydroxycut appear to share or cite any on their website, so we will consider these ingredients ineffective.
The rest of the formulation, shown above, is a proprietary (prop) blend totalling 604 milligrams (mg), with three main active ingredients: robusta coffee extract, apple cider vinegar, and 204 mg of a different type of robusta coffee extract.
Robusta coffee extract may be effective for weight loss. A medical review published in the Gastroenterology Research and Practice journal analyzed data from three clinical trials on robusta coffee extract and weight loss, and concluded that there was a small but statistically significant weight loss effect.
A more recent review also found coffee extract to be effective for weight loss, and this review examined results from 16 clinical trials. Many of the trials used dosages lower than the 404 mg combined dosage of coffee extract in Hydroxycut Original, so we will consider this ingredient likely effective for weight loss.
We haven’t come across any medical studies suggesting that apple cider vinegar at a 100 mg dose causes weight loss. This is a very low dose, 5x lower than Goli gummies which we already reviewed and concluded to be underdosed and ineffective.
A 2009 clinical trial found that apple cider vinegar reduced body weight, but the minimally-effective dose found in that trial was 15 milliliters (mL) of apple cider vinegar, which equates to around 15,000 mg, or 150x the amount in Hydroxycut. We'll consider this ingredient ineffective in Hydroxycut based on its dosage.
The remaining three ingredients in this prop blend are plum, baobab extract and cardamom. These ingredients only total 100 mg, or 33 mg per ingredient on average, which is a very low dose. These dosages are so low that we will consider them entirely ineffective.
To illustrate how low of a dose 33 mg is for a botanical ingredient like baobab extract, a clinical trial on baobab extract tested its effects on blood sugar response. They used what the researches described as a “low dose” of 18.5 grams (g), which equals 18,500 mg. This means there is over 500 times more baobab used in this “low dose” study than there likely is in Hydroxycut.
It concerns us that Hydroxycut does not appear to publish the inactive ingredients on their Supplement Facts label, because supplements can contain potentially-harmful inactive ingredients like artificial dye and artificial sweetener. Perhaps Hydroxycut Original has no inactive ingredients, but it's a capsule product so one would figure that at the very least there would be a capsule ingredient. We urge Hydroxycut to publish the inactive ingredients on their Supplement Facts label or clarify if they use no inactive ingredients in this formulation.
Overall we consider Hydroxycut Original relatively likely to be effective for weight loss due to the effectively-dosed coffee extract. This is the only ingredient in their formulation we consider to be effectively dosed.
We would not recommend this supplement due to the added vitamins, and due to our questions over inactive ingredient publishing. We disagree with the practice of supplement manufacturers adding vitamin blends to their weight loss products, because we haven't seen any evidence that this is effective, and because this may push the vitamin levels of consumers with already-healthy blood levels of vitamins into unsafe ranges.
We also want to see more long-term data on the safety of coffee extract. There have been short-term studies proving its safety at doses higher than that in Hydroxycut, but given that consumers may use this supplement for years at a time, we would need to see longer-term safety data on this ingredient prior to recommending it.
Hydroxycut Gummies Review
Hydroxycut also sells a gummy product with a similar formulation to Hydroxycut Original.
The majority of ingredients in this formulation comprise an even larger blend of vitamins and minerals than the previous product we reviewed. We consider all of these ingredients to be ineffective for weight loss, and the brand does not share any medical research on their Hydroxycut Gummies product page proving that any of these vitamins or minerals are effective for weight loss.
The only active botanical ingredient in this product is the robusta coffee extract at a lower total dosage than in Hydroxycut Original. We still consider this to be an effective weight loss ingredient at the 200 mg dosage.
There is no inactive ingredients list again for this product, like with Hydroxycut Original, and we find that to be highly questionable. None of the ingredients listed as active ingredients are gelatinous or could form a gummy base, and the brand previously published an inactive ingredients list on their website with the additives shown below:
The original ingredient list contained several inactive ingredients we recommend avoiding for health reasons, including corn syrup, sugar, citric acid and natural flavor. We do not understand how Hydroxycut could achieve a gummy formulation without all of these ingredients, and if the brand simply removed these ingredients from the label that would be extremely unethical.
We urge Hydroxycut to clarify the status of the Other Ingredients for their gummy formulation, and to re-publish these ingredients to their website if they still exist in the formulation.
Hydroxycut Gummies may be effective for weight loss due to the coffee extract, but we consider this to be a worse formulation than Hydroxycut Original due to the increased number of vitamin and mineral additives, and due to the questions over potentially unhealthy inactive ingredients such as corn syrup. We do not recommend this product.
Hydroxycut Hardcore Review
Hydroxycut sells a supplement called Hardcore which is more potent than their other formulations.
This formulation contains 265 mg of caffeine, which is an effective weight loss ingredient. A medical review published in the Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition journal analyzed data from 13 clinical trials with 606 total participants, and found that caffeine supplementation caused weight loss. The majority of studies used dosages lower than in Hydroxycut Hardcore.
265 mg of caffeine is a relatively high dose, and Hydroxycut suggests taking these capsules twice per day on day 4 and beyond, which would equal a total caffeine dose of 530 mg, which is equivalent to more than 5 cups of coffee.
We strongly advise patients to speak with their doctor prior to taking a caffeine dose this high. While it may be effective for weight loss, this caffeine dose can increase blood pressure significantly and may be inadvisable for patients with high blood pressure or anxiety.
This supplement also contains green coffee extract at a previously-assessed effective dose for weight loss, and a blend of amino acids such as l-tyrosine and l-methionine at relatively low doses. Amino acids are typically supplemented at doses greater than 1,000 mg, and the average dose per ingredient in the "D-Norepidrol Blend" is only 32 mg. We will consider all of the ingredients in this blend ineffective.
Hydroxycut Hardcore also contains yohimbe extract at a dose of 50 mg. This appears to be an effective dose for weight loss. A clinical trial documented that patients taking yohimbe capsules experienced significant body fat loss. Percentage body fat decreased by over 2% in only 21 days in the yohimbe group.
While it may be effective for weight loss, we do not recommend yohimbe extract supplementation until more safety data emerges. A medical review documented that yohimbe side effects are typically more severe than side effects from average drug ingredients, and the study authors concluded the following: "A reexamination of whether yohimbine should be considered a 'safe' dietary supplement under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act is warranted."
Like with the other Hydroxycut products, no inactive ingredient list is published on the Supplement Facts label. The images of this product show the capsule to be red, and we do not know how that could be achieved without colorant ingredients added.
Hydroxycut Hardcore is definitely the most potent Hydroxycut formulation, and we do believe it's likely to be effective for weight loss. We strongly recommend avoiding this product, or only using it with a doctor's approval, given the potency of some of the ingredients. We believe that the potential safety concerns outweigh any benefit.
Hydroxycut Side Effects
Other than the rare but significant adverse effects on the liver that we outlined earlier in the article, Hydroxycut may cause side effects due to its stimulatory ingredients.
Caffeine can cause or exacerbate anxiety and increase blood pressure and heart rate. Hydroxycut Hardcore contains other stimulatory ingredients such as yohimbe extract which may also cause similar side effects.
We believe that the risk of side effects is higher with Hydroxycut Hardcore than the other Hydroxycut products reviewed in this article, due to its potency and high caffeine dose.
We find the page on Hydroxycut's site titled “Is Hydroxycut Safe?,” which concludes that the product is safe to use by healthy adults, to be questionable.
Several of the patients who experienced liver injury due to Hydroxycut use were previously healthy as detailed in the FDA report.
Our Weight Loss Supplement Recommendations
We recommend dietary fiber as a safe and effective weight loss supplement.
An extensive medical review published in The Journal of Nutrition found that dietary fiber intake directly predicts weight loss when consumed at a high enough dose. It's zero-calorie plant matter that makes you feel full faster, and consume fewer calories overall.
The fiber supplement we recommend is SuperGut Fiber Mix. It contains a clean and effective formulation: a blend of three different types of unflavored dietary fiber and zero additive ingredients. It can be mixed into liquids or foods. Interested consumers can buy SuperGut fiber at this link.
We recommend using two fiber mixes per day, which provides 16 g of total fiber. This is within the effective fiber dosing range associated with the greatest weight loss outcomes in the above-linked study (8-29 additional grams per day).
Medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil is another dietary supplement which has been shown in clinical trials to cause weight loss.
MCT oil is quickly absorbed by the body and increases metabolic rate, which causes fat loss. A meta-study on MCT oil documented average weight loss of 0.51 kilograms (kg), which equates to 1.12 pounds (lbs). The trials lasted 10 weeks on average. This equates to a potential annualized weight loss of 5.84 pounds with MCT oil supplementation.
We recommend Bulletproof MCT Oil as our top MCT oil product, because it has a clean and effective formulation. The only ingredient is MCT oil derived from coconuts, and the product has no questionable additives. Interested consumers can buy Bulletproof MCT Oil at this link.
The effective dose range of MCT oil for weight loss (based on the medical review) is 1.7 g to 10 g per day. Bulletproof's MCT oil provides 14 g in one tablespoon, so around two-thirds of one tablespoon should be a maximally-effective dosage.
We're not suggesting that these products are more effective for weight loss than Hydroxycut, but we strongly believe that they have a superior safety profile.