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And Then There Is Hoodia Gordonii: Miracle Diet Pill at Last?

Aug 21, 2007
Hoodia gordonii caused the latest buzz in the weight loss industry for its reported ability to curb appetite and promote weight loss. But as with every promising discovery, there is always the downside of side effects and false or bloated reports and figures. Could it be as good as its promise?

Hoodia gordonii is a succulent, not a cactus. It is a plant that comes from the Kalahari Desert in South Africa and has been part of the diet of the Bushmen who live there. They are known for consuming this plant for sustenance during long hunting trips. The plant has clumps of upright stems with small spikes. Even though it has been around for years, but it was only in the 1937 when a Dutch anthropologist conducting a study of the Bushmen of the Kalahari observed that hoodia was used to suppress appetite. It took some 30 years before South Africa's Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) included it as a part of its indigenous food study. It was found out that animals that were fed the plant lost weight.

The South African scientists were able to isolate the active ingredient in hoodia and have it patented. They then licensed it to Phytopharm, a British company, who eventually sub-licensed the developing rights. Brown University researchers in Rhode Island discovered that the active ingredient in hoodia, a steroidal glycoside, affects nerve cells in a part of the brain called the hypothalamus, tricking the brain that there is enough blood sugar in the body and therefore enough energy. This causes the body to turn off its hunger mechanism because it feels no need for food.

As an appetite suppressor, hoodia seems to work. Caloric intake in animals was reduced by 30 to 50%, according to one study. Phytopharm has also conducted its own human clinical trials with volunteers who were classified as obese and the results were promising. Those who took hoodia reduced their caloric intake by about 1,000 calories compared to the control group.

TV played a huge part in creating buzz for hoodia. Leslie Stahl, a 60 Minutes correspondent, traveled to South Africa to search for the plant. With the help of a local bushman, Stahl and her crew found one of these plants and Stahl sampled it. She reported that she did not feel hunger pangs nor did she feel thirst. Better yet, she announced no side effects and no stomach complaints or difficulty in breathing or heartbeat irregularities.

There is a plethora of information about hoodia on the internet but much of it is pure hype. There are sites purporting to be consumer advocates who have conducted studies on the efficacies of certain hoodia products and push the 'best' choice to consumers online. There is a huge possibility, though, that these sites were hired or created by the manufacturers themselves to promote their own products, so much of the information posted is unreliable.

The potential customer is well advised to choose a reputable and established company when purchasing a hoodia product. Check the website for company background, product line, number of years in the business, management and verifiable certificates from independent testers. Make sure that the company can be reached through its customer service with a landline and not just an email address. Ascertain too, that it has a physical address.

Hoodia, until recently, had only been found in the South African wild and is therefore in short supply. It also takes about four to five years in order for the plant to grow to its usable stage. It also requires an environment such as the South African wild with temperatures in the 120 degrees Fahrenheit range to mature. Phytopharm has also begun planting hoodia in several plantations in South Africa, in an attempt to increase its yield to meet potential demands.

Hoodia is best taken before meals, with a glass of water. Plenty of water is also required during the day, since the plant also shuts off the brain's thirst mechanism. People observe that their appetite is suppressed within an hour of taking it and is commonly known to produce weight loss effects in as little as one or two weeks.

Since it is a fairly a new product and there are no long-term studies of its effects available yet, it only makes sense that the good effects of hoodia to the Bushmen of the Kalahari are also affected by their lifestyle, since they belong to the hunter-gatherer tribe. Their diet is different from the average American's and they do not take medication for conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes and other diseases so as with any other over the counter product to check with your health care practitioner before using.

Will Hoodia continue to be a shining star in the war against fat as it has been since it's mainstream introduction in 2004? Only time will tell.
About the Author
Patricia is a health focused author who is also a Hoodia product user. To find out which product she prefers please visit Hoodia Liquid and while you are there pick up a free report called "A Stubborn Fat Solution".
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