Hoodia Gordonii is a cactus of the "succulent" cactus family, which has grown for thousands of years in the Kalahari Desert region. Hoodia has been used by the indigenous Bushmen as a natural appetite suppressant and thirst quencher during their long hunting trips for generations.
How Does Hoodia work?
Scientists believe that the reason for Hoodia's appetite suppressing abilities is a molecule called "P57". Normally, when you eat the glucose in your body rises and eventually signals to your brain (the hypothalamus) that you are full. It is believed that "P57" molecule in Hoodia mimics the effect that glucose has on your brain, telling part of your brain (the Hypothalamus) that you feel full. Consequently, you have no desire to eat.
Does Hoodia Help People Lose Weight?
One of the first studies of Hoodia Gordonii was done in the UK on obese patients. Half of the volunteers were given Hoodia Gordonii, the other half were given a placebo. The subjects were allowed to read, watch television and eat. After 15 days it was found that those taking Hoodia had reduced their calorie intake by 1000 calories a day. Despite having unlimited access to food, the Hoodia subjects lost weight.
Is Hoodia Safe?
Since Hoodia is a plant (versus a man-made chemical), it is completely natural and experts say it is safe to eat. Scientists have been studying Hoodia for almost 10 years and have not found any side effects. (Not to mention the San Tribesman who have been eating Hoodia for years with seemingly no ill effects).
What Can You Do?
One way to tell if a Hoodia pill is real is to look for a document called the C.I.T.E.S. Certificate (The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). Since the Hoodia plant is a protected plant species it can only be sold to an exporter who has this certificate.
In 1937, a Dutch anthropologist studying the San Bushmen noted their use of hoodia gordonii to suppress appetite. In 1963, scientists at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), South Africa's national laboratory, began studying hoodia. They claimed that lab animals lost weight after they were given hoodia gordonii.
The South African scientists, working with a British company named Phytopharm, isolated what they believed to be an active ingredient in hoodia gordonii, a steroidal glycoside, which they named p57. After obtaining a patent in 1995, they licensed p57 to Phytopharm. Phytopharm has spent more than $20 million on hoodia research.
Eventually pharmaceutical giant Pfizer learned about hoodia and expressed interest in developing a hoodia drug. In 1998, Phytopharm sub-licensed the rights to develop p57 to Pfizer for $21 million. Pfizer returned the rights to hoodia to Phytopharm, who is now working with Unilever.
Much of the hype about hoodia started after 60 Minutes correspondent Leslie Stahl and crew traveled to Africa to try hoodia. They hired a local Bushman to go with them into the desert and track down some hoodia. Stahl ate it, describing it as "cucumbery in texture, but not bad." She reported that she lost the desire to eat or drink the entire day. She also said she didn't experience any immediate side effects, such as indigestion or heart palpitations.
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