Womens Health

The Hoodia Diet: Separating Fact from Fiction

Do those fad diets have you making midnight breakaways to the fridge? Are you trying to eat a balanced diet but still aren’t getting the results you’re looking for? Well read on!

If you’ve never heard of hoodia (or hoodia gordonii as it is also known), then consider this your wake-up call. For many, simply hearing the words "appetite suppressant" causes their skeptic antennae to go on high alert. But once you learn why this organic weight loss supplement has been touted as the next miracle diet pill, you might be wondering why hoodia is not yet a part of your diet routine.

What is Hoodia Gordonii?

Hoodia resembles a cactus but is actually a type of plant called a succulent that thrives in extremely high temperatures. But don’t go looking for it at your local florist or greenhouse, because this plant can only be found in the remote Kalahari Desert of South Africa.

And while the hype around hoodia has come only very recently (in the last couple of decades), the plant has actually existed for more than a hundred thousands years. In fact, the San Bushmen of the Kalahari – one of the world’s oldest tribes – have been eating hoodia to fend off hunger on long hunting trips for about the same amount of time.

South African researchers testing hoodia have discovered that it contains an appetite-suppressing molecule – now known as P 57 – that was previously unheard of. Since then the rights to the molecule have been sold to pharmaceutical companies who are frantically working to get it onto the growing market for healthy weight loss supplements, after the popular diet pill ephedra was recently banned.

As it stands, however, hoodia continues to be an entirely natural appetite suppressant. It works by effectively fooling the brain into thinking that it’s already full, even if you’ve barely eaten a thing. And unlike prescription diet pills, hoodia boasts no side effects and appears to be safe for most people, although reportedly it has an unpleasant bitter taste.

For those trying desperately to follow difficult weight loss programs to no avail, or for those who are simply looking for a way to achieve fast weight loss, this could be a major breakthrough.

Clinical Trials

According to the BBC and CBS, the British pharmaceutical company Phytopharm has conducted a study on clinically obese volunteers, half of whom were given hoodia and half of whom were not. The volunteers were forced to be totally sedentary for two weeks, and were only allowed to watch television, read newspapers and eat.

Those who were taking hoodia were found to be eating 1,000 calories a day less than those who were not taking the supplement.

Nevertheless, double-blind studies still need to be done before Phytopharm will make the products available to consumers, a process which is likely to take several years.

That, of course, has not stopped manufacturers from selling hoodia on the U.S. market (primarily via the internet). But buyer beware, the BBC has reported that even the "leading brands" of the pills contain no active hoodia, while CBS reports found they only contained about 0.1% of the appetite-suppressing molecule.

The problem is that hoodia takes years before it is mature enough for consumption. And since until now it has only been found in the wild, finding a way to make it more productive is one of the biggest challenges for the pharmaceuticals. Plantations have been established in South Africa to try to find a way to cultivate the plant for the anticipated demand it will have once it is officially released.

In the meantime, we’ll just have to be patient.

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