Hoodia gordonii (pronounced HOO-dee-ah) is a succulent cactus-like plant, which can be found in the Kalahari dessert in South Africa. Hoodia Gordonii is a natural product, proposed to possess appetite-suppressant properties, which in turn can support weight loss goals, by reducing food intake due to lack of hunger. It is not a manufactured drug that contains a number of synthetic ingredients. There are 13 types of Hoodia, but only Hoodia gordonii is thought to have this ability.
Hoodia gordonii is a species threatened with extinction and although not currently considered endangered but is at risk if trade is not controlled. Therefore, Hoodia is protected by South African and Namibian national conservation laws. It is listed under CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) and thus is illegal to export from Africa without a CITES certificate being issued by proper authorities.
In January 2008, the Botanic Gardens Conservation International (representative of botanic gardens in 120 countries) stated the following: “400 medicinal plants are at risk of extinction, from over-collection and deforestation, threatening the discovery of future cures for disease”.
How Does Hoodia Gordonii Work?
The active the ingredient in Hoodia gordonii is thought to be a substance called P57 and therefore responsible for its appetite-suppressant effect. Levels of sugar (glucose) in your blood help regulate your appetite. The higher your blood sugar, the lower your appetite. After eating, blood sugar rises and signals your brain that you are full. According to Phytopharm’s Dr Richard Dixey, P57 is about 10,000 times more active than glucose. This means that it signals your brain that you are full, although you have not eaten, thus fooling your body into thinking it is full, even when it is not, thus curbing the appetite.
What’s the Science on Hoodia for Weight Loss?
Thus far, the science on Hoodia is sparse. It has not been conclusively proven that Hoodia works as an appetite-suppressant. There have been no peer-review (this is when a clinical trials scientific research papers are subjected to independent scrutiny by other qualified scientific experts) double-blind trials (trial in which neither doctor nor patient know whether they are giving/ receiving Hoodia or just a placebo). This is the gold standard in clinical trials, as they tend to give the most accurate results.
There have been smaller scale studies, some of which have suggested that it does have appetite- suppressant properties. A study carried out in the UK on obese patients by Phytopharm (the company holding the license for Hoodia), reported a statistically significant reduction in daily average calorie intake of volunteers, who were administered large doses of Hoodia.
Furthermore, a US patent has reported the appetite-suppressant properties of Hoodia, and described the isolation of a steroidal glycoside (P57), which reduced food intake in rodents.
Side-Effects of Hoodia
There have been no widespread clinical trials, which have examined the safety of Hoodia, as a nutritional supplement. Although, reportedly the African bushmen that chew Hoodia do not experience side-effects, one must remember that there are vast differences between population groups. It is unlikely that these bushmen are taking blood pressure tablets or any other medications, for example.
- It is thought that Hoodia may possibly affect liver function, caused by components of Hoodia, other than the active ingredient P57.
- If Hoodia does affect liver function it may interact with medications a person is taking.
- People with diabetes should exercise caution when using Hoodia, since one of the suggested theories is that it exerts its effect is by interfering with the blood sugar feedback mechanisms of the body. Without proper feedback regulation, it may be possible for a person’s blood sugar to drop to dangerously low levels, because Hoodia has tricked the brain into thinking that the blood sugar levels are sufficient.
- It is probably best for pregnant or nursing women, children and people suffering with liver or kidney disease, to refrain from using Hoodia, as its safety in these groups has not yet been established.
- Hoodia may also suppress thirst.
Mike Adams from News Target, estimates that up to 80% of Hoodia products currently being purchased by consumers are contaminated with other ingredients or do not even contain H. gordonii. Furthermore, many products do not contain a high enough dose for H. gordonii to be effective.
Hoodia is scare, which is the reason there is such a high proportion of counterfeit and contaminated goods. All products containing Hoodia should have CITES (Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species) certificates. This is a document required to sell H. gordonii and verify that it has been obtained through legal channels. Thus, the display of such a certificate by Hoodia resellers is one of the ways consumers can confirm the authenticity of the product. However, it has been reported that some products have counterfeit CITES certificates. However, a real CITES certificate will clearly show the name of the exporter and importer for the Hoodia, while a fake CITES certificate will generally have these blanked out. Thus, it is almost impossible to know if a Hoodia product contains pure Hoodia, unless an independent laboratory has tested it.
The American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) is currently working on a Hoodia Standard, which is thought to be available in late 2007, as a result of the scrutiny by the Federal Trade Commission of the Hoodia industry, as well as the complaints by consumers of fraudulent Hoodia products being marketed.
Hoodia products are available in a variety of formats, including tablets, capsules, liquid, protein shakes, diet fruit bars, tea and coffee products.
Remember that no pill alone, will make you lose weight. There is little evidence to prove that Hoodia helps weight loss, and it may cause a plethora of side-effects. Before taking speak to a qualified health professional.