For decades, the Holy Grail of the diet industry has been an all natural appetite suppressant with no side effects other than the intended weight loss. Like the Holy Grail, it has been elusive. The diet pharmaceutical companies thought they found it in starch-blockers, in ephedra, in fat binders. the list goes on. While many of these worked, they often came with a heavy list of side effects, many of them dangerous. After an initial flurry of excitement and sales, most were knocked off track by reports of dangers associated with their use, and some were even banned from U.S. sale.
The latest arrival on the Holy Weight Loss Grail circuit is an unprepossessing African succulent known as hoodia gordoni. Cleared for sale in the U.S. in early 2004, it has been steadily making a name for itself as a powerful appetite suppressant that can help you lose weight. Its popularity was significantly boosted by reports on 60 Minutes, ABC News and BBC News.
As part of the BBC report, BBC Two’s correspondent Tom Mangold, actually traveled to Africa to sample the hoodia in situ. He and his cameraman, who also tested the plant, both reported feeling pleasantly full for nearly 48 hours after eating a piece of hoodia gordoni.
The hoodia plant has been used by the San tribesmen of the Kalahari desert for centuries to suppress the pangs of hunger on long hunts and trips. Modern research has isolated an ‘active ingredient’ known as P57. Though the research is still scanty, it appears to work by fooling the hypothalamus into thinking that there is more sugar in the blood than there actually is.
Does it actually work? It’s really still too early to tell, but in one clinical trial conducted by Phytopharm, the company that holds the patent on the process to extract P57 from hoodia, human subjects taking hoodia reduced their caloric intake by as much as 1000 calories a day. The figures are impressive.
But is it safe? There again, the research is far to scant to make a reasonable decision on it. There are no known side effects – but it also hasn’t been used outside one small tribe in Africa until the past two years. It’s possible that there are side effects to long-term use that aren’t yet evident.
Until then, use caution in purchasing products made with hoodia. Many of the commercially available products contain virtually no hoodia gordoni at all. Consult your doctor before undertaking any weight loss program that involves appetite suppressants. This is particularly important for those who’ve been diagnosed with diabetes or pre-diabetes, as the action of the hoodia plant can trick the body into thinking that the blood sugar is fine even as they approach hypoglycemic shock.