Hoodia is new weight-loss magic potion
HOODIA is one of the latest magic potions being promoted for weight control. Like most weight-loss products, it enters the market with little scientific evidence to support the alluring claims.
Question: What is hoodia?
Answer: Hoodia is a cactuslike plant known to botanists as Hoodia gordonii. This plant thrives in the Kalahari Desert area that spans the border between South Africa and Namibia. This species of cactus is rare and protected by conservation laws in both countries. To be used in supplements, the roots and stems of the plant are dried and ground into a powder.
Q: What is hoodia supposed to do?
A: Hoodia presumably promotes weight loss by suppressing the appetite.
Q: What evidence supports claims of hoodia's effectiveness?
A: In the 1960s a South African study found that feeding hoodia to rats resulted in weight loss. More recently, a British company called Phytopharm patented a component of hoodia called P57. Another rat study showed that injecting P57 into the brain of rats caused a 40 to 60 percent decrease in food intake.
Phytopharm reported that they conducted a placebo-controlled study of 18 men and found that men getting the P57 compound had a significantly lower calorie intake. A significant drawback of this study is that it lasted only 15 days. Unfortunately, the study has not been published in a scientific journal.
Q: Is hoodia currently available?
A: It is available in limited amounts in a variety of products. However, product quality is highly unpredictable. Apparently, there is much more hoodia currently on the market than could possibly be produced from all of the hoodia plants in existence.
Q: What is the dose of hoodia that is considered to be effective and is it safe?
A: No clinical studies have been published to establish an effective dosage. ConsumerLab.com, however, estimates that 3,000 to 4,000 mg of hoodia powder a day would likely be needed for any potential weight loss effect. Most products contain much less hoodia than this.
To date, no published studies exist on the long-term safety or toxicity of hoodia or products containing hoodia. Like many similar products, hoodia is likely destined to make billions of dollars for supplement manufacturers well before the proper studies are published to determine its worth.
Alan Titchenal, Ph.D., C.N.S. and Joannie Dobbs, Ph.D., C.N.S. are
nutritionists in the Department of Human Nutrition, Food and Animal
Sciences, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, UH-Manoa.
Dr. Dobbs also works with the University Health Services and prepares
the nutritional analyses marked with an asterisk in this section.