Many companies are now offering Hoodia weight loss pills, these are derived from the plan Hoodia gordonii. Hoodia gordonii is a leafless, succulent plant which grows naturally in South Africa and Namibia. It has long been known by the indigenous populations of these areas as a treatment for indigestion and small infections. However, it is also used to suppress appetites when making long hunting trips – and it is this later use that has sparked interest.
The active ingredient in Hoodia gordonii, known as P57, was isolated in 1977 and a license was granted to two pharmaceutical companies, Phytopharm and Pfizer who were looking to synthesize the active ingredient for sale as an appetite suppressant. In 2002, Pfizer released the rights to this primary ingredient. Pfizer have stated that work on this ingredient was stopped because of difficulty in synthesizing the active ingredient, but there have also been suggestions that there were unwanted effects on the liver caused by components that could not be easily removed.
There is only anecdotal evidence that Hoodia works as an appetite suppressant in humans and studies in other animals have been inclusive, some suggesting that it would be very difficult to consume enough of the active ingredient to have any effect.
Hoodia gordonii is a species threatened with extinction if international trade is not monitored and it is illegal to export from Africa without the appropriate CITES certificate being issued by the proper authorities. A BBC report from January 2008 suggests that Hoodia gordonii is facing extinction due to the interest in it.
Hoodia weight loss products come in a number of forms including pills, infusions and patches. It has been shown that, in some cases, products marketed as containing Hoodia didn’t actually contain any of the active ingredient.
So, the jury is still out on Hoodia. As yet there is no conclusive evidence that it works as an appetite suppressant and all of the interest in it as a dietary supplement seems to be having a detrimental effect on the environment – for these reasons Hoodia is probably best avoided.
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