Hoodia is a substance derived from nature and it is known to act as an appetite suppressant. Because of this property of Hoodia, it is used in weight loss pills to give a feeling of fullness.
Hoodia belongs to the family Apocynaceae. Hoodia gordonii is a native plant of South Africa. It is a small succulent plant with spikes on it. So it resembles a cactus and is called ‘cacti form’, but it is not related to cactus family. Its growth is very slow and it takes almost four to five years to mature. It is somewhat bitter tasting plant. The flowers of Hoodia plant give a foul smell.
Hoodia gordonii was always used by the native people for problems like indigestion etc. Since centuries the San tribesmen of South Africa ate the meat of this plant to reduce hunger. They used this whenever they were away from homes for long period of time, especially on the hunting trips. The local names for this plant are ‘Bushman’s hat’ or ‘Queen of Namib’.
Now Hoodia gordonii plant is in danger of being extinct. It grows only in the South African Kalahari deserts, so very limiter supply is available. But now it is being over-harvested for the commercial purposes of manufacturing Hoodia weight loss pills.
Mode of action and studies:
By scientific research, the appetite-suppressing component of Hoodia gordonii plant was separated and it is known as P57. This component P57 works on the satiety center of the brain. It produces a substance closer to glucose. But this substance has much more stronger effect than glucose, so it gives feeling of fullness because hypothalamus receives fullness signals.
Many studies were conducted to test the effect of Hoodia gordonii and its side effects, if any. The studies were carried out on two different groups. The group, which was given Hoodia weight loss pills,consumed 1000 calories less every day than the control group, which was not given any Hoodia supplement.
The findings were interesting but it is not yet FDA approved weight loss drug, because the efficacy and safety of this supplement in humans is not yet established. Clinical trials to confirm its safe and effective usage are required.
The only licensed producer of Hoodia weight loss supplement, Phytopharm, has announced the need of a few more years to establish Hoodia as weight loss product. So the Hoodia weight loss pills marketed by multiple companies need to be examined for its content of active Hoodia ingredient.
It is claimed that the Hoodia diet pills are safer than other OTC diet supplements. But still there is no confirmed proof about it and its side effects are not yet fully known. Some scientists have indicated undesired effects on the liver. These side effects are due to other components present in Hoodia along with the P57 ingredient. It is difficult to separate these undesirable compounds from P57. So it is not yet declared completely safe.
Also there is no published scientific evidence that Hoodia works as appetite suppressant in human beings.
The Hoodia gordonii species is endangered and listed under CITES – Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild flora and fauna. It requires CITES certificate to export Hoodia from Africa. So the claims made by various Hoodia weight loss pills manufacturers about the authenticity of its hoodia content could be questionable. Also a report of independent testing lab citing scientific analysis of the product and confirming presence of authentic Hoodia gordonii in the product should be checked before going for such products. It was often found that almost half of the products claiming to contain the appetite suppressant Hoodia did not have any trace of it.
The pharmaceutical giant Pfizer which earlier collaborated with Phytopharm for the manufacture of Hoodia weight loss pills, pulled back because it looked quite difficult to use the active ingredient of Hoodia in a pill. And so, the available Hoodia products should be checked for authenticity before using it.