It’s interesting to see what ads will end up on your screen as you browse the internet. An ad for Hoodia Gordonii ended up on my sitemeter page when I was reviewing to see where my visitors were coming from this week. Hoodia is apparently a “Miracle Cactus” that reduces your appetite, helping you to lose weight.
Does it work? Well just listen to this little piece of anecdotal “evidence” that is sure to convince you…
“The San Bushmen of the Kalahari, one of the world's oldest and most primitive tribes, have been eating the Hoodia plant for thousands of years, to stave off hunger during long hunting trips.”
How does this mean that it actually helps suppress appetite? Eating almost anything that’s non-toxic would help the San Bushman stave off hunger during long treks through the desert; special appetite suppressant qualities aren’t required.
Does this plant do any more than just help fill your stomach? Is there any legitimate evidence that Hoodia capsules are more effective at suppressing appetite than a placebo of, say, cellulose? Well, let me direct your attention to the fine print…
“Please Note: The statements contained on this site have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.”
Not exactly a sterling recommendation.
This particular gimmick product may have some merit, though. I was able to find a study result on PubMed that indicates that one of the compounds in Hoodia actually does have appetite suppressant properties.
“…third ventricle (i.c.v.) administration of P57, which reduces subsequent 24-h food intake by 40-60%, also increases ATP content in hypothalamic slice punches removed at 24 h following the i.c.v. injections.”
Granted, they’re talking about injecting this stuff directly into the brains of mice, but the fact that it does have a significant effect on subsequent food intake does suggest that the compound is an effective appetite suppressant.
What the study shows is that nerve cells in the hypothalamus of the brain have an increase in ATP content after being exposed to the P57 compound from Hoodia. ATP is the “ready fuel” for cellular activity (as opposed to sugars, which need to be converted to ATP before they’re ready to use), so a generous supply of ATP in the hypothalamus gland of the brain might logically convince you that you don’t need to eat anything for a while.
So Hoodia capsules aren’t necessarily a scam, assuming they contain effective concentrations of the active ingredient at a reasonable price. I think it’s important to show that legitimate products will actually survive the exercise of some critical thinking skills and a search for some credible evidence. Hoodia isn’t effective because it has the endorsement of San Bushmen; it’s effective because the chemicals it contains actually do reduce your appetite, a claim that science can test and show to be true.