Is Hoodia all Hooey?
If you are like me the BS detectors go off when you see the words diet and pill anywhere near each other. Weight loss is a straight mathematical proposition. If you consume more calories than you burn – you gain weight. If you consume fewer calories than you burn – you lose weight. Weight loss works as certain as the laws of gravity. No exceptions. The chance of waking up in the morning to discover that pounds of fat have flown off your body is as likely as finding that your car has flown onto the roof of the nearest building.
So forgive my skepticism when a friend emailed me a BBC article (BBC. Tom Mangold. May 30, 2003) about a “Kalahari cactus diet.” I read it. I did a little more research. I’m convinced!
Even starving people don’t eat themselves to death because within the hypothalamus there are nerve cells that sense glucose sugar. Food consumption puts sugar into the blood stream. The sugar converts to glucose. The hypothalamus senses the change in glucose and eventually tells your brain that immediate survival is assured and that it’s OK to stop eating.
Well, this Kalahari cactus, called hoodia, has a molecule which scientists have named p.57 that is about 10,000 times more active in the hypothalmus than glucose.
That means that hoodia fires those glucose sugar nerve cells which makes your brain think you are full. You may not have eaten anything at all. And now you don’t even want to.
Lesley Stahl of 60 Minutes (CBS) traveled to the Kalahari to do a show about hoodia. Stahl tried it. Said it tasted like cucumber and, most importantly, did not have any desire to eat or drink for the rest of the day. She reported there were no after effects or side effects.
Big pharma has jumped on this and maybe some day they will be able to synthesize p.57. But for now Mother Nature has not given up her secrets and the only way to benefit from what the BBC call “an organic pill that kills the appetite and attacks obesity” is to get natural hoodia from the Kalahari. There are plans to farm the plant but nobody knows for sure if commercially grown hoodia will have the same properties as the wild plant.
Apparently not all hoodia is equal. Only Hoodia gordonii has p.57. Other Kalahari cactus plants are…cactus. The US government and the South African government regulate the importation and harvesting of Hoodia gordonii. Only companies licensed by the Western Cape Conservation Authority of South Africa, and who have the Certificates to prove it, are selling the genuine article. As you would expect with something this valuable there are lots of exploiters so that Certificate of authenticity is important.
For populations where obesity is a legitimate national health concern, a natural, safe and effective appetite suppressant can’t be anything other than a good thing. You have to wonder about the longevity of the supply however.
For individual use there are other considerations. Your body needs a daily supply of protein and other nutrients to function normally and to stay healthy. Is Hoodia gordonii so powerful that you won’t eat even the minimal amounts? Or drink a healthy volume of water?