Do yourself a a favor, if you get an email about the Hoodia Gordonii diet pill, just delete it. This new wave of spam emails that promise a miracle appetite suppressant are just another obvious scam.
Interest in the Hoodia Gordonii plant skyrocketed after a rumor began to circulate that Hoodia is the diet drug of choice for the “Desperate Housewives.” But popularity aside, experts say proof that Hoodia works is anecdotal, that little research has been done to confirm the assumption it has no side effects, and that consumers who are buying the supplements over the Internet may not be getting what they’re paying for.
What Are Hoodia Plants?
Hoodia cacti are native to the semi-deserts of South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Angola. There are about 20 species in this family but the Gordonii is the one that contains a natural appetite suppressant. It thrives in extremely high temperatures, and takes years to mature.
Hoodia Gordonii is very rare and is protected by national conservation laws in South Africa and Namibia. The South African government has limited the export and farming of Hoodia to prevent over-exploitation, and have banned wild harvesting of the Hoodia plant. In October, 2004, CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) provided added protection. Hoodia Gordonii cannot be exported as a weight loss product. Limited amounts of the plant can be exported, but only as herbarium collections.
Scientists have found that one molecule in the plant is responsible for the appetite reducing effect. This molecule has been named P57. Phytopharm owns the patent to P57, and no other company or individual can sell Hoodia as a weight loss aid.
Pfizer Tried To Make A Hoodia Appetite Reducing Pill And Gave Up
Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer entered a deal with Phytopharm and tried to isolate P57 into a form that could be marketed to the public. After several years of research, they determined that this was not possible, and they pulled out of the agreement.
“Pfizer released the rights to the primary ingredient,” says Paul Hutson, Associate Professor in the UW-Madison School of Pharmacy. “For Pfizer to release something dealing with obesity suggests to me that they felt there was no merit to its oral use.”
Scammers Try To Cash In On Hoodia Hype
Pfizer can’t make P57 work, but that’s not stopping small companies and individuals from trying to mislead the public and make a quick buck. They are selling dried, powdered Hoodia. However, the appetite suppressing ability of Hoodia Gordonii is only found in large fresh pieces of the plant. So what is being sold doesn’t scientifically or medically work.
Some people have questioned whether products boasting of Hoodia actually contain the supplement. Critics have argued that there isn’t enough cultivated Hoodia to account for all the products claiming to have it. These plants are very difficult to grow and need a lot of attention and control of watering, temperature and sunlight.
“Hoodia has not been allowed as an ingredient in the United States,” says Cheryl Myers, director of health sciences at Enzymatic Therapy Inc.–a Food and Drug Administration-registered pharmaceutical dietary-supplement company based in Green Bay. “It is not technically legal to import it as a dietary supplement. There was some company that was working with Anna Nicole Smith (*) that was trying to market Hoodia and they got slapped by the FDA(**).”
(*) Anna Nicole Smith, former Playboy Playmate of the Year and dubious cultural icon, who shilled for a hoodia-based pill called TrimSpa.
Before buying a Hoodia supplement, remember that “some of it doesn’t have any Hoodia in it at all,” says Myers.
Even If It Worked, It Still Wouldn’t Be Good For You
Nutritionists say even if the supplement works, it might be better if it didn’t. Dieting by starving the body is not a good idea, says Pam Wilson, chief clinical dietitian at San Ramon Regional Medical Center.
When the body is starved, the metabolism slows and any calories it gets are stored as fat.
“It can lower our metabolism by 30%,” Wilson says. “That’s not what you want to do if you’re trying to lose weight.”
“What’s the point in starving yourself or going on a fad diet?” Wilson asks. “People who do that lose weight quickly, but studies show that most gain back the weight in a year, and 100 percent gain it back in five years.”
Wilson has other concerns about the supplement. The only known clinical study was conducted on rats, and because Hoodia is considered an appetite suppressant that affects the body centrally, there are unknown risks to organs, nervous and circulatory systems.
That’s often a problem with herbs and supplements. The products are not tested and regulated in the same way that prescription medications are. A product may be on the market a long time before a pattern of trouble is revealed. There is a history of weight-loss products that were initially considered benign — fen-phen, ephedra — and later were discovered to cause serious health problems, some of which resulted in deaths.
Delete The Hoodia Spam Emails
If you see this Hoodia email below, or any variations of it, just delete it. The Hoodia you’d be buying either wouldn’t contain P57 or it would be bad for you.
Subject: Try Hoodia Maximum Strength and see the results for yourself
After 30 years of scientific research, Hoodia is finally available for modern man!
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