What is Hoodia and was it really featured on 60 Minutes?
This is a kinda weird query, but I have received a number of spam messages advertising something called Hoodia or Hoodia Gordonii, saying that it's a weight loss ingredient featured on "60 Minutes". What the heck is Hoodia and was it really featured on the news show, and if so, what did they conclude? (and as I sent this, I got another note, subject "As seen on CBS 60 Minutes - Hoodia Gordonii")
You're not alone in receiving email messages about Hoodia, I'll say that much. I too seem to get 10-20 of these each and every day, though they all seem to have different spellings of Hoodia and/or add a second word after Hoodia, probably to make it through everyone's spam filters (fortunately, mine captures all of these messages, but I still get a chance to see 'em).
But a little bit of digging around brought me to a very interesting article from CBS News (remember, "60 Minutes" is a CBS news magazine, so it's the same network) entitled African Plant May Help Fight Fat, in which I learned that in fact 60 Minutes did cover Hoodia in a show a while back!
So who would have thought it, these spammers are actually honest. Further, reading the article, it sounds like Hoodia is a darn impressive, almost miraculous drug for fighting hunger as it makes you "feel full" without any ill or side effects. As they say:
"[Correspondent Lesley] Stahl says she had no after effects – no funny taste in her mouth, no queasy stomach, and no racing heart. She also wasn't hungry all day, even when she would normally have a pang around mealtime. And, she also had no desire to eat or drink the entire day. "I'd have to say it did work," says Stahl."
Of course, the only place on the planet where Hoodia grows is in the forbidding Kalahari Desert in South Africa, so it's not exactly easy to harvest. Further, as you can imagine in the billion dollar weight loss business, Hoodia is big, big business.
In fact, CBS reports that it took the South African national laboratory 30 years to isolate and identify the specific appetite-suppressing ingredient in hoodia and when they found it, they applied for a patent and licensed it to a company called Phytopharm.
Since then, Phytopharm has apparently spent more than $20 million on research, including clinical trials with obese volunteers that have yielded promising results. Subjects given hoodia ended up eating about 1,000 calories a day less than those in the control group.
Of course, the claims of the spam I've seen are still a bit more than the actual characteristics of hoodia would leave you to believe. One message I got also claimed that it "boosts energy" though there's no information I've found that indicates that's what you'd find from hoodia. But then again, caffeine is a common ingredient in so-called "appetite supression" drugs like hoodia, so perhaps they're just slipping in some additional ingredient to make the drug more desirable.
Further, it appears that its popularity is causing the hoodia gordonii cactus to be radically overharvested in the African nations where it's found. An EPA Conference Note highlights that:
"Hoodia spp. is native to the proponent states [Botswana, Namibia, South Africa], as well as Angola and possibly Zimbabwe. The proposal discusses the threat of over-harvest of wild populations in light of the recent increased popularity of hoodia gordonii, mainly in Europe and North America, due to its appetite-suppressing qualities in dietary supplements."
Oh, and the native Africans? They're feeling a bit left out by the gold rush too: PanAfrica: Indigenous People Demand More Over Medicinal Plants, in which a bit more of the breadcrumb trail can be followed:
"The plant's active ingredient was patented by a South African research institute in the late 1990s. It gave a license to a British company, which in turn sold additional development and marketing licenses to Pfizer, the multinational drug company, and the food giant Unilever.
"After a protracted dispute, a deal was struck with the South African research institute in 2003 whereby the San people of South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia and Angola would receive a percentage of the royalties from the sales of any future drugs produced from their knowledge of the Hoodia plant."
In the end, though, hoodia does sound like a darn interesting appetite supressent, and if you are having problems with weight loss or, more specifically, with overeating, then you might just want to look into it as a possible solution.
And then, of course, you'll have the huge challenge of figuring out which of the dozens of vendors has the real stuff, in a proper dosage, to work for you.
Good luck with that!
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