Following worldwide interest in a report recently released by Unilever on its study into liquid Hoodia Gordonii , the South African San Council, the official cultural body representing the South African San people’s commercial interest in specific indigenous bio-diversity products, issues the following in an attempt to counteract the ensuing negative impact on local livelihoods and the unwarranted misperception of this ancient natural medicinal plant.
“Whilst the Council welcomes the report and the continued research into the effects and undoubted benefits of Hoodia Gordonii, we have noted that many of the media accounts have been based only on the Abstract of the study. In fact, consideration of the actual findings of the complete Unilever report which was written in 2008, appear to have been ignored. On several occasions the report mentions that despite higher levels on certain test parameters, no clinically significant adverse events were detected. That is to say, ‘no side effects noted’.
We decided to read the full Unilever report, and to request some advice from persons skilled in the interpretation of scientific and medical clinical research. The results below have vindicated our concern that the media reports in question appear to have been written with a disturbing lack of adherence to professional standards of objectivity. The technical information that follows was provided by our associates, whom we trust and who are motivated by a desire to promote a truthful analysis of this important product.
Most importantly, this study was a double blind placebo trial with a very small group of people (41) conducted over a short period of time (15 days). It was NOT a cross over study and therefore NO comments on clinical reverence or relevance to things like blood pressure should be made as there is NO cross over comparison data.
Any symptoms of vomiting, nausea and gastric reflux etc reported on in the Unilever study could be as a result of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). It is a known clinical fact that GERD, acid or oesophageal reflux can cause heart palpitations, increased blood pressure, increased pulse rate and anxiety. This, in combination with what the CSIR and other studies have shown on the tolerance to liquid Hoodia (or lack thereof), can potentially explain all of these adverse events and why none of these symptoms were present in any other study. (This study itself refers to other clinical studies with as high a Hoodia extract dose BUT in solid form completely tolerated with none of the adverse events mentioned in the Unilever report.)
One of the main concerns reported on in the media related to blood pressure. However, the body of the study concludes that blood pressure peaks at day 11 and then is on a downward trajectory which might have further normalised after a longer trial period. It should be noted that all blood pressure measurements are still considered as ‘normal’ levels. Further, consider that the Hoodia test group’s blood pressure actually stabilised at lower levels after the trial when compared to before the trial and was lower than the control group.
Hoodia Gordonii is a plant that grows out in the wild for several years and is coated in bacteria, yeast, mould and fungi. These can secrete a huge amount of micro toxins that are present on the Hoodia plant material. We cannot see that the study tested for any heavy metals, micro toxins or afflotoxins before making the HgPE extract. As a result, it cannot be definitively ruled out that adverse skin conditions in four patients could be due to the presence of toxins or heavy metals and not the Hoodia.
There is no short answer to the many queries we have in respect to this particular study, but we trust that the short synopsis below will suffice to confirm that Hoodia Gordonii is a safe and effective product when taken in solid form and in prescribed dosages, but that it still requires further investigation as stipulated by the researchers themselves in the Unilever study before it can be conclusively proven otherwise.
Therefore in our opinion, the media hype around this Unilever report is premature and disingenuous in the absence of comprehensive and conclusive results and has resulted in irrevocably damaging income potential to some of the most marginalised people in South Africa.
Media statement by Andries Steenkamp, Chairman, South African San Council
- (Health24, December 2011)
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