07 December 2010

Is there hope for hoodia?

The Hoodia plant (Hoodia gordonii), which is believed to be the active ingredient that helps to suppress appetite and promote weightloss, is back in the news.

At the beginning of December 2010, newspapers in South Africa announced a new development in the Hoodia slimming pill saga. According to Tamar Kahn writing in Business Day, Phytopharm, the UK company that has been working on the production of a pure extract of the active ingredient in Hoodia, has returned the commercialisation rights for Hoodia to the CSIR (Council of Scientific & Industrial Research). 

Four long years have passed since I wrote my first DietDoc Topic about the potential launch of a new slimming product based on an extract of the Hoodia plant. In the interim, the commercial manufacture of slimming products that contain p57, a steroidal glycoside found in the Hoodia gordonii plant, which is believed to be the active ingredient that helps to suppress appetite and promote weightloss, slowed down seriously. Pfizer, which originally acquired the rights to this process, returned them to Phytopharm and the latter have evidently now in turn, handed back these rights to the CSIR. 

  • Will the CSIR find in favour of further development of a Hoodia slimming product? Only time will tell.
  •  Will the CSIR and partners (who will still have to be identified), be able to foot the bill of the development of a Hoodia slimming product if the project gets the green light? At present we don’t know. If the active ingredient in Hoodia gordonii does have successful appetite suppressant properties and if the compound does not produce unacceptable side-effects, then any company who does spend money on the development of genuine Hoodia slimming pills, stands to earn a fortune.
  • What potential side-effects could Hoodia slimming products have? Because as yet, no results of clinical trials with human subjects have been published, we don’t really know.
  • Liver problems: There have been reports that Hoodia may have undesirable effects on liver function. Possibly such effects can be eliminated if a chemically pure form of p57 can be produced.
  • Risky to Diabetics: Warnings have also been issued against the use of Hoodia by diabetics because it is thought that Hoodia tricks the brain into thinking that blood sugar levels are adequate when they may be so low as to constitute a threat to the health of diabetic patients.
  • Dehydration risk: Because Hoodia is believed to not only suppress hunger, but also thirst, anyone taking Hoodia products may be exposed to the risk of dehydration which can be dangerous and even fatal (Wong, 2010).
  • Are existing Hoodia slimming products effective?


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