In this article we will look more specifically at the science behind hoodia and how it has been studied as an appetite suppressant. We will also examine some theories on how hoodia is able to suppress your appetite.
What evidence is there that Hoodia works as an appetite suppressant?
For thousands of years the Bushmen of South Africa having been eating Hoodia Gordonii to fight off hunger during their week long hunting trips. For the Bushmen there is no question as to the appetite suppressant power of Hoodia Gordonii – it is a simple fact of life – if you are going on a long journey you chew on hoodia to avoid hunger.
While the Bushmen did not do formal clinical studies, there is thousands of years of real world evidence that eating Hoodia works as an appetite suppressant. To the Bushmen eating hoodia to suppress appetite is as clear as drinking water to quench thirst.
There is also a growing body of journalist who can attest to the powers of hoodia. Here is a piece of the transcript from 60 Minutes (aired in Nov 2004):
So how did it work? 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.
– Leslie Stahl reporting on CBS News 60 Minutes
Tom Mangold, a correspondent from the BBC News reporting the following after eating Hoodia from the Kalahari Desert…
At about 1800hrs I ate about half a banana size (piece of hoodia gordonii) – and later so did my cameraman. Soon after, we began the four hour drive back to Capetown.
The plant is said to have a feel-good almost aphrodisiac quality, and I have to say, we felt good. But more significantly, we did not even think about food. Our brains really were telling us we were full. It was a magnificent deception.
Dinner time came and went. We reached our hotel at about midnight and went to bed without food. And the next day, neither of us wanted nor ate breakfast.
I ate lunch but without appetite and very little pleasure. Partial then full appetite returned slowly after 24 hours.
– Tom Mangold, BBC News reporting on 5/30/03
It is very rare for such established journalist to be so positive on a food supplement. Normally, the media is quick to find fault with any new dietary supplement and point out potential problems. Not only is Hoodia is being positively “field tested” by journalists, they are some of the most respected journalist in their field.
Were any clinical studies done with P57?
Yes. In 2001 Phytopharm completed a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical study in overweight, but otherwise healthy volunteers using the P57 extract from Hoodia gordonii. The participants were split into two groups, one group received the P57 and the other received a placebo. Both groups were told to continue their normal diet and exercise. The results were as follows:
When comparing the P57 group to the Placebo group:
The P57 group had a statistically significant reduction in body fat
The P57 group had a statistically significant reduction in caloric intake
The P57 had no adverse side effects
On average the P57 group ate about 1,000 calories a day less than those in the control group. To put that in perspective, the average American man consumes about 2,600 calories a day; a woman about 1,900
Were there any side effects from taking Hoodia or P-57?
There have not been any side effects reported from eating Hoodia or from taking the P-57 molecule. Remember, for thousands of years that Bushmen have eaten hoodia gordonii plants with no ill side effects.
How can P57 (and Hoodia Gordonii) really suppress appetite to such a great extent?
It is believed that Hoodia (and more specifically the p-57 in the hoodia) imitates the effect glucose has on nerve cells in the brain.
Basically, hoodia fools the brain into thinking it’s full when it’s not. So, your brain sends the signal that it is full and this cuts your urge to snack on unhealthy food. In fact, hoodia is more powerful than glucose in telling the brain that you are full. Here is how Phytopharm’s Dr Richard Dixey explained how P-57 actually works:
“There is a part of your brain, the hypothalamus. Within that mid-brain there are nerve cells that sense glucose sugar.
When you eat, blood sugar goes up because of the food, these cells start firing and now you are full. What the Hoodia seems to contain is a molecule that is about 10,000 times as active as glucose. It goes to the mid-brain and actually makes those nerve cells fire as if you were full. But you have not eaten. Nor do you want to.”
-As reported by BBC News Correspondent – Tom Mangold – 5/30/2003
So I will never be hungry if I eat a hoodia plant supplement?
Not exactly. We all need food to survive, when we feel hungry because we do not have enough food for the body to function this is called real hunger. You can not completely starve your body no matter how much Hoodia you eat. At some point your brain will figure out you do need food to function.
However, when you feel hungry because your insulin levels are bouncing all over the place, this is called hormonal hunger. It is this hormonal hunger which does in most people’s diets. When our blood sugar levels spike and fall, we crave more sweets and carbohydrates. This is why you might crave ice cream at 3am.
The idea of Hoodia gordonii is to use it to stop snacking because of hormonal hunger. You want to continue to eat meals when you have real hunger, but you want to eliminate all the snacking due to hormonal hunger. While hoodia can help eliminate both types of hunger, we feel it is unhealthy skip meals. The real advantage we see to hoodia is to eliminate cravings and snacks when you do not need to eat food.
I hear about diet pills all the time – what make Hoodia different?
Most diet pills and supplements work by trying to increase the rate at which our body burns fat. If you think about our body as a machine, calories provide the fuel. If you run the machine (body) hotter, faster and harder – you burn more fuel (calories). I think you can see the problem here – run any machine too hot and hard for long and you can have problems. This was the problem with ephedra. Many people who took ephedra supplements lost weight, but there were serious health risks. Things like strokes and heart attacks were too real a possibility when using ephedra.
What makes Hoodia supplements so different is they really work to prevent weight gain. As much as everyone argues about which is better low carb or low fat – in the end losing weight is a simple equation. Take in less calories than you burn and you will lose weight. It is really simple math, you can not gain weight if you consume less calories than you burn. Hoodia gives you a powerful weapon to fight hunger and therefore take in less calories. No need to run the body hotter or faster or harder, simply you consume less calories and therefore lose weight.