Tuesday, November 01, 2011

The Nail in the Coffin for Hoodia

Hoodia gordonii is a plant native to South Africa that has been touted as having weight loss benefits since the start of the last decade.  It is sold in many dietary supplements that claim it has the ability to reduce appetite, amongst a mirade of other claims.  Although this has been thoroughly debunked more than once, it still continues to persist as an ingredient in fat loss supplement formulas.  Many legitimate supplement companies no longer sell Hoodia alone as an ingredient for fat loss or weight reduction, but it seems many companies still put the ingredient in formulations promoted for the stated reason that it can reduce a persons appetite.  Usually, the listed amount is unclear as it is included in formulas that include an ingredient listing in a proprietary blend, leaving the consumer unable to determine how much Hoodia is actually included in each serving size of the supplement.  But, since there has never been any real consensus on how much Hoodia is needed to have an effect or what specific alkaloids or extracts from Hoodia have the purported appetite reduction benefits it doesn't make a whole lot of difference.

Nonetheless, the basis for Hoodia working as a fat loss/diet aid has its background in science - or at least an attempt by science and pharmaceutical companies trying to determine if Hoodia had potential to be sold and marketed as a fat loss drug.  Several large pharmaceutical firms, including Pfizer, expressed a real interest in investigating whether or not the extract of Hoodia could legitimately be used as an appetite suppressant, also known as an anorectic compound.  Since most all prescribed drugs that work to reduce appetite are stimulant based, such as Phentermine, an amphetamine like drug, and the recently removed from the market drug, Meridia (sibutramine).  Sibutramine was not a amphetamine, but chemically related to them.  It blocks the reuptake of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine.  Although this was effective in reducing appetite, it was shown to cause risk of cardiovascular events (read: heart attacks) in certain individuals, especially those who were already obese, had poor diets, and other risk factors that would have increased this risk, especially when combined with stimulant drugs.

So, when pharmaceutical companies stumbled across a potential appetite suppressant that didn't appear to have any of the negative side effects associated with stimulants it piqued their interest.  The main constituent contained within Hoodia that had the supposed appetite reduction potential was called P57.  Since natural plants can't be patented and sold as prescription drugs, the idea was that drug companies could develop a process to extract or synthesize P57 on their own and patent it as an anorectic weight loss drug.  When news started to come around that the Hoodia plant was being investigated by major drug companies for its potential to help aid in weight loss supplement companies jumped all over it, buying up the bulk raw material, putting it in capsules, drinks, and anything else they could think of and sold it with claims of miraculous fat burning properties.  Unfortunately, no actual research had been conducted that demonstrability showed Hoodia had any effect on fat loss or appetite reduction.  Some studies conducted on rats by institutes in South Africa, which had a large financial stake in helping show that their native plant had some potential, are all that exist.

But now, a major chemical and pharmaceutical firm, Unilever, has released the results of a $25 million dollar human study they conducted on Hoodia and found that it had absolutely no appetite reduction benefits over placebo. Whats more, the individuals who consumed the Hoodia experienced many negative side effects.

The report, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, shows [...]
In their trial, Unilever researchers randomly assigned 49 healthy, overweight women to one of two groups. Both groups stayed at a clinic and were given two servings of yogurt a day for 15 days. In one group's yogurt drinks, the researchers had mixed in 1,110 milligrams of Hoodia.
The women were allowed to eat as much as they wanted during their stay at the clinic, yet there was no difference in calorie intake or weight loss between the two groups. Along the same lines, Hoodia didn't stifle anyone's hunger.
However, the Hoodia-treated women didn't fare as well as the placebo group. They experienced 208 cases of side effects -- three times the number reported by women eating normal yogurt -- including headaches, nausea, vomiting and odd skin sensations.
They showed increases in pulse and blood pressure, and signs of liver damage.
 Unilever has since abandoned any further research or attempts to pursue Hoodia as an appetite reduction drug.  Hoodia is one supplement you want to avoid if you decide to use weight loss supplements.

Frederik Joelving. Would-be fat-fighter Hoodia nothing but side effects - Reuters 10/28/11 (Link to article on Pastebin)
Wendy AM Blom, Salomon L Abrahamse, Roberta Bradford, et al. Effects of 15-d repeated consumption of Hoodia gordonii purified extract on safety, ad libitum energy intake, and body weight in healthy, overweight women: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 Nov;94(5):1171-81. Epub 2011 Oct 12.
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