Hoodia, a Natural Cure for Obesity?

Recent clinical trials have shown that the South African milkweed Hoodia may contain a substance that can act as a natural appetite suppressant. The effects of Hoodia on the human body are currently being studied in a number of clinical trials. These trials are meant to answer questions revolving around the long term effects of prolonged use. Continued below is the history of Hoodia leading all the way up to present day use.


Hoodia has a long standing history, and has been used by the Khoekhoe people of South Africa for 10,000 years. These people were known to use Hoodia as a way of staving off hunger during long hunting trips. The use of Hoodia was documented by Tom Mangold of BBC News in a recent trip into the desert. During his trip Mangold ate half a banana size of Hoodia. Mangold documented that after consuming the Hoodia that he did not think about food, and that his brain was telling him he was full. He also went on to report that his appetite did not start to come back for approximately 24 hours.


In 1993, a PhD student at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in South Africa was able to identify the active ingredient in Hoodia as P57. P57 is a steroidal glycoside. Four years later, CSIR decided to license P57 to a British pharmaceutical company named PhytoPharm. PhytoPharm spent $20 million dollars researching Hoodia and how to turn it into a marketable drug. In 2001 PhytoPharm presented at a conference that Hoodia is capable of reducing caloric intake of up to 1000 calories a day.

In 2004, Unilever took over licensing rights. Unilever is most popular for its line of Slim Fast products. They have projected a 2008 release date of supplements and diet foods that contain P57.

Clinical Studies

In 2001, PhytoPharm conducted a double-blind randomized clinical study in 62 overweight volunteers. The participants were split into two groups; one that received P57 and one that received a placebo.

The results of this study showed that after 15 days the group that took P57 had achieved a 30% reduction in caloric intake and a reduction in body fat by an average of 1kg.

Further clinical studies are currently taking place in order to determine the long term effects of prolonged use.

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