Saturday, November 25, 2006

Does the "Hoodia Patch" Really Work?

The hoodia patch represents a new trick in the book of supplement marketers in their attempts to sell weight loss snake oil to the general public. These people want us to believe that not only is hoodia a weight loss miracle supplement, but that the patch delivery system guarantees that hoodia will deliver unprecedented weight loss benefits.

But let’s just forget about the delivery system of hoodia, and take a quick look at the supplement itself.

Hoodia gordonii – commonly referred to as hoodia – is the latest in a long line of weight loss panaceas that have been foisted upon the general public by dietary supplement hucksters. And just like all of hoodia’s forerunners, there really isn’t much scientific evidence to support the use of hoodia as a weight loss supplement.As a matter of fact, hoodia has the flimsiest pedigree of any of these other weight loss snake oils.Hoodia comes from cactus found in South Africa and Namibia. The parts of the cactus that contain the hoodia are ground down into powder which is in turn manufactured into whatever form the supplement manufacturers deem necessary. There are two major problems with hoodia. The first problem is that there is no independent research to verify the claims that hoodia can aid in weight loss or act as an appetite suppressant.

The “research” touted on the Internet is nothing of the legitimate kind, as most of these hoodia sites are nothing more than advertisements that have been set up by supplement marketers.Another telling sign that hoodia doesn’t work is that pharmaceutical giant Pfizer started development of a hoodia based drug, but has since turned over the development rights to another company. If hoodia showed any promise, it’s doubtful that Pfizer would have abandoned their project and given the opportunity to another pharmaceutical company.

The “proof” that hoodia works is purely anecdotal There are stories that for thousands of years the Bushmen of the Kalahari desert have eaten parts of these cacti in an attempt to ward off hunger on long hunting trips. Okay. That’s just silly.

That isn’t proof, it’s folklore.

A while ago CBS’s 60 Minutes correspondent Leslie Stahl testified to the appetite suppressing qualities of hoodia. Ms. Stahl traveled to Africa and had a local aboriginal Bushmen take her to where this cactus grows. Ms. Stahl ate the raw hoodia right from the cactus and stated that because she didn’t feel hungry all day, the hoodia must work as an appetite suppressant. This is the worst kind of journalism.

Despite Ms. Stahl’s credentials as a serious journalist, her testimonial is meaningless. However, hoodia hucksters seized upon the credibility of Ms. Stahl to sell their product to hundreds of thousands of unsuspecting consumers. How many millions of dollars did these supplement sellers make thanks to Ms. Stahl’s irresponsible words? But that’s a different story for another time.

Which brings up another important issue.

What Ms. Stahl ingested was “fresh picked” cactus giving her raw hoodia, not the processed hoodia powder which is contained in all hoodia supplements. From what we know about trying to extract nutrients from other “real sources” of nutrients – garlic and fruit extracts for instance - these extracted powders or pills do not offer any of the benefits provided by the real thing. So even if raw hoodia does provide some benefits, powdered hoodia most likely cannot.

On the web site for the hoodia patch not only do we get the recycled Leslie Stahl story we’re also told that a BBC reporter named Tom Mangold spoke to a doctor who told him that hoodia basically kills your appetite by tricking the brain into thinking that you’re full.

Here’s how these hucksters sum up their hoodia product.
That's it! That's the MIRACLE OF HOODIA!! It tricks the brain into thinking you've eaten a three course meal. While you are wearing the patch, you're simply NOT HUNGRY ANYMORE! You'll still eat – but you'll EAT A LOT LESS!!

Hmm, wouldn’t this result in people starving to death because they think that they are full and never want to eat? If hoodia in fact does trick the brain into thinking that you’re full how can you still eat, why would you still eat?

Please people, exercise some common sense and stay away from any product that makes this kind of wildly contradictory statement.

And of course on the hoodia patch web site there are no references whatsoever to actual scientific studies, the results of which would support the use of hoodia.The other major problem with hoodia is that even if hoodia did work as advertised, there is no guarantee that there is actual hoodia in the hoodia supplements. There have been stories that up to two-thirds of all the hoodia supplements sold in the United States are counterfeit. An independent lab analysis of seventeen different hoodia products found that only six of these products actually contained any hoodia.

Hoodia gordonii has been on a list of protected/endangered species since 2004 and that means that all genuine hoodia exported from South Africa needs to have a Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species in Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) permit. Unscrupulous hoodia brokers are counterfeiting these licenses in order to sell who-knows-what as 100% hoodia.

And even if the hoodia is legally obtained - and is actual hoodia - the hoodia powder is frequently cut with fillers so as to allow suppliers to sell more "hoodia." This means that there is less hoodia in the supplement than the buyer is led to believe. In the case of hoodia, less of something that doesn’t do anything for you anyway.

Spending your money on any weight loss supplement is a bad idea, but spending on hoodia in any form is the worst “investment” that anyone can make.

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