Hoodia: Lots of Hoopla, Little Science
Few studies support the promise of the South African appetite suppressant, but believers abound.
The Science continued...
In an email response to WebMD, MacLean says a cousin of hoodia's P57
molecule may eventually prove to be the better answer. "A chemical within
that class of molecules has real potential to reduce appetite," he says.
"I'm less confident regarding the hoodia molecule itself for reasons
relating to its metabolism [absorption and breakdown] in
About the time MacLean's article was published, Richard M. Goldfarb, MD, a
doctor in Morrisville, Pa., conducted a study of Hoodia gordonii on
people and found it effective. His study was small, just seven people, says
Goldfarb, medical director of Bucks County Clinical Research, an organization
that conducts studies for pharmaceutical and other companies.
Goldfarb studied DEX-L10, the 500-milligram hoodia capsules sold by Delmar
Labs. Goldfarb did the study for the manufacturer but says he was not paid for
the research. "I did it as a service to them," he says.
In Goldfarb's study, the seven overweight participants were told to take two
Hoodia gordonii (DEX L-10) capsules a day, eat a balanced breakfast
and take a multivitamin, and keep other eating and exercise habits unchanged. The participants' starting
weights ranged from 193 to 345 pounds. They lost, on average, 3.3% of their
body weight, Goldfarb says. The median loss over the 28-day study was 10 pounds
(half lost more, half less).
Most of the participants reported their caloric intake dropped to less
than half within a few days after starting hoodia, and they didn't report side
effects such as jitteriness or insomnia,
The study was not published in a scientific journal nor presented at a
medical meeting, Goldfarb says, because it was conducted as an
"efficacy" study, trying only to find out if the product actually
Goldfarb is recruiting volunteers for a second, larger study, commissioned
by Delmar Labs, which he hopes to begin by year's end.
"Hoodia gordonii works within the satiety center of the brain
by releasing a chemical compound similar to glucose but up to 100 times
stronger," Goldfarb says in his written report. "The hypothalamus
receives this signal as an indication that enough food has been consumed and
this in turn decreases the appetite."