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Hoodia: Lots of Hoopla, Little Science

Few studies support the promise of the South African appetite suppressant, but believers abound.
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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 humans."

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's Study

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, Goldfarb says.

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 works.

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."

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