By Matthew Ntinou, PhD (biochemist)
Obesity costs $147 billion each year, and it’s no surprise considering the number of overweight people around the world. Indeed, over one billion individuals are overweight, and hundreds of millions are considered obese. These statistics help to explain the current ubiquity of diabetes, heart disease, strokes, and even various cancers, which are all linked to unhealthy weight.
An Inarguable Truth: Hoodia Appears To Work For Many People
The growing health problems related to obesity create much interest in methods for reducing excess weight. Appetite suppressants provide an effective solution, and Hoodia gordonii is one of safest natural appetite suppressants available. In fact, there are already many Hoodia gordonii products available to purchase.
According to recent studies, the appetite suppressing effects of Hoodia are due to P57, an oxypregane glucoside unique to Hoodia gordonii. Animal research has shown that the P57 molecule may interact with neurons within the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus plays a regulatory role with regard to food intake, and it seems the introduction of P57 significantly reduces satiety.
Animal studies revealed no indication of damaging effects. Studies on humans performed by Phytofarm corroborate these findings. Hoodia has been on the market for years, and few health problems have been seen. Perhaps the best indication of long-term safety comes from the Kalahari Bushmen who have long used Hoodia without any health consequences.
A Well-Anticipated Problem: Most Hoodia In The Market Is Adulterated
Hoodia is indigenous to southern Africa, and it grows nowhere else. Because it is listed as an endangered species, its export from South Africa is tightly controlled by the government. Furthermore, the cultivation of P57 is difficult. It takes at least five years before the sought after P57 molecule is present. Additionally, mature plants must be harvested no more than once every two or three years to maintain future viability.
Yet demand for this hard to get product is only increasing. Already there are over one hundred products on the market in the United States. As the interest in Hoodia grows around the world, demand for its limited supply skyrockets.
The current demand for Hoodia gordonii far exceeds its actual availability. This has resulted in the adulteration of authentic H. gordonii with other similar species. Indeed, Dr Avula’s research at the University of Mississippi found that only 9 out of 35 supplements claiming to contain authentic H. gordonii had traces of the essential molecule, P57 .
This indicates the current Hoodia market is rife with false advertising and inferior ingredients. Although there are legitimate products containing the active P57 molecule, it is difficult for consumers to tell quality products from inferior ones. P57 is one of the most promising solutions to the problem of obesity, but how can you identify reputable companies from the surplus of faulty suppliers?
A Working Solution – The Certificates and Laboratory Tests
How can you keep from purchasing fake Hoodia? Fortunately, authentic Hoodia comes with certifications. The CITES certificate indicates the company is officially recognized as an exporter of Hoodia. If a company does not have this certificate, it is not legally allowed to export the particular variety of Hoodia known to have P57.
Additionally, independent lab tests can help to ensure a particular product is not adulterated or misrepresented. Companies, which specialize in phytochemical analysis, can perform several different tests in an effort to verify the existence of authentic Hoodia gordonii. One such company, Alkemist Pharmaceuticals, performs three separate tests. Its approach is in alignment with the guidelines set forth by the American Herbal Products Association.
Analysis Method 1 – Microscopic Analysis
Microscopic analysis is one method commonly employed to identify adulterated preparations of Hoodia. Through this type of analysis, it is possible to identify compounds that do not share the characteristics of Hoodia. For example, an Opuntia species is sometimes added to Hoodia gordonnii powder and then marketed as pure Hoodia gordonnii, but this can be revealed through careful microscopic examination.
Although microscopic analysis can detect the presence of foreign additives, it cannot distinguish between species closely related to Hoodia gordonii. For this reason, microscopy should be used in concert with other methods for determining the purity of Hoodia gordonii. Check to make sure the Hoodia product you purchase has a certificate that reads: “The test sample is characteristic of Hoodia gordonii aerial part.”
Analysis Method 2 –Thin Layer Chromatography (TLC)
Any plant matter can be broken down into its essential chemical compounds. TLC allows the unique chemical makeup of a particular plant to be displayed as a chemical fingerprint. TLC allows comparisons to be made between the Hoodia product being tested and the chemical fingerprint of authentic Hoodia gordonii, or voucher specimen. This testing method can determine whether or not a product is authentic or not. Check to see that the TLC certificate reads: “Hoodia gordonii, authenticated by TLC studies, matches the voucher specimen held at Alkemists Pharmaceuticals.”
Analysis Method 3 – High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC)
The P57 molecule is the sole component of Hoodia responsible for the weight loss. HPLC provides a reliable means for determining the presence of a particular molecule within a mixture. Through HPLC, chemists can identify the presence of P57 within a given product. To be sure the product you purchase has essential P57 molecules, check that the HPLC certificate reads: “Analyte P57 has been detected.”
The safety of Hoodia gordonii is not only demonstrated through its real world use but also through scientific research. Although Hoodia provides a safe and effective means for suppressing the appetite and reducing excess weight, finding a legitimate product, which actually contains P57, can be quite challenging. Indeed, less than half the Hoodia products found in the store or on the internet contain authentic Hoodia. For this reason, independent testing certificates are essential. Unfortunately, this doesn’t necessarily prevent the use of forged certificates by unscrupulous companies.
A few Hoodia brands found to be authentic are Hoodoba, Hoodia Hoodia, and Hoodia Desert. These brands are recommended by both About.com and also by “The Health Ranger,” Mike Adams.
Although Hoodia is praised by many who have had great success with it, and its demand has gone well beyond that of Medifast savings codes, promotion coupons for Nutrisystem, and BistroMD discount, common sense has it that it is best not to rely solely on diet pills to reduce weight. Hoodia may be helpful if it is part of a comprehensive healthy lifestyle, which includes both a balanced diet and regular exercise.