Obesity is one of the leading causes of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular morbidity and mortality in the developed world. Whilst some cases are primarily due to genetics, majority of the obesity cases are due to lifestyle factors. Over-eating and a sedentary life has resulted in an explosion of this pandemic globally. A panacea for obesity has been the holy grail for many pharmaceutical companies the world over. The weightloss industry is set to be a 150 billion dollar industry in the coming years.

Whilst there is no denying the fact that exercise and a good diet remains the cornerstone for arresting the spread of obesity there is also a definite role for weightloss medications as an add-on measure for the many who just cannot get rid of excess fat. There are several weightloss medications that have been tested and tried. Some have fallen by the wayside and some are still struggling to establish a foothold. One of the major hurdles in developing a medication for effective and safe weightloss seems to be the areas of the brain that are involved in the phenomenon of obesity. The Hypothalamus is the center for hunger, appetite and satiety. A drug that effectively works at the hypothalamic level is bound to also have additional side effects. At a peripheral level a drug can inhibit the absorption of dietary fat in the intestines much like the prescription drug Xenical does. Whatever the weightloss medication there seems to be side effects with all of them. One must remember that weightloss cannot be achieved overnight and is not possible with just some designer drugs. Weightloss needs a coordinated approach directed towards calorie intake, exercise and possibly medications.

This post is primarily directed towards one product that has created a stir in the obesity segment. Hoodia is the latest catch-phrase in the weightloss industry today and many people are already hooked onto its amazing ability to suppress appetite. Long-term studies are necessary before one can conclusively label it as the ‘miracle pill’ for weightloss.

What exactly is Hoodia? Hoodia is a succulent plant growing in the arid Kalahari Desert in South Africa. For centuries the San Bushmen have been chewing on this plant to suppress appetite and thirst while on hunting expeditions and in times of food scarcity. Hoodia has the ability to fool your brain into believing that you are full and helps you to stay full faster!

How exactly does Hoodia work? The Hypothalamus in the human brain has nerve cells that are stimulated by glucose molecules. These cells are stimulated every time we eat and then they switch off the center for hunger leading to a feeling of fullness. Hoodia is 100000 times more powerful than Glucose and the result is that it fools these nerve cells into believing that you are full even though you have not eaten and nor do you want to eat! Hoodia works by suppressing appetite naturally.

How safe is Hoodia? The majority of the available weightloss drugs have either fallen by the wayside or have been limited in their use because of potentially harmful side effects. Hoodia is 100% natural, 100% ephedrine-free, 100% Caffeine-free and has no synthetic agents. Hoodia is not a stimulant and is not known to be associated with any unwanted effects. The bushmen of Kalahari do mention that Hoodia has got some aphrodisiac properties.

How effective is Hoodia? While it is too early to say about the effectiveness of Hoodia one can safely say that any weightloss medication that is deemed to be free from harmful side effects would be an ideal one. Effectiveness comes next. Hoodia may work right away or may take some weeks to show its effects. However one must remember that an effective weightloss regime must include diet control, exercise and medications because Obesity is multifactorial and a multi-dimensional approach is the best.

A word of caution: There are several fake Hoodias doing the rounds and one must not be fooled into buying these fakes. Of the several species of Hoodia, only Hoodia Gordonii subspecies seems to have the appetite suppressant effects. Hoodia is only grown in South Africa and it takes almost 4-5 years for the plant to mature. These plants then have to be processed into a more consumer-friendly preparation like pills or liquid. The active ingredient of Hoodia that seems to suppress appetite is a molecule identified by Phytopharm Laboratories is p57. Pfizer was initially involved with Phytopharm to isolate this molecule but gave up half way because of the impossibilities encountered. Currently available commercial preparations are basically an extract of the plant in the processed form and is not the isolated p57 moiety.

To summarize:

1. Hoodia reduces the interest in food.

2. Hoodia delays the time after eating before hunger sets in again.

3. Hoodia causes a sense of fullness.

4. Hoodia increases the general well-being.

5. Hoodia seems to be safe and effective at weightloss.

6. Genuine Hoodia should be sought for and fakes should be avoided.

7. The safety and effectiveness of Hoodia has been documented in ’60 minutes’ on CBS and on BBC networks.

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