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San tribesmen of the Kalahari Desert in South Africa have one of the oldest primitive cultures in existence, maybe as old as 100,000 years. They are hunter-gatherers and go on long hunting expeditions. Given the harsh desert and scarcity of game, they chew on a succulent plant called Hoodia Gordonii to keep off hunger and thirst.

In 1937 a Dutch anthropologist recorded, this fact and in the 1960s CSIR, the South African research council, started a study on the plant. In 1997 CSIR took out a patent on a molecule of Hoodia, named P57, as an aid in weight-loss treatment. In 1998 they made an agreement with a British company, Phytopharm, to test and market the product.

Phytopharm carried out the usual clinical trails of P 57 and announced a very positive result in 2001. In a double-blind study volunteers were given 400mg of dried Hoodia per day. After 15 days they reduced their calorie intake by 1,000 per day. The control group did not show any appreciable reduction.

In the mid-brain hypothalamus there are nerve cells that detect glucose. When we eat, the glucose from food reaches these nerve cells, and they fire signals that make you feel full. The molecule in Hoodia Gordonii P 57 is 10,000 times as active as glucose in making these cells start the signal and make you feel full. This plant has proved to be a natural appetite suppressant, without the side effects of other chemicals that are being used for weight loss treatment.

Unfortunately, Pfizer has given up the attempt to develop a synthetic P 57 as not economical. Despite all the hype of the Hoodia manufacturers, it is simply a natural way of suppressing appetite and nothing more. For a sensible program to lose weight you take it as one aspect of the total. You need to combine it with a nutritious diet, exercise and life-style modification, and each one of these is more important than the appetite suppressant. A sensible weight loss program is one that can be sustained over a long term without undergoing any privations.

Hoodia Gordoni is a very useful supplement during the initial stages of a weight-loss program to shed the extra pounds. But altering behavior patterns can keep those pounds off permanently.

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