Hoodia gordonii: Part II; separating science from speculation

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Authors: Stephen Holt and Thomas V. Taylor
Date: Dec. 2006
From: Townsend Letter: The Examiner of Alternative Medicine(Issue 281)
Publisher: The Townsend Letter Group
Document Type: Article
Length: 3,764 words

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Hoodia gordonii is a succulent plant from South Africa that has appetite-suppressant properties. (1-3) Hoodia has been used as a dietary supplement, derived by drying the aerial parts of the plant, (3) or as a source of extracted steroidal glycosides to induce weight loss in experimental animals and humans. (4-14) Ethnobotanical studies document the use of whole, fresh, plant material by San Bushmen as a way of suppressing appetite, thirst, and hunger pangs during nomadic hunting expeditions in desert regions of South Africa. (1-3) Animal and limited human studies have shown that extracts of Hoodia gordonii can reduce body weight in free feeding rats (4,14) and obese subjects, (6-8) but full disclosure of this drug development research has not been made in the medical literature.

In Part II of this two-part article, controversial aspects of the development of Hoodia species as a substitute for dietary supplements or drug development are discussed. The current, disclosed evidence-base for the use of Hoodia species as a dietary supplement is reviewed.

The Excitement About Hoodia

Much information about the potential of Hoodia gordonii as a non-stimulant, appetite suppressant has been presented in the media. (6-13,15-21) Hoodia has become one of the best-selling "weight loss supplements" in North America and certain regions of Western Europe. (3) Hoodia is available in many different formulations of branded dietary supplements with variable characteristics and presumed biological activity (see Part I of this article: Townsend Letter; November 2006).


Extracts of Hoodia gordonii are being actively researched by major food and pharmaceutical corporations as potential food-additive ingredients or as templates for synthetic drug manufacturing. (6-13,15-21) Given the importance of calorie control as a means of impacting the global epidemic of obesity, the commercial market for this new technology is estimated to be worth tens of billions of dollars. (15) Patents have been and continue to be filed by commercial organizations on specific extracts of Hoodia or the use of Hoodia in combination with other nutrients or botanicals in dietary supplements. (3,5,22)

Is Hoodia gordonii a Legal Dietary Supplement in the US?

Uncertainty exists concerning the need for Hoodia gordonii to be approved as a new dietary ingredient. To date, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has refused to give permission for Hoodia species to be approved as a new diet ingredient, and Hoodia does not have official Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) status. However, Hoodia gordonii has a history of use in the food chain of South African inhabitants over a documented period of centuries. The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA) permits the "grandfathering" of dietary supplements, if they have been in the food chain prior to enactment of this legislation. (23) Hoodia gordonii may be considered to be a "grandfathered" ingredient because of its longstanding presence in food chains, but there may be a "grey area" within the law, concerning whether or not DSHEA (1994) requires that the dietary substance be in the US food chain exclusively.

It has been argued...

Source Citation

Source Citation
Holt, Stephen, and Thomas V. Taylor. "Hoodia gordonii: Part II; separating science from speculation." Townsend Letter: The Examiner of Alternative Medicine, no. 281, Dec. 2006, pp. 99+. Accessed 6 Feb. 2023.

Gale Document Number: GALE|A155218084