Hoodia gordonii is a succulent plant native to South Africa and Asia where it has traditionally been used by indigenous populations, most notably the Khoi-San, as an appetite and thirst suppressant during long hunting expeditions into harsh environments. These appetite suppressing qualities of hoodia gordonii have made for a number of inquiries into its potential as a weight loss aid.
How does Hoodia Work?
Formal research of hoodia goordonii began in the 1960’s but it wasn’t until 1977 when the active ingredient in hoodia responsible for appetite suppression, known as P57, was isolated by the South African Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. P57 is an oxypregnane steroidal glycoside and increases the amount of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in the body.
ATP is a nucleotide that, when broken down, releases energy for the body to use during metabolic processes. An elevated level of ATP will prompt the hypothalamus to send a signal to the brain to let you know you’ve had enough food by making you feel “full.” Hoodia operates by tricking the body into feeling full, which helps to curb appetite and reduce caloric intake. Glucose also raises ATP levels and suppresses appetite but, unlike glucose, P57 contains no calories.
Hoodia Clinical Studies
In addition to historic cultural use and anecdotal popularity among naturopaths, hoodia gordonii has also been studied in various clinical settings. Conclusions of these studies support the claim of the appetite-suppressing mechanism of hoodia gordonii and suggest it may be an adjunct to weight control when used with caloric restriction and a healthy lifestyle.
David MacLean, MD, an adjunct associate professor at Brown University and a former researcher at Pfizer, published a report in the Sept. 10, 2004, issue of Brain Research documenting his study to determine if P57 had an effect on the amount of hypothalamic ATP in the body.
In his study, MacLean collected the hypothalamus from a group of fetal rats. A separate group of rats had P57 injected directly into their brains and their hypothalamus’ collected 24 hours later. In comparing the two, MacLean found that rats injected with P57 had increased levels of hypothalamic ATP by 5-150%.
Additionally, another aspect of MacLean’s study involved injecting P57 into the third ventricle. In these rats, ATP increases of 40-60% were observed and food intake over the following 24 hour period reduced by 50-60%.