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What’s The Deal with Hoodia?

If you are anything like me, your skepticism goes into overdrive whenever you come across the words “diet pill” in the same sentence. The process of losing weight can be broken down into simple mathematical steps. You will put on weight if you consume more calories than you burn off each day.

If you take in fewer calories than you burn off each day, you will experience weight loss. The laws of gravity can’t change the fact that losing weight works.

No exclusions. It is about as probable that you will wake up in the morning to find that pounds of fat have magically disappeared from your body as it is that you will discover that your car has magically flown onto the top of the nearby building.

Please excuse my cynicism when a friend of mine gave me a story from the BBC (written by Tom Mangold and published on May 30, 2003) about a “Kalahari cactus diet.” I read the article. I did some additional investigation into the topic. I’m convinced!

Because the hypothalamus contains nerve cells that can detect glucose and sugar, even those who are famished do not consume enough food to kill themselves by overeating. Consuming food causes sugar to be released into the bloodstream. The glucose is produced when the sugar is converted. The hypothalamus is the part of the brain that detects changes in glucose levels and eventually communicates with the rest of the brain to let it know that immediate survival is guaranteed and that it is safe to stop eating.

However, this cactus from the Kalahari desert known as hoodia has a chemical that researchers have given the name p.57 and which is approximately 10,000 times more active in the hypothalmus than glucose.

This indicates that hoodia stimulates the glucose sugar nerve cells in your brain, causing your brain to believe that it is full. It’s possible that you haven’t consumed anything at all. And you don’t even want to at this point.

In order to do a segment on hoodia for 60 Minutes on CBS, Lesley Stahl flew to the Kalahari Desert. Stahl tried it. Someone commented that it tasted like cucumber, but more importantly, they lost all appetite for the rest of the day and did not feel the need to drink or eat anything. According to her account, there were neither after effects nor side consequences.

The pharmaceutical industry’s big players are working on it, and who knows? Maybe one day they’ll be able to produce p.57. But for the time being, Mother Nature has not divulged any of her secrets, and the only way to reap the benefits of what the BBC describes as “an organic medication that kills the appetite and battles fat” is to obtain natural hoodia from the Kalahari desert. There are intentions to cultivate the plant, but no one can say for certain whether or not hoodia grown in a commercial setting will have the same qualities as the plant found in nature.

It would appear that not all hoodia is created equal. Only Hoodia gordonii has p.57. Other Kalahari cactus plants are…cactus. The United States government and the government of South Africa are in charge of regulating the harvesting and importing of Hoodia gordonii. Only businesses who have been granted a license by the Western Cape Conservation Authority of South Africa and that are in possession of the necessary Certificates are authorized to sell the genuine material. When it comes to something of this value, there are bound to be many people looking to take advantage of it, which is why having a Certificate of Authenticity is essential.

A natural, risk-free, and efficient appetite suppressant can’t be anything other than beneficial for populations in which obesity is a serious national health concern. There is no other explanation for this. However, one has to wonder how long the supply will continue to be available.

Other variables come into play when talking about individual use. In order for it to carry out its regular functions and maintain its health, your body requires a constant supply of protein as well as other nutrients. Is Hoodia Gordonii so potent that even the smallest bit of it makes you feel sick to your stomach? Or how about maintaining a healthy water intake?

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