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Nora Saul, MS, RD, LDN, CDE

Manager, Nutrition Services
Joslin Diabetes Center
Boston, MA

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Hoodia for Weight Loss

Ask the Expert


I've been hearing a lot about "hoodia" lately. Is it safe to use for weight loss?


Hoodia gordonii is a flowering plant found in southern Africa. The Bushman of South Africa, also known as the San, have traditionally used the plant for treating indigestion and small infections. In 1977, the South African Council isolated the appetite suppressant factor in the Hoodia plant and named it P57. Unfortunately, Hoodia, as either a weight loss drug or supplement, is not ready for prime time. A pharmaceutical company abandoned trying to develop P57 into a weight loss drug due to manufacturing problems. Hoodia is still available as a component in some supplements, diet bars and shakes, although most of the Hoodia supplements and products currently on the market don't contain the active ingredient, P57. There isn't good research regarding Hoodia's effectiveness, and there is some concern as to its safety. In addition, there are no clear-cut guidelines regarding safe and effective doses.

Although not glamorous, the tried and true approaches of following a healthful eating plan and getting regular exercise are more likely to produce results. There are also some drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to help people with weight loss. Your health care provider is the best person to guide you in this area.

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