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Fitness Glossary


By Anna Lynn Sibal

If you have been actively checking your email for the past year or so, I am sure that you have heard of the word “hoodia.” At first I was annoyed at getting spam mail about various weight loss products, from ranging from pills to candies, made from extracts of hoodia. I thought I was alone in this annoyance, but I soon discovered that the barrage of hoodia spam mail is a global thing.

What is hoodia? Hoodia is a succulent plant found in the Namib Desert, which stretches from Central Namibia to Southern Angola. The hoodia plant can reach up to one meter in height and it has large, generally flesh-colored flowers with a strong and distinct smell. The Bushmen of the Namib Desert have used the hoodia plant for centuries to inhibit the feeling of hunger from their bodies, especially when crossing the desert.

What gives the hoodia plant the popularity and notoriety it possesses right now is that there are species that contain an appetite-suppressing molecule called P57. This molecule, actually, can be extracted from the species Hoodia gordonii in particular, and it is the only species of the hoodia plant that has the P57 molecule.

The P57 molecule specifically works by tricking the brain into thinking that the stomach is full. If the brain senses that the stomach is full, hunger is suppressed and the time when the body feels the need to eat again is delayed. Also, continuous consumption of the P57 molecule through the hoodia plant results in reduced interest in food and a general sense of well-being.

Currently, there is much research going on about the hoodia plant and the properties of the P57 molecule, as well as on effective methods of extracting the P57 molecule and making it into safe health and weight-loss supplements. Among the proponents of research on the hoodia plant and the extraction of the P57 molecule is the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, before the company released the rights to their research in 2002.

So far, consuming pills containing hoodia plant extracts are known to be safe and to have no unpleasant side effects. The pills available right now are mostly made from natural extracts, as ways of creating the P57 molecule synthetically are still in the works. It also does not act as a stimulant. Some people who are into taking pills with hoodia plant extracts begin their regimen by taking in a capsule or two an hour before lunch and another capsule or two an hour before dinner. They do this for the first two weeks of their regimen, or as accorded by their doctors. After these two weeks have passed, the hunger-suppressant properties of the P57 molecule starts to take effect, and so only one or two capsules are necessary every day.

You can try taking in capsules made from hoodia plant extracts, but do so with care. Even if it is considered safe, it is better to be safe than sorry, so consult your doctor first. Also, taking in such capsules is still no excuse for neglecting to eat regular meals and exercising. You should still take care of what you eat and make sure that you eat healthy.

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