Study says hoodia has adverse side effects

Posted: 24 November 2011

Study says hoodia has adverse side effects
SARAH WILD  in Business Day
Published: 2011/11/15 08:35:30 AM

A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition says indigenous hoodia gordonii plant is ineffective as an appetite suppressant and has adverse side effects 

THE indigenous hoodia gordonii plant is ineffective as an appetite suppressant and has adverse side effects, according to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

This is the latest development in the furore surrounding the succulent plant, which was traditionally used by the San bushmen to suppress hunger and thirst.

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) began investigating hoodia gordonii in 1963. It hit international headlines several years ago when the San discovered the CSIR had isolated the active ingredient in the plant and licensed the development rights to UK-based pharmaceutical development company Phytopharm.

These commercialisation rights were given back to the CSIR — which brokered a benefit-sharing agreement with the San — last year.

Safety concerns were raised in 2008 by Unilever, which had tried to develop a safe and effective weight loss product using hoodia gordonii.

The latest study was undertaken at the request of Unilever, and all the products used were manufactured at the company’s facilities.

The sample included 49 healthy, over-weight women, between the ages of 18 and 50. They consumed either two servings of hoodia gordonii or placebos daily for 15 days. 

The study’s authors say the hoodia gordonii purified extract was "associated with significant adverse changes in some vital signs and laboratory parameters". 

Additionally, the extract was "less well tolerated than was the placebo and did not show any significant effects on energy intakes or body weights relative to the placebo".

Technology manager in the CSIR’s biosciences unit Vinesh Maharaj said yesterday that the study used a concentrated extract of the active ingredient in liquid form and achieved the published results.

However, "other licensees used another concentrated extract in a capsule form and then it was effective", he said.

"The factual position is that hoodia has been assessed in 14 clinical studies to date, using crude extracts and concentrated active ingredients formulated in different ways," Dr Maharaj said.

Most of these had been found to be generally safe and well tolerated, he said.

At the moment, the CSIR was trying to get funding to form an independent team to collate the data from the various studies and determine the efficacy and safety of hoodia gordonii. 

"The clinical studies are done on different formulations. We have proposed forming an independent team to review all the clinical data and map out a way forward," Dr Maharaj said, adding that local and international experts had been identified.

However, funding was a problem and the CSIR had been seeking money to put the team together, he said. "We’ve been at this for the past eight months, and it’s been quite a challenge." With Tamar Kahn

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