Hoodia gordonii

An extract of the succulent plant, Hoodia gordonii, with the seemingly cryptic name of P57AS3 (or P57 for short) has received a lot of media attention recently because this compound acts as a potent appetite suppressant. Indeed, trials have shown that it reduces daily calorie intake by 1000 kcal. According to Alok Jha writing in The Guardian on December 3, p57 has attracted the attention of food company Unilever having already been investigated by Pfizer and Cambridge-based Phytopharm. This begs the question, why? Surely, the last thing a company that manufactures icecream and such would want to suppress anyone’s appetite…

Anyway, a paper in the journal Brain Research describes p57 as a “steroidal glycoside” with “anorectic activity in animals”. Now, these are technical terms with precise definitions for professionals. Personally, I’d be cautious of taking a product that is essentially a steroid that triggers anorexia, wouldn’t you? Then again, the side-effects of obesity can be far worse. Just remember, if you’re chasing after this purportedly natural compound on the internet, that another infamous appetite suppressant, which goes by the name of cocaine is just as “natural”.

Author: David Bradley

Freelance science journalist, author of Deceived Wisdom. Sharp-shooting photographer and wannabe rock god.

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