It's a cactus called hoodia. “You
strip off the skin, you strip off the spines, and then you consume it,” says
weight loss expert Madelyn Fernstrom.
Eat it and you won't want to eat
anything else — a secret bushmen have known for ages and a mystery to the West
“Hoodia's actually one of our top
selling diet products,” says Anthony Paulmeno of General Nutrition Center.
Nutrition stores are packed with
products. But this isn't the fresh plant said to work wonders. It's the dried,
powdered and — some say — less effective version.
One of the issues for dieters is
that there are so many products with the label hoodia on them, it's hard to know
the difference between them, or if they work at all.
“Today” show staffer Jayme Anker
is giving it a shot and hoping it suppresses her appetite.
“I am obsessed with it,” says
Having endured weight loss camp as
a child, at 26 she's still waging the war and hoping hoodia will be the weapon
that works. “What’s the worst that's going to happen to me?” she says.
It’s an important question. Store
brands are not inspected or regulated, and their exact contents are unknown.
Texan Walter Parks bought his
bottle on the Internet. “I would say yes, that it is the magic bullet plant,”
Parks say. But there are no human studies to prove that.
Fernstrom says, “It's important to
say this does need more [research].”
But dieters are hopeful a
hunger-busting plant will deliver one of those glorious, how-did-they-get-it
bodies that are seemingly everywhere — except in the mirror.