Hoodia In The Media
The current Hoodia craze can probably trace its beginnings to November 21, 2004, when CBS’s “60 Minutes” did a program about Hoodia. In this program, correspondent Lesley Stahl traveled to Africa to try Hoodia gordonii for herself. She visited the Kalahari Desert of South Africa and spoke with a San Bushman. She then tried a piece of the Hoodia plant. According to Stahl, her hunger was suppressed, as she "wasn’t even hungry all day." She concluded that natural fresh Hoodia probably did work.
If you browse Hoodia sales websites, you will find that they all proudly quote “As seen on 60 Minutes!” They often quote Stahl as to the effectiveness of Hoodia. What they conveniently forget about is the second part of the program, where Stahl interviewed Dr. Richard Dixey, the head of the pharmaceutical company trying to develop Hoodia. In his opinion, the majority of products out there claiming to contain Hoodia in fact contain a tiny fraction of the active ingredient.
The “60 Minutes” episode was inspired by a BBC correspondent who traveled to South Africa a year earlier to investigate and sample Hoodia. He tried the plant and also reported that this decreased his appetite. This article is often quoted on websites fro products claiming to contain Hoodia. Thus these two articles, which featured nothing more than anecdotal evidence and interviews with people employed by companies trying to develop Hoodia products, started the Hoodia craze.
The existence of these two reports was enough to spawn a series of articles in newspapers around the world describing the apparent miracle plant of the Bushmen of South Africa which would be the next big cure for obesity. The hype quite simply overran the evidence. Pushed by the marketing of Hoodia-based nutrition supplements, Hoodia achieved a brand awareness that far outshone any proven ability to aid in weight loss.
This of course led to the next wave of articles, decrying the great Hoodia scam. People started investigating several of the so-called Hoodia nutritional supplements, and found that those companies couldn’t begin to justify the claims they were making. This led to the cautionary articles, which mix testimonials both for and against Hoodia supplements.
The greatest benefit of Hoodia seems to be to two groups, the nutritional supplement companies who sell it as a magical weight loss cure to anyone they can find, and the media, which is provided with a seemingly never-ending series of topics. It seems that our obsession with out appearance, combined with the ever increasing rates of obesity, continue to drive the search for stories of miracle cures. Hoodia is simply a great story.