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The Pills Won't Help You Now

Marc Lemay

October 11, 2012

3 Min Read
The Pills Won't Help You Now

When a wad of Hoodia Gordinii powder arrived on my desk in 2004, a few months after the 60 Minutes piece that boosted the spiny, unassuming plant’s Q rating sky-high, I asked a technician to pack it forthwith into double-0 gelcaps, two of which I scarfed down (an estimated 900 mg) just before lunch, which I skipped because - hey ho! - I suddenly just wasn’t into food. And so it went. For about a week. Then, just as I was starting to proselytize this stuff up and down the block, it flipped on me. That was about the time I read about the lawsuit, one of several, with the detail from one complainant, that the purported Hoodia weight-loss supplement actually made her hungrier than before. There’s been a raft of reports since then, including from some outfits no doubt pushing fake Hoodia, about the flood of fake Hoodia on the market. 


The pills won’t help you now, to quote a Chemical Brothers song, apparently about someone marooned in an old-age home. Nothing works when you’re at that point, it’s all palliative, at best reducing the angle of the downwards-trending lines on the chart. 


Skepticism is overrated. Pills - medicines - save lives. If you really have a problem with eating you might well have the right pill available soon. It’s not that hard to affect your appetite. In fact there’s a couple of up-and-comers: the prescription medicines Belviq and Qsymia. But there’s something about those two that gives me the willies, I have to admit, and it’s not just the eldritch spelling. It’s the organ they affect, or graze in some high-tech way, the hypothalamus, famously and critically involved in the four Fs of human behavior:  Fighting, Fleeing, Feeding, and Sexual Behavior. If you eliminate "all desire" for food as was touted in that 60 minutes piece, you might find other desires unpleasantly vitiated.


I’m with Dr. Harris Steinman, a South African physician and quack-buster who wrote a post  entitled - I wasn’t sure at first - “F#ck Off Fat Pills” or “F#ck Off, Fat Pills” (you see how a comma’s critical at times, and not just for koalas). Turns out it was both. The post is a eminently satisfying bitch-slap to the dietary supplement “Fck Off Fat” (as the name appears in polite newspapers or website), which contains no Hoodia but fits right into that will-o'-the-wisp promise. 


Dr. Steinman (Harris, as he signs his name online) has also criticized the flood of fake or subpar Hoodia products on the market. Angela, the Skeptic Detective, situates the scam in the universe of logical fallacies. Interestingly, Harris himself, skeptic nonpareil, reports - anecdotally, folks, there’s no double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial results here, move along! - that “there’s no doubt that the actual plant, in its unprocessed state, does the job.” And well it might, in spite of published findings to the contrary. It’s a signal aspect of our industry that tons of Bullhockey piled high on top of something doesn’t make that something a nothing. What we’re left with is caveat emptor, predating DSHEA


So, a hypothetical pill of Hoodia - not yet available, unless you have trustworthy ZA connections -  might decrease your appetite. Or, you can takes your chances with the prescription medicines Qsczenak or Bilajiiia (spelling approximate). Or you can answer me this: 


Why is there no good Paleo Bar available? You know, one with no grains. And delicious, if you please. What about grass-fed jerky? You can find that stuff all over the web but not at your local grocers.


 The final challenge for healthy-weight eating is crispiness:  you can achieve something resembling the sensory explosion of a Fritos chip with ghee and almond meal, but I’d love to sic a lab full of food scientists and formulation engineers on developing & marketing a high-protein, delicious, pant-size-reducing alternative to crackers or chips. Which is by way of saying that in my experience the only way to strive towards a healthy weight is to eat healthy delicious food.

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