Boys in the Hoodia

I love Internet ads. They reach such absurd levels of gaudiness, with scantily clad women, obvious trivia questions, and enough flashing colors to induce epileptic fits in small Japanese children. While I appreciate them as one might linger over the Weekly World News in line at the grocery or consider a teacup full of ketchup on a pedestal at the modern art gallery, I rarely actually click on one of the ads. Today I did.

It was for the “Curb Your Cravings Hoodia Patch.”


“Hoodia?” I thought. What a stupid name. The ad boasted that it was as seen on 60 Minutes, Oprah, and other top authorities on things like this, so I put on my sunglasses and clicked the link, well-prepared for the onslaught of neon that met me next.

The site immediately claimed to sell the “first weight loss patch to have the power of hoodia.” I felt like I was in a movie where I’m the poor rube who’s the last to know something important.

“Hoodia is coming!”

“Are you ready for Hoodia?”

“Prepare for the Hoodiapocalypse!”

Finding no real answers on the site (perhaps if I had given them my credit card . . . ), I turned to my friend Google. I was shocked to find that as claimed on the site, Hoodia really WAS mentioned on the BBC.

Deep inside the African Kalahari desert, grows an ugly cactus called the Hoodia. It thrives in extremely high temperatures, and takes years to mature.

The San Bushmen of the Kalahari, one of the world’s oldest and most primitive tribes, had been eating the Hoodia for thousands of years, to stave off hunger during long hunting trips.

And not only that, but it actually sounds like it may even work:

Half were given Hoodia, half placebo. Fifteen days later, the Hoodia group had reduced their calorie intake by 1000 a day.

It was a stunning success.

The journalist even traveled to the Kalahari to try it for himself:

The plant is said to have a feel-good almost aphrodisiac quality, and I have to say, we felt good.

But more significantly, we did not even think about food. Our brains really were telling us we were full. It was a magnificent deception.

Which is it??

Of course, his anecdote doesn’t make it true, but the evidence is very compelling. I was starting to wonder if I had to reevaluate my feelings on these Internet ads. Maybe shooting that damn monkey riding the bull really will win me a free iPod. Maybe I can save 60% on my life insurance if I can click on the picture showing the person Angelina Jolie is dating (it’s a small Mongolian baby, right??).

But alas, the end of the article dashed my hopes against the rocks of reality:

And beware internet sites offering Hoodia “pills” from the US as we tested the leading brand and discovered it has no discernible Hoodia in it.

Crap. And I really wanted that iPod.

Those of you with satellite radio, tune in to Maxim radio tonight at 9:30 pm EST to hear one of my favorite Skepchicks talk about UFOs! Those of you on the Skepchick forum know her as “not desperate” and around JREF she’s known as Kitty, but to all the lucky folks out there with the Skepchick 2006 Calendar, she’ll always be Ms. March. Rowr!

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky

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  1. I wonder what "leading" brand of Hoodia extract the BBC tested? If you go to, you can find Hoodia extract products with "potencies" of 500-800 mg per capsule. Without knowing what an effective dosage of Hoodia is, it's not really possible to conclude whether currently available dietary supplements might provide any benefit or not (short of purchasing a supplement and testing on oneself, of course).

  2. I assume SOMEONE will probably tape Kitty's radio-thing and post it online for those of use who can't listen tonight? Right?

  3. I think Kitty is working on getting a copy, but as of now you have to have satellite radio to listen.

    Mike — I wonder if the potencies listed are even correct. There are a lot of scams out there, and it may be possible that companies are getting away with blatant lies. That said, the site I checked out offered a free trial — I'm VERY tempted to conduct my own test but I worry about handing over my personal information to hucksters in order to do it.

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