1. Headline
  1. Headline

Video: What's the newest weight loss potion?

TODAY
updated 10/24/2005 11:57:49 AM ET 2005-10-24T15:57:49

Could a plant from South Africa be the weight-loss secret that could help millions of overweight Americans slim down? NBC News correspondent Janet Shamlian talks about the possible magic pill we've all been waiting for.

It's the look everyone wants — a body to diet for. They're on the beaches, in magazines and all over Hollywood. How far will we go to get one? How about thousands of miles and deep into a distant culture? South Africa’s Kalahari Desert is home to what could be the answer to an appetite.

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 no more.

“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 Anker.

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.

© 2013 MSNBC Interactive.  Reprints

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments

More on TODAY.com

  1. Joan Lunden: 10 things I wish I knew before I was diagnosed with breast cancer

    From the moment you hear the words ‘You have breast cancer,’ it’s almost like you’re shot out of a cannon. Here are 10 things I wish I knew before I was diagnosed.

    10/1/2014 10:52:45 AM +00:00 2014-10-01T10:52:45
  2. Want to help? A guide to breast cancer charities

    In the United States an estimated 296,000 women and 2,240 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year and almost 40,000 women and 410 men will die of the disease. That's one death every 14 minutes, according to the National Breast Cancer Coalition.

    10/1/2014 10:45:11 AM +00:00 2014-10-01T10:45:11
  3. Samantha Okazaki / TODAY
  1. Nbc News

    9 things we learned from Brian Williams' Facebook chat

    10/2/2014 1:41:28 AM +00:00 2014-10-02T01:41:28
  1. Noel Vasquez / Getty Images Contributor

    Mila Kunis,  Ashton Kutcher welcome baby girl

    10/2/2014 1:24:09 AM +00:00 2014-10-02T01:24:09
  1. Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

    Secret Service director resigns amid scandal

    10/1/2014 7:30:52 PM +00:00 2014-10-01T19:30:52
  1. Texas Ebola patient had contact with kids

    Texas Gov. Rick Perry said in a press conference on Wednesday that “some school-age children” had been identified as having contact with the man diagnosed with the first case of Ebola in the United States. 

    10/1/2014 5:37:52 PM +00:00 2014-10-01T17:37:52