BBC NEWS | Programmes | Correspondent | Sampling the Kalahari cactus diet: " Correspondent Friday, 30 May, 2003, 09:56 GMT 10:56 UK
Sampling the Kalahari cactus diet
The San bushmen have eaten the plant for years
Correspondent's Tom Mangold travelled to Africa and sampled the appetite suppressing Hoodia, a plant which may make Kalahari bushmen millionaires.
By Tom Mangold
BBC Two's Correspondent
Imagine this: an organic pill that kills the appetite and attacks obesity.
It has no known side-effects, and contains a molecule that fools your brain into believing you are full.
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.
When South African scientists were routinely testing it, they discovered the plant contained a previously unknown molecule, which has since been christened P 57.
The license was sold to a Cambridgeshire bio-pharmaceutical company, Phytopharm, who in turn sold the development and marketing rights to the giant Pfizer Corporation.
A molecule in the cactus makes you feel full