Treatments

Pumped-Up Hoodia Weight-Loss Claims Put Vacation House On Block

Hoodia gordonii plants like this one have been used by generations of bushmen in Southern Africa's Kalahari desert as an appetite suppressant. But the Federal Trade Commission isn't sold on that idea. i i

hide captionHoodia gordonii plants like this one have been used by generations of bushmen in Southern Africa's Kalahari desert as an appetite suppressant. But the Federal Trade Commission isn't sold on that idea.

David Silverman/Getty Images
Hoodia gordonii plants like this one have been used by generations of bushmen in Southern Africa's Kalahari desert as an appetite suppressant. But the Federal Trade Commission isn't sold on that idea.

Hoodia gordonii plants like this one have been used by generations of bushmen in Southern Africa's Kalahari desert as an appetite suppressant. But the Federal Trade Commission isn't sold on that idea.

David Silverman/Getty Images

Hoodia may not help you lose weight. But the supplement, derived from an African plant, may help you lose your vacation house, if you're marketing the stuff with claims that go too far in the eyes of regulators.

The Federal Trade Commission said it has reached a settlement with David J. Romeo and two companies he controlled that bans them from "making any weight-loss claims while marketing foods, drugs, and dietary supplements."

Under the agreement, Romeo is obligated to sell a vacation house in Vermont within a year and turn the proceeds over to the government. If he doesn't, he'll be on the hook for a $22.5 million fine.

See the house in Hoodia settlement

Two years ago, the FTC alleged Romeo and other defendants in the case "made false and deceptive claims about hoodia and its effectiveness as a treatment for obesity."

Some of those no-nos cited by the agency:

  • "Hoodia supplements taken daily can reduce calorie intake by 1000 calories a day...."
  • "Hoodia has many wonderful effects on the body, all of which are linked to the activity of the hypothalamus of the brain, the part which controls appetite...."
  • "Hoodia [g]ordonii: The world's best chance at a cure for obesity."

Oh, there was one other alleged problem. The products the defendants touted didn't always contain "authentic Hoodia gordonii," the agency said.

For what it's worth, the National Center for Alternative and Complementary Medicine says,"There is no reliable scientific evidence to support hoodia's use."

I called and emailed the lawyer representing Romeo and the companies in the settlement with the FTC for a comment on the agreement, but I haven't heard back.

It should be said the settlement doesn't constitute an admission of guilt by the defendants that any law was broken.

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