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A Dietitian’s Response to the Ice Cube Diet: It’s Not Too Cool

May 23, 2011

Despite what many are led to believe, the relationship between food and weight is really quite simple. Food provides energy measured in calories. A negative calorie balance equates to weight loss. A positive calorie balance without intervention (such as exercise) causes weight gain. Where the REAL problem comes in to play for those trying to lose weight is HOW one goes about achieving a healthy weight loss plan. With what seems to be a new pill, powder, or liquid weight loss product each day, nearly all of them promising to help you shed pounds fast and easily, it’s not a wonder there is confusion.

One weight-loss diet that has sparked my interest as of late (even though it’s been on the market for over a year) is the Ice Cube Diet. It’s simple: You take one “hoodia satiety cube” and mix it with your drink of your choice once daily. The cubes naturally curb your appetite so you will end up snacking less and ultimately, weigh less. Or so they say….


So just what is this hoodia satiety cube? Hoodia, scientific name hoodia gordonii, is a succulent plant that grows in the Kalahari Desert in southern Africa. The plant has been used by the Kalahari Bushmen in the area for many years, supposedly to help prevent hunger on long hunting trips. Researchers believe that a molecule in the hoodia plant, known as P57, may help to lessen appetite. However, there’s no solid evidence from scientifically sound clinical trials that hoodia is an effective tool for weight loss.


The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued warnings that no studies exist regarding the effectiveness or safety of hoodia for human consumption. In addition, no studies exist on hoodia’s interactions with medicines and other supplements. Several small, unpublished studies did report optimistic results regarding hoodia’s ability to suppress appetite and, thus, lead to weight loss. Still, most experts agree that not enough conclusive evidence exists in order to recommend hoodia as a weight-loss remedy.

As a registered dietitian, understanding the relationship between diet, lifestyle, genetics, and chronic disease is challenging. Therefore, I rely on the scientific community to shed light on these relationships within research studies. Without the science to back it up, we really do not know if this product is safe or effective.


Some dietary supplement manufacturers market products containing hoodia as a way to suppress appetite and aid in weight loss. Herbal and dietary supplements don’t require approval from the FDA before going on the market. But the FDA has warned some manufacturers of hoodia products to stop making unsubstantiated and misleading claims about weight loss.

Again, no studies regarding the purported link between hoodia and weight loss have appeared in any medical journals to date yet people are still paying up to $40/month for products that may or may not contain any hoodia at all, or work for that matter.


To avoid buying into another weight loss product, focus on these healthful tips to help you reach your weight loss goals.

  1. Balance, variety and moderation are an important recipe when you’re choosing foods for health. No, they do not have the flair or popularity of many diet regimens. However, they form a sound foundation for providing your body with the fuel you need.
  2. Do not rely heavily on nutritional supplements. Supplements do not carry the same benefits beyond providing specific nutrients like whole food choices do such as taste, enjoyment, and social factors. Whole foods in their natural form should be the basis for your healthy, balanced diet.
  3. Be realistic with your weight loss goals. Make small changes over time in what you eat and the level of activity you do. Remember your needs and goals will be different from your co-workers, friends, and neighbors.
  4. You don’t have to be a gym rat. All you have to do is get moving. Everything counts, just shoot for 30 minutes each day. Break normal routines and rethink your daily activity.
  5. Choose your calories by the company they keep. For example, a 3oz. serving of lean beef contributes less than 10 percent of calories to a 2,000-calorie diet, yet it supplies approximately 50% of your daily need for protein, 30% for zinc, and 14% for iron.

There is no quick-fix when it comes to losing weight. Following a diet trend may be harmless, especially if it doesn’t last long. However, following advice or a regimen that is not appropriate to your specific dietary needs can result in harmful consequences to your health. Before adopting any dietary changes, assess the overall impact it will have on your health, particularly in the long-term.


Bauer, M.D., Brent A. “Hoodia: Does This Dietary Supplement Help Weight Loss?” Mayo Clinic, 17 Oct. 2009. Web. 20 May 2011. <;.

“Hoodia.” National Institutes of Health, National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. National Institutes of Health, Aug. 2007. Web. 20 May 2011. <;.

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