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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Simmondsin From Jojoba Checked for Appetite Suppression
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Simmondsin From Jojoba Checked for Appetite Suppression

Harvesting a natural appetite suppressant from jojoba (pronounced ho-ho-bah) may give U.S. farmers one more reason to grow the plant, which is native to the Sonoran Desert in Arizona and Mexico. Jojoba oil is already a popular ingredient in cosmetics and shampoos.

But jojoba meal, left over after oil extraction, was thought to contain compounds toxic to animals. The reason: Weanling mice ate less and lost weight on a diet containing 15 percent jojoba meal.

In the 1990s, Belgian researcher Marnix Cokelaere discovered that simmondsin acted as a hunger satiation ingredient. This allowed him to reinterpret earlier experiments with mice and cattle fed diets supplemented with jojoba meal. Rather than being toxic, the ingredient satisfied the animals' hunger, causing the decline in feed intake. Cokelaere is now examining the prospect of a positive outcome from the earlier negative results: a safe appetite suppressant.

Researchers at the ARS National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research in Peoria, Illinois, are working with Belgian scientists to study how simmondsins are metabolized. In Belgium, ARS agricultural engineer Ronald A. Holser attached a chemical label to simmondsin to identify its breakdown products. The purpose was to understand the mechanism by which simmondsin affects hunger by tracking its metabolism in laboratory rats.

"When we learned that simmondsin was a hunger satiation ingredient, we had already been working on making its protein more valuable as a cosmetic ingredient," says New Crops research leader Thomas P. Abbott. In 1999, Abbott and his team patented a process of isolating and extracting simmondsin from jojoba meal. Since then, they've used the process to produce larger quantities of the most bioactive type of simmondsin.

Jojoba meal has 25 to 30 percent protein, making it a nutritious feed for cattle—once the simmondsin is extracted. Before the extraction process was developed, most jojoba meal was buried in landfills as waste. Each year 3 million pounds of jojoba seeds are harvested in the United States. Jojoba oil sells for $30 a pound, representing a market value of $30 million.

"If simmondsin is shown to be a safe appetite suppressant for humans, we will have derived yet another valuable product from jojoba," says Abbott.—By Linda McGraw, Agricultural Research Service Information Staff.

Thomas P. Abbott and Ronald A. Holser are in the USDA-ARS New Crops Research Unit, National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research, 1815 N. University St., Peoria, IL 61604; phone (309) 681-6533 [Abbott], (309) 681-6213, [Holser], fax (309) 681-6524.

"Simmondsin From Jojoba Checked for Appetite Suppression" was published in the December 2000 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

Last Modified: 3/18/2014
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