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Ice cubes for weight loss? Did we mention they taste like margaritas?

Losing weight is great, but jeesh ... such effort.  If struggle isn't your thing, you might be tempted to ditch that treadmill and hop aboard the latest diet-fad bandwagon — the ice cube diet.  

And yes, it is as simple as it sounds. The manufacturer, Desert Labs, says all you have to do is snack on one hoodia-filled ice cube a day. This, the website says, "balances your hunger naturally," "stops cravings" and "helps you eat less."

Each cube, the company says, is packed with hoodia, a desert plant native to South Africa and appealing to weight-loss junkies for the supposed appetite-suppressing qualities of one of its molecules, P57 (although no published clinical evidence supports the claim).

In a world of easy diets, the ice cube diet is perhaps one of the easiest. There are no rules limiting what, or how much, you can eat, much less recommending what exercises you should be doing when not eating.

All you have to do is drink/eat one hoodia cube a day, ideally when you feel the urge to snack, the manufacturer says.

Even the delivery process is easy and stress-free. Although some specialty markets in New York carry the cubes in their freezer section, the majority of purchases are made online. Simply input your credit card information and the company will ship you monthly supplies of the ice cubes already frozen and packed in dry ice. That's correct: You'll get ice packed in ice.

Even the most desperate dieter might well wonder, Why go to such trouble for an ingredient readily available in no-freezing-necessary form, one that's been on the market for a number of years now? Gimmick? Ha. Not only are the cubes flavored with stevia and lemon — giving them a margarita-like taste -- but, according to Desert Lab’s president, Ari Benami, each cube has more hoodia than most supplement pills.

The ice also preserves the freshness of the Israeli-grown hoodia, which further differentiates it from the processed supplement version, said Benami.

“It only take 24 hours, or less than that, to produce the ice cubes after the hoodia is harvested,” he said in a phone interview. “There are also no added ingredients or fillers [other than the lemon and sweetener], so the ice cubes are all-natural.”

Make sense? Not to everyone.

“When the prime ingredient is ice and an herb, you almost want to scratch your head and wonder whether this is real science or agenda science,” said Roberta Anding, a registered dietician and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Assn.

“The hard part is that we all want something that is natural,” she said. “And so it becomes hard for the consumer to divide fact from fiction.”

Here are two earlier L.A. Times stories that may shed light on what hoodia can, and can't, do: "Here's What's in Those Weight-Loss Supplements" and "African Plant May Help Fight Obesity."

Then there's this: "Hoodia Fever Takes a Toll on Rare Plant." And here's what drugs.com has to say about hoodia. Note the warning to diabetics and people taking medication to control their blood sugar levels.

If you're undeterred, you can get your own supply of special ice for $65.95 online. That's one cube per day for 40 days. If you want to see the cubes before you buy them and don't live in the Northeast, you can stand outside Gelson's for a while. Desert Labs says that chain will have them soon.

-- Jessie Schiewe 


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