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FDA Warns Consumers That HCG Diet Products Are Illegal

Ryan | June 29th, 2012

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued a consumer alert about over-the-counter diet products that contain the pregnancy hormone HCG, or human chorionic gonadotropin — including drops, pellets, and sprays that are sold in drug stores and on the internet. Many of these products, often labeled as “homeopathic,” claim that HCG aids extreme weight loss and an altered distribution of fat in the body.

The FDA, however, warns that HCG has never been proven to have any effect whatsoever on weight loss. Though HCG has been approved as a prescription-only treatment for infertility, it has never been approved for weight loss, and selling HCG in over-the-counter products is illegal in the United States.

The FDA requires that prescription HCG’s label warning indicate that there is “no substantial evidence that it increases weight loss beyond that resulting from caloric restriction, that it causes a more attractive or ‘normal’ distribution of fat, or that it decreases the hunger and discomfort associated with calorie-restricted diets.

Brad Pace, head of the FDA’s Health Fraud and Consumer Outreach Branch, also warns that, “you cannot sell products claiming to contain HCG as an OTC drug product. It’s illegal.” Any sellers who do so “could face legal penalties or criminal prosecution.”

Extreme measures part of HCG diet plan

Companies marketing HCG diet products as the easiest way to lose weight often portray the hormone as a magical elixir that, if taken in regular doses, can burn fat and calories and cause people to lose up to 30 pounds in a single month. But the FDA contends that HCG is little more than a placebo, and that any weight lost on the so-called HCG diet plan is not due to the hormone, but to the near-starvation diet that purchasers are instructed to rigidly follow.

HCG weight loss products are sold in conjunction with extreme—or “hazardous,” according to the FDA—low-calorie diets that involve consuming as little as 500 calories per day. Dieters who intake so few calories expose themselves to a number of dangerous side effects, including malnutrition, gallstones, abnormal heartbeat, and a loss of electrolytes that can cause serious damage to muscles and nerves.

People on the HCG diet plan may initially lose weight—it’s inevitable when so few calories are consumed. However, the body soon goes into starvation mode, and begins to conserve fat calories, while burning muscle. As a result, muscle mass is lost, and the body’s metabolism slows down.

The ultimate outcome of the HCG diet plan? When the month-long HCG weight loss period is over, and dieters return to their normal eating habits, the body accumulates weight even faster than before, and all of the weight quickly returns.

“These products are marketed with incredible claims,” announces Elizabeth Miller, director of FDA’s Division of Non-Prescription Drugs and Health Fraud. “People think that if they’re losing weight, HCG must be working. But the data simply does not support this; any loss is from severe calorie restriction. Not from the HCG.

Safe and healthy ways to lose weight fast

Instead of extreme calorie restriction akin to fasting, the best way to lose weight fast is also the safest way: Moderate calorie restriction, a balanced, nutritious diet, and regular exercise.

Anyone seriously considering using HCG should consult with a doctor about this extreme diet plan. Physicians are playing an increasing role in their patients’ weight loss. For example, the board-certified physicians at The Center for Medical Weight Loss (CMWL) have supervised the successful weight loss of thousands of patients with diet plans uniquely tailored to each individual’s metabolism rate, body composition analysis (BCA), and medical history.

CMWL founder and chief medical officer Dr. Michael Kaplan advises, “Don’t look to a HCG weight loss program to lose weight. Not only are they expensive and unproven – they’re dangerous. On the other hand, patients following a medical weight loss program like the one at The Center for Medical Weight Loss not only lose weight quickly, they do so safely. And unlike HCG diet programs, the medical weight loss approach has been scientifically proven to help people lose excess weight and keep it off.

The Center for Medical Weight Loss has over 450 centers nationwide. Find out if there is a center near you by entering your zip code in the box provided here. Or, you can visit their website at Center for Medical Weight Loss – How it works.