The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have not approved the use of ‘homeopathic’ human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) in weight-loss products and have, so far, sent seven letters to companies, warning them that they are selling illegal homeopathic HCG weight-loss drugs. HCG can be found in such dietary aids in the form of oral drops, pellets and sprays and are sold online and in some retail stores. HCG is actually a hormone that is produced naturally, by the human placenta during pregnancy. Dietary and weight loss products that contain the HCG hormone are advertised as such that it is the hormone itself that causes the weight loss, when in fact, when you read the instructions, it tells you to restrict your calories to a maximum of 500 a day. Many of these weight loss products are marketed with fantastical claims of being able to ‘reset’ your metabolism’, ‘change your eating habits’ and reduce your weight by ’20-30 pounds in a month’. It is these claims that the FDA have taken umbridge with as, any weight loss programme that makes you live on 500 calories a day is not only dangerous, but it is obvious that the weight loss is down to the reduced calorie intake, and not the HCG component.
Elizabeth Miller, who is the acting director of FDA’s Division of Non-Prescription Drugs and Health Fraud says, “These products are marketed with incredible claims and 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.” The FDA do approve HCG as a prescription drug for the treatment of female infertility, and other medical conditions, but not as an aid for weight loss. In actual fact, on the prescription drug label there is a note that states 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.’ Moreover, HCG is not approved for over the counter (OTC) sale for any purpose.
According to the FDA, companies that advocate living on 500 calories a day are putting their customers lives in danger, as people on such a restrictive calorific diet are at increased risk for gallstone formation, an imbalance of the electrolytes that keep the body’s muscles and nerves functioning properly, and irregular heartbeats. Plus minor systoms such as headaches, feeling lethargic and drowsy, having no energy etc. A nutritionist at FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Shirley Blakely agrees with the FDA saying, “Very low calorie diets are sometimes prescribed by health care professionals for people who are moderately to extremely obese as part of medical treatment to lessen health conditions caused by obesity, like high blood pressure. But even then, strict and constant medical supervision is needed to ensure that side effects are not life threatening.”
As a normal person consumes around 2000 calories a day, one on 500 is likely to be missing out on vital minerals and vitamins if they are not on the diet with medical supervision. Blakely adds, “In general, the reference (average) calorie level is 2,000. If you want to lose weight, reduce your daily intake by 500 calories. Over the course of a week, that equals 3500 calories, which is the loss of a pound. Gradual weight loss is the way to do it.” The way that HCG became connected with weight loss started back in the 1950s. Elizabeth Miller explains, “It faded in the 1970s, especially when it became apparent that there was a lack of evidence to support the use of HCG for weight loss,” Now it has resurfaced again, both the FDA and FTC are taking action on the now illegal HCG products. Brad Pace, team leader and regulatory counsel at FDA’s Health Fraud and Consumer Outreach Branch says, “You cannot sell products claiming to contain HCG as an OTC drug product. It’s illegal. If these companies don’t heed our warnings, they could face enforcement actions, legal penalties or criminal prosecution.”
So what is your course of action if you have purchased an HCG product? The FDA recommends that customers who have bought an HCG product for weight loss should stop using it, throw it out, and stop following the dieting instructions. Any harmful effects should be reported online to FDA’s MedWatch program or by phone at 800-FDA-1088 (800-332-1088) and to the consumer’s health care professional.