One of the best excuses for gorging through the holidays is reassuring yourself that your dieting resolution for the New Year is already set. But before you make your weight loss plans, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning consumers to be aware of diet fads and aids that promise rapid weight loss, but instead are illegal and potentially dangerous.
These outlaw drugs include HCG products that are marketed over-the-counter (OTC), identified as “homeopathic” and direct users to follow a severely restrictive diet. They are sold in the form of oral drops, pellets and sprays and can be found online and in some retail store.
The FDA, in partnership with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), has issued letters to companies who market these products, warning them that they are selling illegal homeopathic HCG weight loss drugs that have not been approved by the FDA and that make unsupported claims.
HCG, or human chorionic gonadotropin, is a hormone that is produced by the human placenta during pregnancy. It is approved by the FDA as a prescription drug for the treatment of female infertility and other medical conditions. It is not approved for weight loss and there are no studies to suggest that the drug causes a more attractive or “normal” distribution of fat, or that it decreases the hunger and discomfort of calorie-restricted diets. HCG is not approved for OTC sale for any purpose.
These illegal HCG products are typically marketed in conjunction with a very low calorie diet, usually one that limits calories to 500 per day. Many of these popular HCG drugs claim to “reset your metabolism,” change “abnormal eating patterns,” and shave 20-30 pounds in 30-40 days. But health care providers warn that such diets can be dangerous.
As the old saying goes, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. “These products are marketed with incredible claims and people think that if they’re losing weight, HCG must be working,” says Elizabeth Miller, acting director of FDA’s Division of Non-Prescription Drugs and Health Fraud. “But the data simply does not support this; any loss is from severe calorie restriction. Not from the HCG.”