Popular Fad Diet Draws Unwanted Attention

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have jointly issued seven warning letters on December 6 to companies promoting over-the-counter HCG or (Human chorionic gonadotropin) products that are labeled as “homeopathic” for weight loss. Human chorionic gonadotropin is a hormone created by the human placenta and can be seen in the urine of pregnant women. HCG is FDA-approved as an injectable prescription drug for curing some cases of female infertility and some medical conditions. These letters warn the companies that they are violating federal law by selling drugs that have not been approved and by creating unsupported claims for the substances.

There are no FDA-approved HCG products for weight loss. Additionally, the companies have been given 15 days to map out a plan to get in compliance. The FDA and FTC warn that failure to do so may result in legal action, which also includes seizure and injunction, or criminal prosecution. The joint action is the initial step in keeping the unproven and potentially dangerous products from being promoted online and in retail outlets like oral drops, pellets, and sprays.

But Does it Work?

The HCG products paired with a 500 calorie a day restricted diet has a growing number of followers who claim success on the program. Is it the easiest way to lose weight? Nope. But it certainly hasn’t stopped many, many people from trying it. The growing popularity of HCG products is likely what drew the attention of the federal agencies.

Also, there is no significant evidence HCG increases weight loss beyond that resulting from the suggested caloric restriction. The classification for the “homeopathic” HCG products says that every product must be taken in conjunction with a very low calorie diet – so it’s difficult to determine if these expensive products are really nothing more than a placebo. Probably not a surprise, but people on a very low calorie diet like the one recommended by the HcG diet are at increased risk of side effects including gallstone formation, electrolyte imbalance, and heart arrhythmias.

“Dangerous Even if Taken as Directed”

“These HCG products promoted over-the-counter are unconfirmed to help with weight loss and are potentially hazardous even if taken as directed,” said Ilisa Bernstein, acting director of the Office of Compliance in FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “And a very low calorie diet must only be used under proper medical supervision.”

“Deceptive advertising regarding weight loss products is one of the most common types of fraud,” said David Vladeck, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Any advertiser who makes health claims about a product is needed by federal law to back them up with competent and consistent scientific evidence, so customers have the precise information they want to make great decisions.”

The FDA’s most recent action to remove homeopathic HCG weight loss products from the market is a defining moment in the fight against deceptive advertising of weight loss products. The HCG Coaches of South Shore Wholistic Weightloss are applauding the FDA and FTC’s action to defend the consumer against the dangers of over-the-counter homeopathic HCG.

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