Well, not literally bullshit, but bullshit as in they-don’t-do-what-they-claim-to-do. I know, I know. A diet program that doesn’t work? That’s unpossible!
HCG weight-loss products that promise dramatic results and claim to be homeopathic are sold as drops, pellets and sprays on the Web, in drugstores and at General Nutrition Centers. They are supposed to be used in combination with a very low-calorie diet of 500 calories a day.
The fact that they claim to be homeopathic is your first clue that the claims are full of shit, but who doesn’t realize that any weight-loss they experience is because they somehow managed to stick to limit of 500 calories a day?
Hell, if you can manage that without gnawing your own arm off in a fit of hunger then, yes, you’re probably going to lose weight regardless of whatever bullshit supplement you’re taking. Assuming, of course, that you don’t spend 24 hours a day just laying on a couch someplace.
Consider that experts recommend between 1000 – 1200 calories a day for women and 1200 – 1500 a day for men. Then add in the fact that consuming less than 800 calories a day can actually interfere with weight-loss as your metabolism slows because it thinks you’re starving. A limit of 500 a day is just stupid.
Many of the labels indicate the products contain HCG, or human chorionic gonadotropin, a hormone made by the placenta during pregnancy. The hormone itself is approved as a prescription treatment for infertility and other conditions.
There is no evidence the oral over-the-counter products are effective for weight loss, says Elizabeth Miller, FDA’s leader for the Internet and health fraud team. While they may not be dangerous, they’re at least “economic fraud,” she says.
Because the products do not seem to be “a serious direct health hazard or a serious indirect health hazard,” they have been a lower priority for FDA action than other products. Still, Miller says, “they could be subject to enforcement at any time.”
While the “drug” itself may not be harmful, sticking to such a diet probably is. If for no other reason than it’s actually undermining your goal of losing weight plus you may be burning up lean muscle as your body struggles to deal with the huge decrease in caloric intake.
Apparently the idea of using hCG in combination with a ultra-low calorie diet has been around for a long time:
Miller says HCG began being used for weight loss in the 1950s when a British physician had a theory that it could help people on a near-starvation diet not feel hungry. “Since then, a lot of research and clinical trials debunked that theory.“
Samuel Klein of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis agrees: “Data from most randomized controlled trials show that HCG is no better than placebo in achieving weight loss or reducing hunger.”
Stephen Barrett, a retired psychiatrist who operates quackwatch.org, says, “The bottom line is there is no reason to think the product works.”
Even experts in the supplement industry say the products aren’t legal and don’t work. Andrew Shao of the Council for Responsible Nutrition, an industry group, says HCG is “not considered a legal dietary ingredient and therefore cannot be sold as a dietary supplement. I am not aware of any scientific evidence that supports its use when taken orally.”
Think about that for a moment. What this product is supposedly doing for you — if it actually did anything at all — is mask the fact that you’re starving yourself. That’s like taking morphine so you can walk on your broken leg without bothering to get the bone set. Sure, you can do it for awhile, but you’re not really helping to solve the problem.
A simple Google Shopping search reveals that there are still plenty of sites out there offering this product with prices ranging from $10 a bottle to $600 for multi-person diet kits. (Because if you’re going to starve yourself you may as well share the misery!) The number of books on the topic, including an entry in the venerable “For Dummies” series, is amazing and shows that this is a big seller. Which means that until the FDA actually starts cracking down on some of the vendors out there they’ll probably continue to offer hCG for as long as they can.