People will try just about anything to lose weight. From cabbage soup to chalky weight-loss shakes, it seems there’s almost nothing Americans won’t do in the name of dropping a few unwanted pounds.
Even considering this, you’d think people would still be a little leery of the HCG diet. This method involves slashing calories to 500 per day … and ingesting a pill that contains a hormone found in a pregnant woman’s urine. But so many people were trying this strange diet that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had to intervene.
In December 2011, the FDA issued a consumer update reminding people that selling over-the-counter products containing HCG is illegal. HCG, or human chorionic gonadotropin (kor-ee-AH-nik go-nad-uh-TRO-pin), is a hormone produced by the human placenta and is often found in the urine of expectant mothers. While it is sometimes prescribed to help women maintain pregnancy and to fight infertility, it has not been approved for weight-loss use. However, several companies have been marketing the so-called homeopathic version of the hormone as oral drops, pellets or sprays.
Advertisements for the HCG diet promise dramatic results if the hormone is taken in conjunction with a diet of only 500 calories per day. But most dietary guidelines recommend women consume between fourteen hundred and twenty-four hundred calories per day, while men need between 2,000 and 3,000 per day.
The FDA says it’s unclear how much HCG the over-the-counter products contain, if any at all. The agency also warned that an extremely low-calorie diet could result in gallstones, electrolyte imbalances and heart arrhythmia.
So the frustrating fact remains: No matter how badly we’d like to find a magic solution for weight loss, it still doesn’t exist. You’ve got to eat less and exercise more. And no hormone will help you with that.