HCG Diet Products Are Fraud, Says FDA

There are tons of diet pill pages on the internet prosthelytizing the wonders of the miracle diet drug HCG, or “human chorionic gonadotropin.” You have the usual “before” and “after” pictures where you get to play that fun game of trying to figure out if they’re actually two different people, and the promises of losing 30 pounds in 4 weeks. Only problem is that HCG doesn’t work for weight loss, and an FDA exec says they may even be illegal and fraudulent. Quelle surprise!

HCG is a hormone made by the placenta and it got its cachet as a potential weight loss drog back in the 50’s when a doctor hypothesized that it could help people on really low-calorie diets, around 500 calories, not feel hunger pains. However, randomized controlled studies have shown it’s no better than a sugar pill in this respect.

That hasn’t stopped snake oil salesman from trying to cash in and some of them slap on a “homeopathic” label. But it’s not in the Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia and so the FDA doesn’t recognize it as a homeopathic drug. “So they are unapproved drugs and are illegal,” Elizabeth Miller, the FDA’s team leader on internet and health fraud, told USA Today. The drugs are also not approved for weight loss.

The only saving grace is that HCG hasn’t been shown to cause any serious direct or indirect health hazards. The greatest danger is to your wallet – bottles of the pills can be found on the shelves at $70 an ounce.

HCG weight-loss products are fraudulent, FDA says [USA Today]


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  1. YouDidWhatNow? says:

    HCG weight loss products are fraud? Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia? “FDA doesn’t recognize it as a homeopathic drug.”?

    How about this: all weight loss products are frauds. There is no such thing as homeopathic medicine. And finally, just addressing homeopathic stuff in such a manner does a massive disservice to all citizens of this country because it gives the appearance of legitimacy – and homeopathy is categorically, irrevocably, fantastically, illegitimate in every way.

    • nbs2 says:

      I agree about the weight loss, but I wonder what the definition is for something to be considered homeopathic. I remember when the missus delivered the kids, both times the OB/GYN recommended something called witch hazel pads. I’m guessing that’s some sort of homeopathic thing that does something. Not sure what it is and what they do though, so maybe they aren’t homeopathic.

      • haggis for the soul says:

        Witch hazel is an astringent that apparently helps with hemorrhoids. My grandparents always had some in the house.

      • YouDidWhatNow? says:

        Not homeopathic – as noted witch hazel is an astringent and I think maybe an antiseptic.

        Homeopathy involves, in digest form, putting a tiny amount of what may or may not be an active ingredient (like your own urine) into vast amounts of inactive ingredient (like water) and then diluting it to the point where it’s rather unlikely that there’s even a single molecule left of the “active” ingredient. But naturally, the more you dilute it, the stronger the homeopathic remedy becomes…because it’s magic like that. So ideally, you’d want there to be no molecules left of the “active” ingredient, because that’s as diluted as you can get.

        If that sounds remarkably stupid to you, chances are you’re not remarkably stupid yourself. If you think that sounds like a reasonable way to create a remedy…the inverse would be true.

        A while ago a bunch of British scientists (and other non-morons) staged an event in front of some drug store someplace in England, where they got together and ingested homeopathic remedies to the tune of thousands of times the “recommended dosages.” Which, if the stuff was *actual* medicine, or in fact *actually* did anything at all, would probably have killed every last one of them. As you can guess, no one reported any issues stemming from their wanton gluttony of homeopathic remedies.

        • nbs2 says:

          So, according to the EPA reports of medication in drinking water, I’m using homeopathic products every day!

          What the big deal is about super-potent homeopathic products, though? If it’s just water with an atom of $drug, then it can’t really be that bad for anything other than, as mentioned above, my wallet.

          • YouDidWhatNow? says:

            The biggest problem with homeopathy, and other non-remedies such as acupuncture, chiropracty, ear candles, powdered tiger penis, etc. is that no *actual* remedy is pursued.

            Placebo effect may convince you that you feel better. But you’re not. And if you’re at risk of dying from something that is easily treatable, then you’re still at risk of dying from it.

            And that’s assuming that something bad doesn’t originate from the false remedy itself – granted, that’s pretty much impossible with homeopathy since it doesn’t actually contain any active ingredients anyway, but certainly is true of other whacko stuff.


            • Saltpork says:

              I’m glad you mentioned ear candles.
              Ear candles are complete BS & do nothing for ear wax. They can also be quite dangerous. Hot melted wax a few inches from your sensitive ear canal is no way to ‘remove earwax buildup’.
              Save your money and use a q-tip.

      • kmw2 says:

        Homeopathy is a specific pseudoscientific practice that involves two basic principles – like cures like, and the more diluted something is, the more powerful it is. This means that homeopathic remedies are solutions of something that would cause similar symptoms (supposedly) in full strength, diluted to millions of PPM. Let’s put it this way – if you peed in the Pacific Ocean there would be more molecules of your pee by volume than in the strongest homeopathic remedies. If it works at all, it’s purely placebo effect.

  2. RxDude says:

    As far as I know, HCG is not absorbed when taken orally – it must be injected (usually subcutaneously) to have an effect.

    It is not approved for weight loss, but there is evidence that it can aid weight loss (and not as an appetite suppressant).

    HCG is also considered a banned performance enhancing drug for athletes.

    • marillion says:

      I believe you mean HGH is a banned substence for athletes. Human Growth Hormone.

      • Beeker26 says:

        Nope. HCG is banned too. It’s a hormone that regulates testosterone and is used in men who have low levels in order to naturally increase production. And yes, it’s completely ineffective in pill form. It needs to be given via intramuscular injection.

  3. Cicadymn says:

    We’ll get those magic-weightloss-while-still-eating-only-garbage-and-making-no-major-lifestyle-changes yet fat people! It’s only a matter of time.

  4. YouDidWhatNow? says:

    Here’s what I fear about these purported magic weight-loss pills: someday, somebody’s actually going to do it.

    Think about this: what if somebody actually DID invent a pill that would allow you to eat all the food you wanted to, of any type, and guaranteed that you’d stay at a healthy body weight? Can you imagine the rampant foodism that would occur? Eating as pure recreation, without fear of paying any consquences later?

    I imagine how the per-capita calorie consumption of America would skyrocket – and so much for worrying about whether or not people in 3rd world countries are starving or not. We’re going to Dairy Queen! All day! Every day! Huzzah!

    • Firethorn says:

      Going by current trends; assuming that the cost and effects of the ‘diet pill’ is negligible, I don’t see our food budgets changing all that much.

      Why? Consider the amount of fatties out there – they’re not controlling their eating. I’m currently dieting – but my food budget certainly hasn’t gone down. I’m finding myself eating smaller amounts of more expensive foods.

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      Urg, no way. Having just been diagnosed with a hiatal hernia, and with the appetite shrinkage after my gallbladder surgery, the thought of eating like that makes me feel pukey.

    • myCatCracksMeUp says:

      You say that like it’s a bad thing. I

      t’s actually my dream – being able to eat chocolate ALL DAY LONG, EVERY SINGLE DAY. Life would be perfect then.

  5. Panntabulous says:

    Related to the topic, people should keep an eye out for the misuse of their own “before and after” photos. A friend who lost a considerable amount of weight the old-fashioned way — diet and exercise — was participating on some different message boards for moral support and to inspire others. One of those forum regulars spotted my friend’s before and after photos being used for an ad for one of these snakeoil products.

  6. Blueskylaw says:

    Lose 30 pounds in 4 weeks*, **, ***

    *Results not typical

    **With diet and excercise program

    ***Just pay separate shipping and handling

  7. wynterbourne says:

    I’m kind of curious about this one.

    I know four individuals who have struggled with their weight for years. Over the past year or so they’ve each started the HCG program. Of the four:

    One has had absolutely no appreciable result, using the tabletized supplement.

    One had mediocre results with the tabletized supplement. After switching to the liquid supplement she began losing an average of 20 pounds a month.

    Two have had outstanding results with the injected supplement, one having lost over 80 pounds in less than 4 months.

    I don’t really care what the FDA is saying here. In my own little world it’s got a rather amazing 75% success rate.

    • haggis for the soul says:

      Starvation will do that for you.

      I wonder how these folks will be doing 10 years down the road. Getting it off is only half the battle.

      • wynterbourne says:

        Yes, you’re right.

        But, and I speak from experience here, when the kindest term that can be used to describe your general build is ‘morbidly obese’ you’ll reach for anything. And I do mean anything. Because sometimes basic diet and exercise just doesn’t work.

        The gentleman I referred to that has lost over 80 pounds to date has been trying the diet and exercise methodology for about five years now. He was involved in a rather horrific car crash about 12-13 years ago that shattered his hip and severely damaged both knees. He’s had several corrective surgeries to date but he’s in constant pain which, if you factored in his weight and asthma, kept him from being able to exercise the way he should.

        And yes, he tried low impact aerobics, Yoga, Tai Chi, and a score of other “low impact” exercise programs. He ate a sensible diet, low in carbs and fat. He had absolutely no luck.

        Since he’s lost the weight he’s able to exercise now, jogging a mile or more a day. He’s taken up cycling, using a cheap mountain bike he picked up for quick trips to the store. And this past weekend he played his first game of paintball, admittedly at an indoor field.

        The man’s been over 300 pounds since I’ve known him and has dropped down to around 230. His asthma is gone. The majority of his pain is gone. His blood pressure is down to normal. He’s the most active he’s been in his entire life and, according to his Doctor, he’s healthier than he’s been in a decade.

        If he keeps it up I fully believe he’ll keep it off. The drastic loss of weight, regardless of whether or not it came from HCG enabled starvation, has allowed him to start doing the activities he’s needed to do to keep the weight off permanently.

    • jesirose says:

      Now, how long have the ones that had success been OFF the program and kept it off?

      • wynterbourne says:

        Well, none of them have been off for a year. But one of the girls has been off for a little under five months and hasn’t gained back a bit of the 60-or-so pounds she took off.

        Of course she gets out and dates a WHOLE heck of a lot more these days, so she tends to be more active than she was originally.

    • engr1982 says:

      The reason those on the injections are doing well is probably because the injected stuff is real, pharmacutical grade HCG, the tables are not. The liquid can be.

    • pot_roast says:

      Are they following the very strict diet that goes along with it? That might explain most of it…

  8. haggis for the soul says:

    You don’t say!

  9. Master Medic: Now with more Haldol says:

    Eating 500 calories a day will cause weight loss. Guaranteed.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Not necessarily – anything under 1200 calories a day puts your body in starvation mode.

      • haggis for the soul says:

        “Starvation mode” may slow the starvation process, but won’t halt it altogether.

        • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

          Quite right, but “Guaranteed” is not that word I would use for that.

          • Master Medic: Now with more Haldol says:

            Trust me, 500 calories a day, regardless of the starvation mode, will result in weight loss. The average BMR for an adult male is 655 calories in a 24 hour period doing nothing but sleeping. Add ANY activity and it jumps up.

            500 calories a day = weight loss. GUARANTEED!!

  10. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Alli (Orlistat) is the only FDA approved over-the-counter weight-loss aid product.

  11. danic512 says:

    Why the hell is stuff like this legal for sale in the United States?

  12. sirwired says:

    This is hilarious… the remedies in the Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia are all useless. Being listed in there merely makes them immune to regulation. All this huckster had to do was pick something completely at random out of that list, and he’d get away scot free.

  13. Nessiah says:

    I’ve gotten an HCG homeopathic spray, and I lost weight and kept it off for the most part (lost 35 lbs, gained 7.5 back since I stopped the diet 8 months ago) following the diet as directed. The FDA can say its a fraud all day long and use the placebo test as an example, but it worked for me so whatever.

    • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

      It is the low calorie diet and the high protein low-carb make-up of the diet that keep you losing weight and from being hungry. High protein diets put your body in ketosis, which will curb your hunger. Just b/c you take hcg doesn’t mean that is what is causing weight loss. Try the diet without the HCG and see what happens. I’ll bet you still lose just as much weight.

  14. Copper says:

    My mom did the HCG diet and was prescribed injections by her doctor. She lost about 60 pounds in 60 days and gained a few pounds back over Christmas, but has since worked it back off. If she maintains a heathy diet and exercises, she’ll keep the weight off. If she eats whatever she wants and doesn’t exercise, she’ll gain it back.

    I took the injections for two weeks and lost about 15 pounds, but I stopped because of period-related issues. I haven’t gained the weight back.

    I have confidence is this diet and the injections. I can’t say anything regarding pills, liquids, or whatever else there is.

    P.S. The 500 calorie diet really sucks.

    • Master Medic: Now with more Haldol says:

      “P.S. The 500 calorie diet really sucks.”

      Starvation usually does.

    • Saltpork says:

      What’s causing the real weight loss is negative caloric intake.
      Simply put this means you’re burning more calories day after day then you take it. Thus your body burns off it’s fat reserves.

      I don’t understand how people get so confused by this.
      In America we eat way too much food.
      Eat less, do more physical stuff, forget the pills, powders, shakes, diets, and bullshit. There is no magic, no quick fix, no over the counter/health food store remedy. Eat less, do more.

      It’s all about how much energy you take in and how much you burn.
      500 calories a day is dangerously low. That’s called starvation and it’s not good for you. A normal person really shouldn’t dip below 1000 calories a day.

      • vegas says:

        Yeah, excep that negative caloric intake at that level wont make you lose 1.5 pounds per day, your math is wrong, it would equate to maybe .7 pounds. The fact is the HCG forces your body to dissolve abnormal fat, forcing up to 4000 calories per day into your blood which is then released through urination. Been there, done that, and with no exercise, if you take in 500 you are still only going to be minus 1000 calories which equals less than half a pound.

        Check out the research, the average male on HCG FOLLOWING the protocol WHILE ACTUALLY ON THE DROPS loses upwards of 1.5 to 2 pounds a day, so yes your argument is valid, but nowhere near the scale you are talking about to be attributalble to the restricted diet alone.

  15. Awesome McAwesomeness says:

    There is a difference between homeopathic and natural remedies. Witch hazel is a natural medicine and it works. Natural remedies are not diluted–think melatonin or Valerian root for sleep, or St. John’s Wort for depression. In Germany, they use many of these natural remedies as their main form of medicine.

    Others have explained that homeopathic remedies are very dilute substances that are supposed to cure problems, but generally don’t.

  16. AnthonyC says:

    I don’t know if “lose 30 pounds in 4 weeks” was a real product claim or hyperbole, but consider:
    1 pound of fat is about 3500 calories. Let’s assume half the weight I lose is fat, the rest is water, muscle, and starch. So, 2000 excess calories burned per lost pound is a very conservative underestimate. Then 30 lbs is at least 60,000 excess calories burned. 4 weeks is 28 days, so that’s 2150 calories per day. I’m 5’11”, 180lbs, and in order to maintain my weight (assuming sedentary lifestyle) I need to eat about 2350 calories per day. The only way I’m losing that much weight that fast is if my body is only absorbing 200 calories per day- that’s 1 cup of plain cooked rice. The body simply can’t pull that much fat out of storage that quickly.

    So yeah, unless you’re michael phelps- not gonna happen. I’ll just cross my fingers and hope for some basic numeracy to spread through the population.

  17. nikkimarie says:

    I wonder if you take this supplement and if you take a pregnancy test, it will come out positive.

  18. vegas says:

    Okay, no doubt I will get flamed for this one, but here goes anyway.

    I have never been under 200 pounds since I was 17, and I have been in the military all that time. I have always flirted with or been over the height/weight/bodyfat standards in the navy and in the army for 15 years now. It was a real problem, has been a real problem my entire adult life.

    Last year one of my classmates at the Signal Captains Career Course in the Army introduced me to HCG. I figured whatever nothing really works other than diet and exercise, and I have worked very hard on that over the years, I ran many miles everyday, was in excellent shape cardio wise, blah blah blah.

    It wasnt until I started on the under the tongue HCG that something worked for me. Skeptics say
    of course on 500 calories you lose weight, but unless you have been there youdont understand. I in three weeks lost 34 pounds, was never hungry after the first five days, lost 6 inches off my waste, and have been 190 now for about six months, and for the past four months I have been eating regular food. I am committed to the weight loss and plan on doing another round, but what people dont understand s that its not really the drops, is following the protocol after the drops and slowly reintroducing carbs back into your diet that is WAY more important. It makes you realize you have to get back to eatiing healthy and counting calories and carbs and whatnot. I see the drops as just a kick in the right direction. The drops forced my body to eat up its stored abnormal fat, but yes, also, if you return to your oold ways, the ways that got you there in the first place, you will return to the same place without a doubt.

    So, you can hate, speculate, do whatever, but I am telling you for me it worked 100% as advertised, but you do have to follow the directions for the phases like a laser beam. The wife also has lost 37 pounds so far, and we both plan on doiing one more round to get to where we should be.

    There are skeptics here, and thats great, but if you haventy tried it you cant dismiss it as crap without your bias forcing you into that decision. AND ALSO, just because the FDA says something doesnt work doesnt make it fact, we all know the FDA and the games they play and how often they are wrong, which is alot.

    I am not saying that there arent crap HCG bottles out there too, of course there are, if you are going to buy it, make sure its from a reputable dealer, the wife got hers at GNC and I got mine from someone I knew I could trust, that goes for ANY drug or vitamin or chemical out there, there are alwayss going to be fake gucci bags and fake rolexes, so you know not to buy that sstuff from a street vendor and if its too good to be true then it probably is, but doctors have been injecting HCG for aboout 50 years now, and while some will say the sublinguall isnt as effective, I w ould say maybe, but its effective enough that I lost 35 pounds, thats good enough for me.

  19. AndroidHumanoid says:

    I did the HCG diet that consisted of putting the drops under my tongue several times a day, and keeping up with the 500 calorie diet. I lost 5 pounds on the first two days of the diet. After that my legs shriveled up to near nothing, which I was NOT happy about. I had spent months taking pole dancing classes, which gave me beautiful, shapely legs. So I quit the diet. I do have to say though, that I was not hungry during the diet at all, and my nutritional habits did change and stick for a while. After the diet I still only craved chicken, vegetables, and low carb items.

  20. california-canuck says:

    I’m sorry to hear that homeopathic HCG does not work. My body must not have known that when it dropped 80 pounds on that diet, at 1 pound a day while feeling wonderful. I went from 232 pounds to 151 on 3 rounds of 6 weeks in less than 8 months. I’d like to see anyone beat that with any other diet. Annette