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Weight-loss products not dangerous — just useless

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM



A popular type of weight-loss product, heavily promoted on the Internet, is fraudulent and illegal, Food and Drug Administration officials say.

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.

Many of the labels indicate the products contain HCG, or human chorionic gonadotropin, a hormone made by the placenta during pregnancy. The hormone 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, said Elizabeth Miller, the FDA’s leader for the Internet and health fraud team. While they may not be dangerous, they’re at least “economic fraud,” she said.

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 said, “they could be subject to enforcement at any time.”

Use of HCG for weight loss began 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,” Miller said.

Samuel Klein of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis agreed: “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, said: “The bottom line is there is no reason to think the product works.”

Gannett News Service



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