As we mark the new year and the resolutions that go along with it, people will undoubtedly make the plan to lose weight in 2012.
The Food and Drug Administration recently sent warning letters to companies marketing over-the-counter human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) products that claim to help people lose weight.
The FDA said the companies are violating federal law by selling drugs that have not been approved, and by making unsupported claims for the substances. There are no FDA-approved HCG drug products for weight loss.
Before everyone gets in an outrage, I would like to make the totally outrageous suggestion that the government is doing the right thing. That may be rare, but give credit where credit is due.
HCG and weight loss have a long and unholy alliance. HCG is a hormone present during pregnancy. It is the hormone used to test for pregnancy in both home and lab pregnancy tests.
What about dead rabbits? In the “old” days of medicine, a lab test involved injecting urine from a possibly pregnant woman into a rabbit. They cut open the rabbit and found swelling in the rabbit’s ovaries if the urine contained HCG; meaning the woman was pregnant. The rabbit actually died either way. Modern testing thankfully involves merely peeing on a stick (who says we’re not making progress!).
The belief that HCG assists weight loss came from some really bad data 50 years ago out of India. HCG was given to starving Indian pregnant women and seemed to cause protein-sparing weight loss. These poor women were doing the best their bodies could to maintain the pregnancy under conditions of extreme starvation. They were already full of HCG (as all pregnant women are) and this had nothing to do with the weight loss.
Countless tests in the last 30 years have proven that HCG does nothing to assist weight loss. Despite this, medical weight-loss programs using HCG have thrived. I’m sure you have heard the radio and TV advertising.
Now, is HCG a problem? It is not poisonous, or addicting, and doesn’t increase the crime or divorce rate. It has precious little effect on non-pregnant people.
The caloric restriction part of a diet works, as does the exercise part. HCG just adds nothing. We might ruminate about damage to the public trust. Should medical-sounding people be allowed to lie to you in advertising, and who should decide? Heavy questions for constitutional scholars to debate; I’m a simple doctor.
So don’t attempt to smuggle HCG supplements into to the country. Save your money, spend it on a gym membership or new walking shoes. Or buy yourself a new shirt and you will no doubt look trimmer.