PHOENIX -- HCG is the latest diet craze to hit the Internet and now experts at the Food and Drug Administration say not only do over-the-counter HCG products not work, they are fraudulent and illegal.
Dr. Ann Watwood from Derma Health Institute explained the difference between the HCG you get online, which contains just trace amounts of human chorionic gonadotropin, a hormone generated by the placenta during pregnancy, and the prescription HCG that you can only get from a doctor.
HCG is used on conjunction with an extremely low-calorie diet, sometimes as low as 500 calories a day.
While the of HCG is approved as a treatment for infertility and other conditions, the application of the hormone as a weight loss aid is an off-label use developed in the 1950s by Dr. Albert Simeons, a British physician.
Watwood said she believes medically supervised use of HCG and a low-calorie diet can be right for some people in specific situations.
She, too, cautions against over-the-counter products claiming to be HCG.
"It's not actual, real HCG," she said.
In addition to the over-the-counter products being marketed as HCG, Watwood said there's a second problem.
"People are thinking they can go on this really restrictive low-calorie diet without it [and without medical supervision], which then can be dangerous."
While there's no official word on the efficacy of medically supervised HCG diets, it's the over-the-counter unregulated products -- mostly drops, pellets and sprays -- that the FDA is targeting. The FDA said while the over-the-counter products are not dangerous, they're not helpful either. Elizabeth Miller, the FDA’s leader for the Internet and health fraud team, called them "economic fraud."