"It really gives people boost when they lose 15, 20, 30 pounds," said Parker, who is the founder of LexiLife Health Clinics and Advanced Techniques for Healthy Aging in Denver. "It kind of launches them for a new lifestyle."
The HCG diet was created in the 1950s and it has been controversial since then. That is because the diet utilizes small amounts of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG). It is a hormone found in pregnant women. Doctors say it is responsible for keeping a baby fed, even if the mother is not eating enough because the hormone encourages the burning of "non-essential fats."
"The belly fat, the fat on the sides of the legs, the abdomen," Parker explained.
Those are all "problem areas" that many dieters want to get rid of. So, they are turning to HCG, which some claim can help them lose 1 to 2 pounds a day.
The dieters inject themselves with the hormone once a day. The hormone, which is prescribed, may also be taken orally.
The program also comes with a strict 500-calorie-a-day diet. Fitness trainer and nutritionist Heather Altshuler says it is the diet, not the HCG, that causes weight loss.
"If you take that from a nutritional base in breaking down numbers, if I put you on a 500-calorie-a-day diet, you're going to lose the same amount of weight," she said.
Supporters of the diet say the HCG keeps them from feeling hungry and helps them keep their energy up, despite the restricted calories.
Cycles of the diet can be either three weeks or six weeks. Parker says the caloric intake eventually exceeds 1,500 calories. However, dieters need to make lifestyle changes to keep the weight off.
"I try to tell them that this diet is really what they're going to eat for the rest of their life," Parker said.
Altshuler, who is the fitness director of FIT DTC and CEO of Half Your Size, says such a low-calorie diet is not necessary.
"I never do diet plans like that. Nobody in my world even the girls that have lost 100 pounds, have never been below 1,100 calories," she said.
A spokesperson with the Food and Drug Administration told 9NEWS the use of HCG as a diet aid is considered an "off-label use," with no evidence that it works in weight loss. The hormone is most commonly used for fertility treatments.
The FDA does not have regulatory authority over off-label uses and therefore has no records of any side-effects associated with the HCG diet. Officials say anyone who does experience any adverse reactions can report them to the FDA.
Parker's rate for a three-week cycle of doctor-supervised HCG treatments is $595. The HCG comes at an additional cost which can range from $70 to $120 per prescription, Parker says, depending on the pharmacy.
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