CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Thousands of people in the Charlotte area say they've found a wonder drug. They say it's the secret that has them lining up to drop lots of weight without much effort at all.
HCG is a decades old diet that's making a big comeback and local clinics are filling up.
However, skeptics say the diet plan isn't worth your money.
Tell that to Ramona Petete.
"I've been on every diet you can imagine and could not lose weight," Petete said.
Until, she says, she found HCG. Two years ago she lost 40 pounds and kept the weight off taking weekly injections for four months.
HCG is a hormone produced by pregnant women which helps their bodies maintain the pregnancy. In the 1950's a doctor by the last name of Simeons theorized that, along with a 500 calorie per day diet, injecting it could help other people lose weight.
"So the HCG is helping your body metabolize fat. It can metabolize as many as 4,000 calories from fat every day. So people have energy, they feel good and they are living off their fat stores," said Don Nicholas who is the CEO of Revita Anti-Aging in Charlotte.
He first thought the diet was a scam but he started to research the plan, and the medical director of his center tried it himself.
"There's some conflicting studies but from what I've seen with my personal experience and my patients, it really works," said Medical Director Peter Fotinos.
He lost more than 17 pounds and now the clinic prescribes HCG. A 40-day program costs about $1,200.
However, HCG has it's skeptics, including Dr. John Cleek with Carolinas Weight Management and Wellness Center.
"I don't have any good rationale for anybody to be taking HCG," Cleek said.
He's looked at the studies and says it appears to him, and many other medical professionals, it's not about the hormone. He thinks it's the super low calorie diet along with a little of the placebo effect.
"We know that 30% percent of the effect of a diet medication is a placebo effect. Which means I can give you a sugar pill and 30% of people will lose weight because they think its going to help. We also know the more money it costs you to participate in a program, typically the better that patient is going to do at losing weight. Now think of the psychological effect of having a shot instead of a pill and that's going to increase the placebo effect even more," Cleek said.
"If the doctor has done it and it didn't work for him then I'd listen to him. But if your neighbor has done it and said it's the only thing that ever worked for me and look at how I look, then believe it," Nicholas countered.
Still Dr. Cleek remains convinced that when eating only 500 calories per day anyone can lose and once they stop, the concern is they'll gain it back.
Take a look at how one website lays out how dieters would take in their 500 calories on the Simeons diet plan.
Tea or coffee in any quantity without sugar. Only one tablespoonful of milk allowed in 24 hours. Saccharin or Stevia may be used.
1. 100 grams of veal, beef, chicken breast, fresh white fish, lobster, crab, or shrimp. All visible fat must be carefully removed before cooking, and the meat must be weighed raw. It must be boiled or grilled without additional fat. Salmon, eel, tuna, herring, dried or pickled fish are not allowed. The chicken breast must be removed from the bird.
2. One type of vegetable only to be chosen from the following: spinach, chard, chicory, beet-greens, green salad, tomatoes, celery, fennel, onions, red radishes, cucumbers, asparagus, cabbage.
3. One breadstick (grissino) or one Melba toast.
4. An apple, orange, or a handful of strawberries or one-half grapefruit.
The same four choices as lunch (above.)
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