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The FDA is cracking down on weight-loss remedies containing the HCG hormone, saying there's no proof the placental protein helps people lose weight.
The so-called remedies, coupled with restrictive diets, can be dangerous when used as directed, the Food and Drug Administration warns.
The agency has asked seven companies to take their HCG weight-loss products off the market, the Associated Press reports. The companies have 15 days to come up with a plan to do that.
FDA scientists are concerned about the hormone HCG, which stands for human chorionic gonadotropin. It's a protein produced by a woman's placenta that's often marketed in the form of weight-loss pills or sprays.
But HCG has not been approved by the FDA for use in over-the-counter weight-loss products, USA Today reports. The FDA's warning says the companies are violating federal law by selling products with HCG.
For years, HCG hormone treatments have been marketed as homeopathic remedies -- diluted drugs derived from natural sources. Homeopathic remedies have the same legal status as other pharmaceuticals, according to a federal law passed in 1938.
The FDA regulates which substances can be used in homeopathic drugs. HCG is not one of them.
The products targeted by the FDA claim to fix "abnormal eating patterns," the AP reports. They also claim to help people lose as much as 30 pounds in 30 days.
If customers do lose weight while taking HCG weight-loss products, it's most likely their diet, not the hormone, an FDA official told the AP.
If the companies fail to comply with the FDA, they could face legal action. That includes the possibility of criminal charges, for continuing to profit off the HCG hormone's unproven claims.