WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - The HCG diet claims to be natural, promises to help you lose a pound or more a day and even discourages exercise.
But critics and medical doctors say it can be also dangerous.
HCG stands for Human Chorionic Gonadotrophin and is a hormone that is produced during pregnancy. It's detected in the urine of pregnant women.
HCG retailers say it works because it goes on the same concept that a pregnant woman's body will use stored fats to help send nutrients to the baby, even if she is not eating much.
Charlene Linsday jokes that HCG is about the only thing she can count on these days. She's tried so many diets, and she swears this one works.
"I went to my 20-something year reunion and they said, 'You know our nickname for you was Charlene the Diet Queen, right?' I'm like, 'that's fascinating because I still do that!" laughed Linsday.
This last year, The Diet Queen says she struck liquid gold.
"I feel like I've hit the motherload, the golden egg," said Linsday. "I'm ecstatic about it."
Linsday says she lost 15 pounds in 13 days. In one night, she says she even lost four pounds.
"I swear it works," said Dr. Odom. "I've never seen anything like it."
However, the diet comes with controversy as well. Whether you take the HCG by drops or by injection, you also have to go on a VLCD or very low calorie diet. HCG dieters usually drop down to 500 calories a day. Odom will sometimes allow her clients to increase their calories. She also runs another business called HCG Essentials, which makes meals appropriate for the diet.
"Typically 500 calories is a danger in itself," said Dr. Peter Kramer of Wrightsville Beach Family Medicine. He says it's healthier to eat around 500 calories a meal.
Kramer said he often helps people with weight loss through diet and exercise. WECT discovered that few medical experts knew about HCG, including Dr. Kramer, but he says it's common sense to follow dietary guidelines when it comes to losing weight.
"It can be dangerous if you're not getting the right blend of calories and proteins," said Kramer.
HCG dieters disagree. They claim the hormone is what allows them to survive off of a very low calorie diet. They also say they're not hungry while using HCG, and only take it for a limited amount of time. They say once a dieter is off the HCG, their metabolism has been reset.
"You can't go down to 500 calories a day without the chemical," said Linsday.
Linsday says without HCG, a dieter would send their body into starvation mode. She says thanks to HCG, she's back in her bikini. She loves it so much that she even started selling it at the salon where she works.
"I just want to get it out there," said Linsday.
The Diet Queen says she's looking no more; she says she found all she needed in HCG.
"I swear by this," said Linsday. "I was in awe, I felt fantastic."
Depending if you do the drops or the injections, it can cost anywhere between $70 and $500. Connie Odom said her male patients tend to do better than the women when it comes to losing weight.
HCG is also FDA approved, but not for weight loss. It's approved for fertility treatments. The Mayo Clinic also adds you'll lose weight, but only for the short term.