POSTED: Monday, June 27, 2011 - 4:43am
UPDATED: Friday, July 22, 2011 - 5:05am
Nicole Andrade is injecting herself with HCG, a hormone produced by pregnant women.
The injection has nothing to do with fertility and everything to do with weight loss.
She's using the hormone in conjunction with a very strict 500 calorie a day diet to lose a lot of weight, fast.
"In the first week I lost 12 pounds," she says. "At six weeks I lost about 26 pounds.
The results are dramatic, but it's not cheap.
The hormones run $900 for a six week program.
Dr. John Tang, a cosmetic surgeon who treats Nicole, says HCG allows people to lose weight without feeling hungry and shed fat.
"HCG allows the body to access the fat, this abnormal fat, into circulation, and it allows the body to actually use this fat as a primary source," he explains.
"A suggested menu for the plan includes a cup of black coffee for breakfast, four ounces of chicken breast and two cups of fruit and veggies for lunch, then again for dinner.
"Anyone who goes on a 500 calorie diet is going to lose weight," points out registered dietitian and personal trainer Lisa Richardson.
She believes diet and exercise would have the same effect on weight loss without the hormone injections.
"They don't make the program any more effective than just the diet alone," she says.
Dr. Tang says he also gives his patients vitamins and keeps them on the 500 calorie diet for just a limited time.
"We recommend that people only go for six weeks, and no longer than that," he says, "so after six weeks people will go through a maintenance phase."
HCG is not specifically approved for weight loss, but the FDA does allow doctors to prescribe it off label.
Dr. Tang says he has a 90-percent success rate for patients who follow his plan, which includes limited exercise.
Nicole says she does feel better, and this diet was what she needed.
Since October she's lost 70 pounds.
It's enough to convince her the HCG diet may be a quick fix that has potential to stick.