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HCG Diet “Dangerous,” Says Yale Doctor

Neil Donaghy | December 20th, 2012

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The medical community is continuing to warn the public against the controversial HCG diet, a health fad first begun in the 1950s that has experienced a recent resurgence in popularity. In an ABC News item, Dr. David Katz, director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center, called the diet “appalling, irresponsible,” and “plain dangerous.”

HCG – human chorionic gonadotropin – is a hormone produced by the placenta during pregnancy to help nourish the developing embryo. It works by re-routing calories from the mother to the fetus, and is sometimes prescribed as a fertility treatment. It was first proposed as a weight loss supplement in 1954, when a British doctor began prescribing HCG injections in combination with a 500 calorie-per-day diet. Though never proven to work, the concept of HCG weight loss gained popularity during the 70s.

HCG diet “irresponsible,” says Dr. Katz

Most doctors and weight loss experts agree that any positive effects from the diet stem purely from the low-calorie consumption prescribed as part of HCG diet protocol. Dr. Katz said to ABC, “This diet is appalling. It takes irresponsible diets to new heights.”

“A 500-calorie-a-day diet is just plain dangerous,” Katz said. “When you restrict calories to that level, there’s a real risk for not providing your body with enough essential amino acids, so it scavenges itself. In some instances, it can cause the body to scavenge from critical places, like the heart.”

Sudden weight loss can lead to death

According to the National Institutes of Health, the lowest recommended daily intake of calories is 1,500 for men and 1,200 for women. The dangers of dropping below those numbers have been well documented since low-calorie diets first became popular in the 60s and 70s. In 1981, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition compiled a report which described 17 people who underwent significant, rapid weight loss and died within a few months from ventricular arrhythmia.

HCG diet protocol “illegal,” says FDA

The FDA has classified HCG weight loss supplements illegal and has issued several warnings to manufacturers of HCG products, stating “if these companies don’t heed our warnings, they could face enforcement actions, legal penalties or criminal prosecution.” But because the hormone is approved as a fertility treatment, doctors can still prescribe it at their own discretion.

Best way to lose weight: healthy eating and regular exercise

Doctors maintain that the only effective, healthy way to lose weight – and keep it off in the long-term – is through a sensible diet and regular physical exercise. The FDA, along with doctor-supervised weight loss programs such as The Center For Medical Weight Loss, are strongly advising consumers to avoid HCG products.

“You might lose weight but you’ll gain it all back when you go back to living like a normal person, again,” Dr. Katz said of HCG weight loss. “And if you do stick with it, you’ll be very thin but I doubt you’ll be very healthy.”

Thousands of people have shed pounds and kept it off long-term through the guidance of the trained physicians at The Center For Medical Weight Loss, who customize each diet and exercise program to suit each individual’s unique medical history, lifestyle, and goals. Once you see people who have successfully lost weight through the program, you may want to see if one of the 450 centers across the nation is near you— just enter your zip code in the search box above. Special introductory offers are available at select locations.