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The HCG Diet

The HCG diet. Some swear by it, saying that it helped them lose up to 30 pounds in one month. Others call it a scam, a needlessly expensive crash diet that can cause malnutrition and other serious health problems— and which ultimately results in all the lost weight being quickly gained back. When it comes to the HCG diet, how can people separate fact from fiction? Read about the HCG diet protocol.

What is the HCG diet?

First, some history on the HCG diet. HCG is human chorionic gonadotropin, a pregnancy hormone produced in women by the placenta and excreted in the urine. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) currently approves HCG for one purpose only— as a treatment for both male and female infertility. But HCG’s reputation as a weight loss treatment began as far back as the 1950’s, when a British doctor named A.T.W. Simeons published a book called “Pounds and Inches: A New Approach to Obesity,” in which he claimed that his overweight patients had lost significant amounts of weight after being treated with continual small doses of HCG. He further observed that his patients were erasing flab in the body’s traditional “trouble areas,” where fat is considered to be must unsightly and hard to get rid of—such as the thighs, buttocks, belly, and upper arms. Simeons explained this targeted weight loss by revealing that he would inject the HCG into specific problem body parts. Find out the truth about HCG weight loss.

Extreme calorie restriction leads to weight loss

Simeons admitted that injections of HCG alone would not lead to weight loss, but had to be accompanied by an extreme calorie-restricting diet. His patients would only consume 500 calories a day—which many medical experts then and now would categorize as starvation. According to Simeons, however, the HCG hormone injections not only worked to burn fat from targeted areas, but also to suppress the appetite to the point where patients could not tolerate consuming more than 500 calories a day.

The HCG fad soon fell into disfavor and faded into relative obscurity. Scientists and doctors specializing in nutrition discredited it by asserting that reported weight loss was due to the extreme calorie restriction, rather than the “miracle” effect of the HCG injections. If you don’t eat anything, the argument went, you will certainly lose weight—but the danger of starvation diets is that essential bone and muscle tissue is lost as much as, or more than, fat. Inevitably, as almost always happens after extreme crash diets, the patient regains the weight.


Science weighs in on the HCG diet

Over the years, the HCG diet would occasionally be taken up and promoted as not only effective and safe if followed properly, but also based on sound scientific principles. After all, its supporters reasoned, haven’t many pioneering breakthroughs been dismissed at first by the mainstream scientific community? Then in 2007, infomercial salesman Kevin Trudeau resuscitated Simeons’ HCG diet, claiming that if dieting individuals augment extreme calorie restriction with daily consumption of HCG —either by injection or taken orally as drops— they could lose a lot of weight, and lose it quickly.

Only a year later, in 2008, the Federal Trade Commission fined Trudeau an exorbitant $37 million dollars for making “false and misleading claims.” In January 2011, the FDA issued a warning to consumers about HCG, saying that it was an illegal act of fraud to sell it as a weight loss supplement.

The FDA went on to say that, “HCG has not been demonstrated to be effective adjunctive therapy in the treatment of obesity. There is no substantial evidence that it increases weight loss beyond that resulting from caloric restriction, that it causes a more attractive or ‘normal’ distribution of fat, or that it decreases the hunger and discomfort associated with calorie-restricted diets.”

Evidence in favor of the HCG diet as a long-term, medically legitimate weight loss program is often only anecdotal—very little creditable scientific evidence endorses the HCG diet as viable. A 1995 meta-analysis of 14 clinical trials of the HCG diet found that only 2 published results indicating that the pregnancy hormone was more helpful than a placebo in generating weight loss in patients.

Other studies appearing in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, The Journal of Family Practice, and Archives of Internal Medicine have confirmed that no scientifically meaningful evidence exists that HCG has any positive effect whatsoever on weight loss.

Risks associated with HCG diet

Furthermore, the HCG diet appears to come with several serious risks. HCG has been linked by researchers to side effects including headaches, blood clots, leg cramps, hair thinning, constipation, and tenderness of the breast. It is well-established that when the body’s starvation response is triggered, the metabolism slows and muscle deteriorates as the body tries to conserve fat. Additionally, the FDA has received at least one report of an HCG diet patient who developed a pulmonary embolism, or blood clot in the lung, which is potentially fatal.

HCG weight loss is dangerous for yet another reason: the laboratories that extract the HCG hormone from the urine of pregnant women often fail to test the donors for HIV, hepatitis, or other infectious diseases. Doctors speculate that as a result of this lax testing, dieters relying on an HCG regimen risk deadly exposure to these diseases.

Dr. Michael Kaplan, founder of a network called The Center for Medical Weight Loss, states, “There are many physician-directed weight loss programs that are scientifically proven to achieve sustainable results without the health risks of the HCG diet.”  The physicians at the Centers provide personalized diet and exercise programs based on the individual’s metabolism. Patients not only lose weight, but keep it off—they also see significant reductions in blood sugar levels, leading to reduction in diabetes and insulin intake.

Studies have shown that the average participant in the Center’s programs loses 11.1% of their body weight in the first 12 weeks. According to the American Journal of Medicine, the average weight loss in the CMWL program is 28 pounds in 12 weeks. Dr. Kaplan points out, “Keep in mind that this is only the average weight loss— patients who are heavier to begin with can expect to lose much more.” Most importantly, the fast weight loss produced by physician-supervised diet plans is safe, healthy, and created to last for the long term. Read more about dangers of the HCG diet.

The Center for Medical Weight Loss has over 450 locations in the US. To find out if there is a center in your area, enter your zip code into the search box above. Special introductory offers may be available for first-time visits.