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Kimberly Tenner
December 10, 2016

The HCG Diet Controversy: The Good and Bad of HCG

hcg diet controversy

HCG diets undoubtedly have a huge following among dieters. Although experts remain skeptical, many men and women have successfully lost weight while on the hCG diet.

“6.4 pounds in 4 days and that included my fat loading days!!” explained one user at an hCG dieting forum.

“I did round 1 for 6 weeks and lost 30 lbs.,” adds another. “I kept all of it off during maintenance . . . (I did not lose any) and just started my 2nd 6 weeks and plan on losing 30 more. Love love love hcg diet!”

When everyone wants to be slim and sexy without the work, losing so much weight so quickly seems like a dream come true.

But is hCG as amazing as it looks?

What Is HCG?

HCG is approved by the FDA as a prescription drug for female infertility and other medical conditions. Although it is not approved for weight loss, those in favor of the hCG plan claim that hCG injections effectively curb appetite while promoting energy levels.

The History
The hCG diet plan was originally developed by Dr. ATW Simeons in the 1950s. While in India, Dr. Simeons discovered that hCG mobilized lipids in nearly all of his patients, resulting in weight loss. He proposed hCG as a supplemental hormone to accompany an ultra-low-calorie weight loss diet of less than 500 calories. [1]

This later inspired multiple researchers to study hCG, but interestingly enough, Simeon’s results were not reproduced.

It wasn’t until Kevin Trudeau wrote his book, The Weight Loss Cure “They” Don’t Want You to Know About, that the dieting community become truly interested in the program.

HCG Phases
The hCG diet plan is broken down into 3 phases based on Simeons’ research. The phases include the following:

Phase 1. This phase involves a high caloric and high fat intake for 2-3 days while taking hCG. Supposedly, the body will attempt to deposit new fat cells but the hormone will prevent it from doing so. Consequently, the body is said to loosen and mobilize lipids rather than storing new fat.

Some sites also recommend detoxifying or cleansing the body during this phase via a colon cleanse or simply avoiding all processed foods and artificial sweeteners.

Phase 2. This is the most challenging phase for dieters. It requires a strict caloric intake of 500-700 calories per day. Many consumers prefer to consume lean protein as well as low-calorie fruits and vegetables. Occasionally dieters turn to coffee and tea for breakfast, and then consume two slightly larger meals for lunch and dinner.

According to hCG dieters, most of the weight comes off during the first 5-10 days. However, many continue the hCG diet for up to 60 days.

Phase 3. The 3rd phase, or maintenance phase, is the easiest part of the hCG diet to maintain. Caloric intake is increased to 1200-1500 calories per day, which is still low but within normal range for many. During this phase, hCG use is halted and dieters must wait at least 23 days before beginning a new hCG regimen.

Speedy Weight Loss: The Good of HCG

“HCG products are marketed with incredible claims, and people think that if they’re losing weight, HCG must be working,” explains Elizabeth Miller, acting director of the FDA’s Division of Non-Prescription Drugs and Health Fraud. [2]

low caloriesFor example, one website claims “With HCG diet drops, you can lose weight, contour your body by shedding fat in all the right areas, and still feel energetic and full of life. . . HCG drops will control your metabolism so that your body will burn fat from the places where fat shouldn’t be, like the abdomen, thighs and other areas that can become unsightly.”

With such amazing hype and offers, is it any wonder that dieters can’t resist giving hCG a try?

Countless success stories are posted in forums and popular media sharing sites such as Facebook. With more dieters losing weight successfully, these success stories then spur new dieters into trying the hormone.

“I did the diet for 30 days, lost 25 pounds,” says one dieter at hCGDietInfo.com. “I was on cloud nine.”

Kracquell, EveryDayHealth.com, shared: “I am on the 5th day of the HCG drops and have lost 7lbs already, the first day alone I lost 3.6lbs, the diet is amazing. I’m not going to lie, the first 2 days after the load were very difficult for me. I had headaches and was hungry, but once you get through day 2, it’s a breeze, trust me. I forget sometimes to eat my fruit and have to remind myself to ensure that I am getting the 500 calories in, this is important, don’t skip your fruit or meals. I will keep you updated, HCG is wonderful. I ordered my drops online from hcgdirectbuy.“

While this seems ideal at first, experts warn that there’s more to this program than meets the eye. . .

The True Cost of HCG: The Disadvantages

Elizabeth Miller continues, “The data simply does not support this; any loss is from extreme calorie restriction. Not from the HCG.” [2]

Most experts agree, living on 500 calories a day is not only unhealthy – it’s dangerous.

“It is virtually impossible to meet your nutritional needs for carbohydrates, protein, fats, and fiber with less than 500 calories per day,” point out WebMD experts. “The diet will most likely result in vitamin and mineral deficiencies.” [3]

Although very low calorie diets are sometimes prescribed for the obese, medical supervision is needed to ensure the side effects are not life-threatening.

Then there’s the hormone itself. . .

“Taking the hCG hormone itself can cause a variety of complications that can read like the fine print in a prescription disclaimer: Users may report incidences of headaches, blood clots, restlessness, leg cramps, constipation, temporary hair thinning, depression and male breast enlargement.” Explains Tom Scheve, health writer. “Also, you may feel, well, like you’re pregnant — swelling, breast tenderness and water retention, anyone?” [4]

But that’s not all. hCG comes with a wide variety of additional side effects:

• Severe pelvic and abdominal pain
• Swelling of the hands and legs
• Shortness of breath
Weight gain
• Diarrhea
• Nausea or vomiting

What About Simeons’ Research?
Many dieters are under the impression that because one doctor proposed this weight loss plan it is bound to work.

However, Simeons’ research is often distorted and glorified to suit a supplement seller’s needs.

As mentioned earlier, multiple studies have since been conducted on hCG and its supposed weight loss effects. However, scientists have yet to duplicate Simeons’ findings.

In a recent study, researchers tested hCG for weight loss and found “there was no statistically significant difference in the means of the two groups in number of injections received, weight loss, percent of weight loss, hip and waist circumference, weight loss per injections or in hunger ratings.” [5]

Researchers concluded that hCG does not enhance the effectiveness of a rigidly imposed weight loss regimen.

FDA Warning
warning signAs of December 2011, the FDA issued warning letters to several companies marking hCG products as “homeopathic” weight loss solutions. The letters warned that the companies were violating federal law by selling unapproved drugs without supporting their claims.

Even homeopathic hCG is illegal. The FDA advises consumers who have purchased homeopathic hCG for weight loss to “stop using it, throw it out, and stop following the dieting instructions.” [2]

Is hCG Diet Right for You?

Despite the fact that many dieters have successfully lost weight on hCG, the cons far outweigh the cons with this diet.

The low-calorie restriction, lack of clinical research, and high side effect risk pose too many problems to be a reliable way to lose weight.

Although you might lose weight with hCG, chances are likely that you’ll gain it all back when you return to your normal diet.

Shirley Blakely, nutritionist at FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition suggests, “in general, the reference (average) calorie level is 2,000. If you want to lose weight, reduce your daily intake by 500 calories. Over the course of a week, that equals 3500 calories, which is the loss of a pound. Gradual weight loss is the way to do it.” [2]

References

[1] Simeons ATW (2010). Pounds & Inches: A New Approach To Obesity. Popular Publishing. ISBN 0-615-42755-3.

[2] “HCG Diet Products are Illegal.” US Food and Drug Administration. Available from: http://www.fda.gov/forconsumers/consumerupdates/ucm281333.htm

[3] Zelman, Kathleen. “The Truth About HCG for Weight Loss.” WebMD Expert Review. Available from: http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/truth-about-hcg-for-weight-loss

[4] Scheve, Tom. “HCG Diet: What You Need to Know.” HowStuffWorks. Available from: http://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/diet-fitness/diets/hcg-diet3.htm

[5] Stein MR, Julis RE, Peck CC, Hinshaw W, Sawicki JE, Deller JJ Jr. “Ineffectiveness of human chorionic gonadotropin in weight reduction: a double-blind study.” Am J Clin Nutr. 1976 Sep;29(9):940-8. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/786001


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