What is the hCG Diet?

It’s the start of a new year, and for many people the start of that new diet, weight loss plan, and a “get skinny” new year’s resolution.  It’s the time of year many are looking to find something they believe will work to reverse the consequence of all their holiday feasting or even those extra pounds still hanging around from that summertime cruise.  This is also the time of year you need to stay informed to what is a safe way to lose weight, versus many of those ineffective fad diets that come and go.  There has recently been increasing popularity in the hCG diet, which has actually been around for quite a while.  As you may hear different opinions, know your facts, and beware of the claims.

hCG has been used as a weight loss remedy since the program was introduced by a physician named Albert Simeons back in the 1950’s in combination with his very low calorie diet plan.1,2  hCG is human chorionic gonadotropin, which is a hormone produced during pregnancy and detected in the urine.  In theory, injections of hCG are supposed to suppress appetite, decrease fat stores, eliminate weakness, and redistribute body fat in areas around the waist, thighs, hips and upper arms.2,3  So what’s the catch?  Well, dieters are instructed to stick to Simeons’s 500 calorie per day diet plan, while restricting certain foods for a 45 day period.  Protein intake especially is below the daily recommendation.

Additionally, hCG is not FDA approved as a weight loss remedy, nor does it have the scientific evidence backing it as an effective weight loss treatment.  On 500 calories per day, there will be weight loss due to simple physiology of caloric restriction and starvation.  However, that is not enough energy for the body to properly function and can lead to dangerous implications if followed for a long period of time and especially if not medically supervised.

Speaking of medically supervised, there are some medical professionals who do advocate for the hCG diet – some reason for it may be to keep the clientele who are interested in weight loss.Does that mean it’s right?  Certainly not.  I was caught by surprise during a recent chiropractic visit when I heard the chiropractor advocating the diet and stating that there “is enough research to support effectiveness.”  Yet, the American Society of Bariatric Physicians does not recommend the use of hCG for weight loss or following the Simeons diet.So what about the people who actually have tried the hCG diet plan, and has it worked?

I recently learned that one of my co-workers who happens to be in the medical field did try the hCG diet plan for weight loss about a year ago.  When asked about her experience with it, she stated that it was expensive, too rigid of a diet, and she found it difficult to follow the 2nd day into the program.  She took hCG injections daily and did lose 9 lbs in 3 weeks…an average of 3 lbs per week which exceeds the recommendation for safe and successful weight loss, and of course the weight came right back on after she stopped the diet plan.  Overall, she stated that she would never recommend it because she did not feel good and lacked the energy she normally would have had.

Diets such as the hCG program tend to cost more than the safe, proven methods of weight loss.  Additionally, they are difficult to follow long-term and don’t usually lead to lasting weight loss results.  So, as you are carrying out your new year’s resolution, remember that change takes time.  Resolve to make a change to better your health, but remember that you have a year to work towards your new goal.

 ©Adrienne Hatch, MS, RD, LD/N

1Asher WL, Harper HW.  Effect of human chorionic gonadotropin on weight loss, hunger, and feeling of well being.  American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 1973; 26: 211-218.

2Barrett S.  HCG worthless as weight-loss aid.  Available at: http://www.dietscam.org/reports/hcg/.  Accessed December 27, 2012.

3American Society of Bariatric Physicians.  ASBP position on use of HCG in the treatment of obesity.  Available at:  http://www.asbp.org/siterun_data/about_asbp/position_statements/. Accessed December 28, 2012.

Photo Credit: http://hcgdietdropsreviews.com/images/easyhcg.jpg

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