There has been a flurry of renewed interest in the correlation between HCG and weight loss. I feel compelled to explore this diet in depth, especially due to recent events. HCG stands for Human Chorionic Gonadotropin, a hormone produced during pregnancy. The presence of this hormone in the urine indicates that a woman is pregnant. HCG can also be created by some kinds of cancer, and can serve as an important tumor marker as well. The hormone is not approved for weight loss, and is solely approved by the FDA to treat infertility. In 1954, British physician Dr. Albert T. Simeons claimed HCG injections would allow dieters to manage on a 500 calorie-per-day diet. He claimed HCG could suppress the appetite, burn stored fat, and redistribute fat. He had absolutely no clinical evidence to validate his claims.
Fast forward to this past December 7, 2011. The FDA and the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) issued an urgent warning stating that HCG could be extremely dangerous, ineffective, and entirely illegal in over-the-counter use. Seven weight loss product companies have received cease-and-desist letters from the FDA and FTC. According to Elizabeth Miller, an FDA spokesperson, any weight loss resulting from using HCG would likely be due to the fact the user was consuming fewer than 500 calories a day, and not any effect derived from the HCG itself. Miller also warned about the dangers of consuming so few calories: that it will not deliver sustained weight loss and could disrupt the metabolism and result in serious health conditions, including electrolyte imbalances, nutritional deficiencies, heart arrhythmias, thyroid disorders, mood swings, depression, fatigue, high blood pressure and stroke, fibromyalgia, and diabetes.
So why would anyone want to go on this diet? Many view it as a “quick fix” or a way to “jump start” the weight loss process. What they don’t realize is that this diet and the resulting weight loss cannot be maintained. Pieter Cohen, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard University Medical School, commented on the use of HCG in a weight loss diet regime: “It’s reckless, irresponsible, and completely irrational….and any benefit (from using HCG) is not going to last.” Eating 1000 calories of chocolate every day will cause you to gain weight, irrespective of how many shots/pills of HCG you take (think insulin levels). On the other hand, you will be able to achieve your weight loss goals on a diet consisting of 1500-2000 calories of vegetables and low-fat healthy food.
The FDA recommends that anyone currently using products containing HCG should discontinue using them immediately. HCG has not been scientifically verified as safe or effective in weight loss. Consuming a diet restricted to 500 or fewer calories per day could be very dangerous to your health. The safest and most effective path to weight loss is a combination of a healthy, balanced, calorie-conscious diet and regular physical activity.
I would like to wish all of my readers success in their weight-loss ambitions!
Aliza Beer, M.S., R.D., is a registered dietitian with a masters degree in nutrition and has a private practice in Cedarhurst. Consultations can be done in office, or by phone/email. Aliza can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.