The HCG diet is a very low calorie, a deficient fat diet that limits the dieter to 500 calories per day, in combination with the pregnancy hormone, human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG). Produced by cells forming in the placenta, the side effects of HCG during early pregnancy include helping the body maintain its production of progesterone and estrogen.
HCG also suppresses the reaction a mother’s body may have on fetus’s “foreign” cells, supporting the pregnancy in situ. Medically, HCG is prescribed to treat infertility in both women and men.
The HCG diet is taken for around 21-38 days at a time, and it has three phases:
- LOADING PHASE – You are allowed to engorge yourself on high calorie, high-fat foods for two days while on HCG.
- WEIGHT LOSS PHASE – While on HCG, consume only 500 calories from prescribed foods for a 3 to 6 weeks period depending on your weight loss goals.
- MAINTENANCE PHASE – Increase your caloric intake, avoiding starches and sugar while off HCG for a three week period.
For dieters who want to lose a lot of weight, these cycles can be repeated severally till the desired weight loss has been achieved. According to this Men’s Fitness article, dieters are advised to take a six-week break after 40 days of dieting to avoid “HCG immunity and various other HCG diet side effects”.
The diet allows only two meals per day, the preferred being lunch and dinner. Each meal consists of the approved one lean meat portion, a piece of bread, vegetables, and fruit. You are advised to take lots of water, coffee or tea, a tablespoon of milk per day but disallowed any and all oils or butter and sugar.
While the food list is basically uniform, the variations of HCG come in different forms including injections, real HCG diet drops, homeopathic diet drops, as well as HCG Sprays, patches, and pellets.
YOU WILL FIND IN THIS POST
THE ORIGINS OF THE HCG DIET
POSITIVE HCG DIET SIDE-EFFECTS
NEGATIVE HCG DIET SIDE-EFFECTS
HARSH SCIENCE-BASED REALITY OF HCG DIET
THE ORIGINS OF THE HCG DIET
In the late 30’s, British endocrinologist A.T.W. Simeons is treating children suffering from Frohlich’s syndrome, which causes a slowing of growth of their reproductive organs and causing obesity.
To directly quote him from his 1954, now infamous “Pounds and Inches: A New Approach to Obesity” manuscript, he says that “the usual way of treating “fat boys” with underdeveloped genitals is to inject several hundred international units twice a week.”
During this process, he makes an observation that:
“[W]hen such patients are given small daily doses they seem to lose their ravenous appetite though they neither gain nor lose weight. Strangely enough, however, their shape does change. Though there is no restriction in diet, there is a distinct decrease in the circumference of their hips”.
He claims that when followed precisely, the HCG treatment could target fat over muscle because the HCG enables the hypothalamus gland to regulate the fat.
“Under the influence of the HCG which circulates in enormous quantities in her (pregnant woman) body during pregnancy, her diencephalic banking capacity seems to be unlimited, and abnormal fixed deposits are never formed.”
So Dr. A.T.W. Simeons combines the HCG treatment with extreme calorie cutting, and voila the HCG diet is born. The endocrinologist would in the next few decades inject the hormone into obese men and women till studies done in the 70s, and early 80s curtail the popularity of this diet because they fail to show a correlation between the usage of HCG and weight loss.
There has been a resurgence in the 2000s though, most dieters terming the diet as a weight loss nirvana of sorts.
POSITIVE HCG DIET SIDE-EFFECTS
THIS DIET CAN HELP YOU LOSE WEIGHT … WITHOUT THE HCG
Any super-low-cal diet will result in weight loss. Eating 500 calories per day is putting oneself in a state of starvation. With fewer calories going in, you are guaranteed to lose weight. Katherine Zeratsky, a dietitian at the Mayo Clinic, says that the 500 daily calorie intake is the HCG diet’s silver bullet.
500 calories are the equivalent of a measly one cup of a chopped up chicken breast, two servings each of fruits and vegetables; food you should essentially eat in one sitting.
Physicians recommend 1200-1500 calories per day for women and 2000 to 3000 calories for men for healthy weight loss. It is as clear as day if you starve yourself down to 500 calories per day, you will lose weight.
HCG DIET COULD THEORETICALLY SUPPRESS HUNGER
The author of “The Testosterone Factor“, Dr. Shafiq Qaadri says that one side effect of HCG in the diet is to make a dieter’s body mimic at a lower level, early pregnancy symptoms, which include nausea, vomiting, averseness to certain foods and a general lack of appetite.
This could most certainly play a role in the elimination of the hunger pangs as the proponents of the diet imply. And that, says Dr. Shafiq Qaadri, could be one of the reasons health practitioners prescribe HCG for weight loss.
HCG COULD THEORETICALLY CAUSE MUSCLE PROTECTION
Dr. Shafiq Qaadri, adds in this article that the HCG could perhaps offer muscle protection just as any anabolic hormone can. As arcane as the theory sounds, the once director of the division of reproductive endocrinology and infertility at St. Lukes-Roosevelt Hospital Center in Manhattan Dr. Martin Keltz, says that there was a reason why Manny Ramirez took HCG.
In 2009 the L.A Dodgers hitter was banned from 50 Major League Baseball games for testing positive to HCG. It is probable that he used it to increase the production of testosterone in his body.
Dr. Keitz says that HCG could create a more toned body because an increase of testosterone production in the body could cause a subsequent increase in muscle mass. There is some evidence that supports that HCG can raise testosterone levels, but works only for injectable HCG.
NEGATIVE HCG DIET SIDE-EFFECTS
THE HCG DIET CAN CAUSE YOUR WEIGHT TO YO-YO
Katherine Zeratsky, a dietitian at the Mayo Clinic, says that the 500 daily calorie intake of the HCG diet puts the body in starvation mode, slowing down its metabolism, and making long-term weight control fruitless.
The National Institutes of Health did a study (NIH), on 14 contestants of “The Biggest Loser,” showing that six years after their wins, 13 of them regained back 66% of their former before-the show weight. Drastic weight loss lowered their body’s resting metabolism rate, which is responsible for burning 80% of their daily caloric intake. A slowed down metabolism is the main contributor to the yo-yo effect of weight loss.
THE HCG DIET CAN CAUSE SUDDEN CARDIAC DEATHS
Director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, Dr. David L. Katz says that intake of 500 calories a day will cause the body to leech proteins from your muscles in the heart, which can eventually cause ventricular tachycardia and sudden cardiac death.
Mario Lanza, 38, world’s most famous opera singer in the 50s and an MGM studios stalwart suddenly died in 1959 of a heart attack, while checking out of a medical clinic in Rome.
He was prone to binge eating and extreme diets, and it is widely believed that he was one the most famous casualties of Dr. A.T.W. Simeons HCG diet, whereby the HCG made him hyperthyroid, causing irregular heartbeats and sudden death.
ADDITIONAL ADVERSE HEALTH EFFECTS OF HCG
Although above-mentioned side-effects are pretty bad, the count does not end here. You can experience even the following:
- Congenital disabilities for pregnant women
- Studies show that it can cause deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and bilateral pulmonary embolisms
- Swelling in the feet, ankles, lowers legs, or hands
- Extreme Fatigue
- Constipation, nausea, and diarrhea
- Mood swings, irritability, and depression
- Painful rupture or swelling of the ovaries
- Appearance of female breasts in men
As you can see, this diet may sound like a good idea in the beginning, but the potential side effects are quite negative on your overall health.
HARSH SCIENCE-BASED REALITY OF HCG DIET
1. SCIENTIFIC STUDIES INDICATE THAT HCG DOES NOT SUPPORT WEIGHT LOSS
A study led by Dr. Stephen Butler and published in the Journal of Dietary Supplements has asserted that even after a more than a century of studies on the correlation between HCG and weight loss there has been no concrete scientific evidence that it works.
In fact, he quips that some of the impurities they found in some pharmaceutical grade preparations were not pure HCG and were associated with cases of aggressive cancer.
Other studies that assert this fact:
- A double-blind 1976 study done by physician Mark R. Stein and published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, states that HCG should be considered ineffective as a weight loss treatment hormone.
- Another double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in 1990 studying forty obese women, receiving intramuscular injections of HCG or saline for six days a week for six weeks is of the same opinion. On a diet of 5,000 kJ per day, there were no differences in weight loss between women on HCG injections, or those on placebo injections.
- To round this up a 1997 meta-analysis of 24 clinical trials regarding A.T.W. Simeons therapy on the effect of HCG in the treatment of obesity categorically states that there is no correlation between the hormone and weight loss or fat-redistribution.
Dr. Katz in this LiveScience article calls the HCG diet a potential fatal folly. He likens the HCG in the diet to a “Dumbo feather.”
Dumbo is a character in the 1941 movie of the same name, who could fly due to his massive ears, but thought the source of his flying prowess was a feather he held in his trunk. One day the feather slipped, and Dumbo found out he could fly without it.
Dr. Katz says the promise of the false miracle-working power of HCG is what makes most of the dieters more willing to subsist on the 500 caloric intake and spend their cash on it. Assistant professor of medicine, Harvard Medical School Dr. Pieter Cohen says that the HCG produced weight loss in Dr. A.T.W. Simeon’s male patients, because the rare hormonal deficit they had, produced weight gain.
Once treated and the hormonal levels balanced, then the subsequent weight loss happened. Dr. Cohen says that this is the case with thyroid disease too. He says “treating a disease can cause weight loss by balancing hormones in the body.”
2. ONLY INJECTIONS RAISE BLOOD LEVEL HCG
Dr. Oz had at least two shows where he discussed Dr. Emma’s HCG Protocol version of the HCG diet, which is designed by the ardent supporter of the HCG diet, Sheri L. Emma. In this guest article, she states that HCG taken as sprays, drops or pills dissolve before getting to the blood, and so HCG cannot be absorbed by mouth.
HCG is a hormone and will be broken down into amino acids once ingested. Researchers suggest that HCG sublingual drops, tablets, and pellets have not been proven effective at delivering HCG to the bloodstream.
3. HCG CAN ONLY BE PRESCRIBED BY A PHYSICIAN
The use of HCG as a weight loss product has been in the crosshairs of the government since 1976 when the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) ordered that HCG should not be sold as approved safe for weight loss. In 1975 the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stated that HCG should not be labeled as an effective treatment for obesity too.
In 2011 due to the resurgence of the diet, the FDA made it illegal to sell HCG for weight loss over the counter. According to the FDA, it is unlawful to dispense HCG over the counter, making all such HCG products illegal.
4. HOMEOPATHIC HCG PRODUCTS CONTAIN ONLY A RUMOR OF HCG IF ANY AT ALL
To begin with, Dr. Simeons did not apply homeopathic HCG drops in his studies. Secondly, the practice of homeopathy dilutes an active ingredient with water over and over again, rendering the final product with only a ‘memory’ of the active ingredient.
Scientifically speaking, such products should not be labeled as having any active HCG in them.
Finally, for a product to be recognized as homeopathic by the FDA, it has to be listed in the Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia of the United States (HPUS), which is a list of all active ingredients in homeopathic drugs.
To fit this bill, all active ingredients have to undergo precise and rigorous criteria. HCG is not on this list, so it cannot be used as an ingredient in homeopathic products.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The HCG diet is just another voice added to the clamor of weight loss quick fixes. HCG has its uses medically and the side effects of HCG in the body, outside pregnancy should quickly curb anyone’s hunger for this extreme diet.
Though not as exciting, good old regular exercise and proper nutrition, still does work wonders, with no adverse ill effects attached. So skip this fad and get on with it, if you want to keep the pounds off for good.