The latest weight loss fad, although not exactly new, is the HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) pregnancy hormone diet. With daily injections of the hormone and a restrictive caloric intake of only 500 calories, the diet promises a weight loss of 1 - 3 pounds per day – without exercise. A dream come true?
Dr. Weil weighs in:
The trouble is, it doesn’t work. Over the years, a number of clinical trials have tested the diet both in Europe and the United States, and none has found that hCG has any positive effect. Sure, you can lose weight on this diet – but that’s because you consume only 500 calories per day, not because you inject yourself with hCG. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 1976 found no statistically significant difference in weight loss, percent of weight loss, hip and waist circumference, weight loss per injections, or hunger ratings among patients who were on a 500-calorie-per-day diet combined with hCG injections and those who were on the diet and received placebo injections.
The HCG hormone, FDA approved for fertility and other treatments but not specifically for weight loss, controls the metabolism in pregnancy and releases fat stores to ensure proper nourishment of the fetus. The diet, often combined with other supplements of appetite suppressants and injections of vitamin B-12, requires strict adherance to what amounts to a no-fat starvation diet. Proponents suggest that this method lowers the metabolic set point and hunger dissapates after a week or so and it’s the ‘reset’ that allows for success at the end of the treatment period.
Testimony to the effectiveness and amazing results abound across the internet - along with dubious offers promoting ’safer’ (non-injection) methods of ingesting the hormone like lotions and liquids. (If there’s a Google ad nearby, beware!) You’ll find lively debates and threads that offer stories of success peppered with complaints of side effects including fatigue, dizzyness and severe mood swings.
As with the rise in popularity of any quick weight loss fad, nutritionists, medical doctors and fitness professionals are skeptical.
Most doctors’ and dietitians’ views can be summed up in three phrases: placebo, peril and put-it-back-on.
“I don’t believe it to be efficacious. Either shots or drops, it’s a placebo,” says Dr. Craig Primack, a bariatric (weight-loss) doctor in Phoenix and a spokesman for the American Society of Bariatric Physicians. “Not many doctors commonly known as weight-loss doctors are using this.”
The 500-calorie diet doesn’t provide enough carbs or protein and will send the body into a state called ketosis. Ketosis is a natural appetite suppressant, Primack says, so he believes that is what banishes hunger, rather than HCG. In ketosis, the body burns stored fat, but if it’s extreme, it can lead to problems. The blood pH can change, making blood too acidic and essentially corrosive to internal organs.
“The short-term ketosis problem is bad breath,” says Keri Gans, registered dietitian and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. “Over an extended period, kidney stones and gallstones are common side effects, and also fatigue.”
HCG diet has backers, detractors ~ Arizona Daily Sun, July 18, 2010
Yea-sayers say it’s a jump start after a ’reset’ of the metabolism. Nay-sayers say don’t waste your money. Nevertheless, it’s still no secret that permanent weight loss requires real change in behavior with proper diet and exercise.
Dr. Weil: Pregnancy Hormone for Weight Loss
Scheve, Tom. “How the HCG Diet Works.” 22 April 2009. HowStuffWorks.com. 14 July 2010.
HCG diet has backers, detractors ~ Arizona Daily Sun, July 18, 2010 ~ Attributed: (c) 2010, Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Visit the Star-Telegram on the World Wide Web at http://www.star-telegram.com. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.