HCG is an obesity treatment dating back to the 1950s that has made a resurgence in popularity in recent years. The use of HCG — which stands for human chorionic gonadotropin, also known as the human pregnancy hormone — was revealed as fad as early as the mid-1970s. Studies on HCG and weight loss indicate that the reason you lose weight on this diet is not from the use of HCG itself but because of the drastically reduced calorie count.
The history of HCG as a weight loss aid is intriguing. According to a November 2009 article in the “L.A. Times,” during the 1930s, obese children with Frohlich’s syndrome were given HCG injections to encourage puberty. This caught the attention of British physician A.T.W. Simeons, who started using HCG injections to treat obese but otherwise healthy adults in the mid-1950s. Simeons paired HCG treatment with an extremely low-calorie diet, claiming that the HCG decreased appetite and made his patients lose fat in specific “problem” areas, such as the hips and belly.
HCG Diet Studies
Numerous clinical studies on HCG and weight loss were conducted after Simeons began using it as an obesity treatment; however, not all were well-designed. A May 1987 article, published in the German journal “Geburtshilfe und Frauenheilkunde” took a look at HCG studies to that date; 10 of which showed positive results and 10 of which showed HCG yielded no benefits. Only two of the positive studies were double-blind; most relied on experiential reporting and were not controlled. Of the 10 studies that yielded negative results, four were controlled and six were double-blind. These studies, better designed, showed that HCG had no specific effect on various treatment groups with respect to distribution of body mass or hunger control. However, participants did lose a significant amount of weight.
HCG Diet Effectiveness
Weight loss clinics administer HCG injections or give it to clients orally, explains Mayo Clinic nutritionist Jennifer Nelson. However, it’s not the HCG that causes you to lose weight; it’s the restrictive 500- to 800-calorie diet that accompanies the HCG weight loss method that’s responsible for rapid weight loss. Nelson points out that this is between one-fourth to one-half of your recommended calories. On such a low-calorie diet, weight loss is inevitable.
A Critical Eye
Newspaper articles published in 2009 and 2010 weren’t the first to report HCG as a weight loss fad. As early as December 1974, “Time Magazine” pegged Simeons’ weight loss method as a dodgy endeavor, warning readers that Simeons’ weight loss clinics, which sprung up over the United States, were on the American Medical Association’s radar. The AMA stressed the risks of this near-starvation diet and pointed out that HCG can have unwanted side effects, such as depression, headache and anxiety. Nelson further indicates that HCG injections can cause breast enlargement in men. Oral HCG products, typically in the form of drops, are sold over the Internet. But be careful when purchasing these, Nelson warns. They might not contain what they purport.
HCG Diet Cautions
One of the more deciding factors when looking for a weight loss treatment is if it’s been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for this purpose — and HCG isn’t. The FDA has approved only a limited number of oral medications for weight loss. These tend to be appetite suppressants that are taken for no longer than three months, says the Weight-Control Information Network. Rather than rely on HCG, change your lifestyle. Choose healthier foods, eat smaller portions and get plenty of exercise. Losing up to 2 lbs. each week is a more realistic expectation than 40 lbs. in 40 days.