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Long-Term Health Risks of the HCG Diet

by
author image ShaeLee Chatterton
ShaeLee Chatterton began writing professionally in 2007. She has written articles for "Women's Health" magazine online and edited for LA Splash Magazine. She is a fitness nutrition coach through the National Exercise and Sports Trainer Association and is certified as a personal trainer by the American Council on Exercise. Chatterton earned a Bachelor of Arts in exercise science and communications at Boise State University.
Long-Term Health Risks of the HCG Diet
A woman is discussing something with her doctor. Photo Credit ajkkafe/iStock/Getty Images

Overview

Human chorionic gonadotropin is a hormone that can stimulate the production of progesterone and is used to treat fertility issues in both men and women. According to Columbia University, many dieters are getting HCG prescribed by doctors for weight loss, an "off-label" use for the drug. For weight loss, HCG is used daily in conjunction with a 500 calorie diet. The HCG protocol is controversial because of the serious health risks that following the diet may present. Please discuss the use of HCG for weight loss with a qualified medical professional before attempting to use it.

Severe Malnutrition

One serious long-term health risk of the HCG Diet is the potential for severe malnutrition. The HCG protocol calls for consuming only 500 calories a day, which will be a drastic reduction in calories for most people. Even though the "Arizona Republic" reports the diet consists of healthy foods like vegetables, fish and chicken, the Mayo Clinic's website explains that it will be hard to meet of all your nutrition needs is so few calories. Even if you take a multivitamin to supplement for all the vitamins and minerals that the HCG diet lacks, you still may not get enough protein, according to the Arizona State University College of Nursing and Health Innovation. Although the HCG diet is not meant to be used year round, putting your body through periods of "crash" dieting will be harmful to your long-term health. Extreme diets and even the HCG diet protocol is thought to have contributed to the early death of film star and singer Mario Lanza, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.

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Large Weight Fluctuations

While the HCG diet will help you lose weight, this may only be due to due the severe calorie restriction, according to the Mayo Clinic. A 1995 study conducted by the Institute for Research in Extramural Medicine published in the "British Journal of Pharmacology" found that there was "no scientific evidence that HCG is effective in the treatment of obesity." The Mayo Clinic reports that any weight that you lose on the HCG diet you will likely regain after you discontinue the protocol. This may lead to a cycle of yo-yo dieting and large weight fluctuations. The University of Georgia explains that large weight fluctuations, particularly if you store weight around your stomach or abdomen is a major risk factor for heart disease.

Gallstone Formation

The Mayo Clinic reports that very-low-calorie diets like the HCG diet can cause you to develop gallstones. The risk may be even greater if your weight fluctuates from cycling the HCG Diet several times. The University of Maryland Medical Center website states that there is a very high risk of gallstone formation if you are on a very-low-fat and very-low calorie diet, lose more than 24 percent of your body weight and lose more than 3.3 pounds a week. Men are at an even higher risk for gallstones if their weight fluctuates large amounts. The HCG diet is very unhealthful in the short-term but can have serious long-term health risks. Western Kentucky University lists the HCG diet among a list of "6 Diet Trends You Should Never Try."

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