The HCG diet is a very low-calorie diet based on the premise that when combined with a hormone that blocks hunger and fatigue signals, you can lose a dramatic amount of weight in a short period. This is a multiphase program that severely restricts calorie intake. If you’ve been following the phases correctly, it’s difficult to not see a significant amount of weight loss.
Diet Phases 1 and 2
Phase 1 of the HCG diet, which lasts about a week, requires you to eat anything and everything you want. Even high-fat foods are encouraged. The idea is to build up fat stores in preparation for phase 2. The second phase, which lasts roughly 20 to 45 days, is a very-low-calorie diet in which you can consume only 500 to 550 calories a day. With help from the hormone, you should not have any hunger pangs. Considering that many compare this extreme dieting to starvation, unless you’re sneaking at least an additional 1,000 calories into your diet it’s very difficult to maintain weight – even for people who were underweight at the start of the diet.
In phase 3 you’re encouraged to nearly triple your intake to 1,500 calories a day. You can eat most foods, with the exception of starch and sugar. According to A.T.W. Simeans, the British endocrinologist who conceived of the HCG diet in the 1950s, by this point the HCG hormone will have changed your metabolism and redistribute weight in a way that your weight loss is maintainable. More than 50 years later, however, the Food and Drug Administration disagrees, indicating that at best HCG does not produce weight loss and at worst might be fraudulent, according to a 2011 article in the "Consumerist."
Prescription HCG was approved by the FDA for the treatment of infertility. Many doctors across the country, however, are enrolling healthy adults in programs that involve following a low-calorie diet and getting an HCG injection. If you can’t afford a $1,000 program, however, you have to get your HCG supplement from the local health food. Supplemental HCG has no weight-loss capabilities, according to the FDA, and even if there were some, you might be purchasing a formula that doesn’t contain the hormone. In 2011, USAToday.com reported that one HCG distributor discontinued marketing his product when he found the serum actually had no hormone.
If you’re not losing weight on an HCG diet, the bottom line, according to various studies and experts, is that it just isn’t effective. The American Society of Bariatric Physicians issued a statement in 2009 indicating that numerous studies have shown HCG to be ineffectual in producing weight loss. The one effect it might have on weight is that it can slightly increase muscle mass in androgen-deficient males. The FDA released a statement explaining that the hormone does not redistribute fat to produce a more attractive or normal appearance, as HCG diet proponents are apt to claim.
- Diet Scam Watch; HCG Worthless As Weight Loss Aid; Stephen Barrett, MD; May 2010
- "The Consumerist"; HCG Diet Products are Fraud, Says FDA; Ben Popken; January 2011
- "The New York Times"; Diet Plan With Hormone Has Fans and Skeptics; March 2011
- USAToday.com: HCG Weight Loss Products are Fraudulent, FDA Says