HCG is a hormone used as part of a rapid weight loss diet. HCG, or human chorionic gonadotropin, is produced in the placenta. In the 1950s, British endocrinologist A.T.W. Simeons discovered its supposed fat-dissolving properties when studying teens in India with a glandular disorder that causes obesity. By the 1970s, HCG had been all but discredited by authoritative sources. However, the hormone is still available in doctor’s offices and in health food stores for the purposes of shedding excess fat quickly.
Over the Counter HCG
HCG is a homeopathic treatment. This means that the active ingredient is so extremely diluted that some experts warn that any effects it could have had are eliminated in the preparation process. While homeopathic products are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, in this case, investigators looked at over-the-counter HCG products and found that they don’t seem to be dangerous – in the short term, at least. One significant problem with HCG available in health foods stores is that there’s no way of determining how much of the hormone is in the product or if the product contains any hormone at all. One HCG distributor admitted in a USAToday.com article that his company discontinued one HCG product because the formula actually contained no traces of the hormone.
HCG was approved by the FDA for the treatment of infertility. Because of that, it’s impossible to ban doctors from prescribing it, even for off-label purposes, according to "The New York Times." One New York City cosmetic surgeon charges more than $1,000 a month to monitor clients on an HCG diet and says that people are losing a tremendous amount of weight. People are also having dangerous side effects, as well. Christopher Kelly, an FDA spokesperson, received a report that a patient on an HCG diet had a pulmonary embolism. Further, HCG is believed to carry a risk for blood clots, headaches, depression and enlarging or causing tenderness in the breasts in males and females. Some doctors require an EKG on patients before they’ll even administer the injection.
Some of the biggest concerns surrounding an HCG regimen revolve around the near-starvation diet. Promoters of the diet explain that the hormone suppresses appetite and eases feelings of hunger and fatigue. This is important because while you’re on the diet, you should only be consuming between 500 to 550 calories a day, which is roughly a quarter of the recommended calorie intake for a moderately active person. The least amount of calories any individual should take in on a daily basis is 1,200, according to the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Pieter Cohen from Harvard Medical School, said in an ABCNews.com report that HCG injections do not make starving yourself any safer, but could possibly make it even more dangerous.
Long-term Health Effects
Many experts thought that the topic of HCG and weight loss was dropped decades ago when a 1970s study established that the hormone had no weight loss capabilities. That may be why no one knows the long-term health effects of using HCG injections for treatments not approved by the FDA. It is known that HCG influences estrogen and progesterone. It can also have significant metabolic consequences, according to Dr. Michael Steelman, past chairman of the American Society of Bariatric Physicians.
- USAToday.com: HCG Weight-Loss Products Are Fraudulent, FDA Says; January 2011
- New York Times: Diet Plan with Hormone Has Fans and Skeptics; March 2011
- MayoClinic.com: HCG Diet: Is it Safe and Effective?; Jennifer K. Nelson, MS; June 2010
- Columbia News Service: Dieters Take a Jab at Fat with Injectinos for Weight Loss
- ABC News Health: HCG Diet: Starving on Pregnancy Hormones?; February 2011