HCG, or human chorionic gonadotropin, is a hormone that is produced by the placenta during pregnancy. This hormone is used to treat infertility in both sexes, and it is also injected or taken orally in lozenge-form by those following the HCG diet as part of their weight-loss regimen. But supplementing with HCG can lead to a number of side effects, including depression, according to Celeste Robb-Nicholson, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of "Harvard Women's Health Watch."
HCG's Role in the Body
HCG is a hormone that helps to stimulate the production of progesterone from the ovaries in early pregnancy, according to Lucy J. Puryear, author of "Understanding Your Moods When You're Expecting." When the placenta is developed enough, it takes over producing the progesterone, and it also begins producing estrogen. These two hormones are responsible for the mood swings that many women experience during pregnancy. While HCG has been linked to morning sickness, it hasn't been linked to mood swings during pregnancy.
The HCG Diet
The HCG diet is built on the premise that severely restricting calories, along with taking a daily dose of HCG, will help you lose weight. Some HCG protocols call for a severe calorie restriction of 500 calories per day, but others allow up to 800 calories. Scientific research has cast doubt on the effectiveness of HCG as a weight loss supplement, however. Researchers such as Robb-Nicholson postulate that dieters on the HCG protocol are only losing weight because of the calorie restriction, and there is no evidence that HCG stimulates weight loss.
HCG and Mental Health
Taking HCG as a dietary supplement can lead to undesirable side effects, including depression and irritability, according to Angela Haupt, author of "HCG Diet Dangers." Some proponents of the HCG diet, such as Stephen Holt, author of "Holt On: The HCG Diet Revolution," rebut this. Holt claims that the form of HCG used in the diet contains beta-endorphins, which elevate mood. However, these claims haven't been demonstrated with scientific research, which does not show that taking an HCG supplement enhances mood.
Other Side Effects
HCG has side effects when it is taken as a supplement. For example, while the levels of HCG during pregnancy haven't been linked to adverse health effects, taking HCG as a weight-loss supplement has been linked to thinning hair, headaches, constipation and breast tenderness. More serious, HCG might lead to dangerous blood clots in the lungs, which can be fatal. In addition, the low-calorie intake recommended by the HCG diet does not provide enough nutrition to sustain optimal health.