HCG refers to human chorionic gonadotrophin, a pregnancy hormone excreted through the urine. HCG is used along with a very-low-calorie diet to produce rapid, significant weight loss. The hormone is available by prescription and over the counter. HCG pills are OTC, homeopathic treatments that contain a tiny amount of diluted hormone. Before starting a new diet, you should talk to your doctor about your health condition and any medications you’re taking.
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About the Diet
The HCG diet was first conceived of in the 1950s by A.T.W. Simeons, a British endocrinologist who found that HCG was capable of displacing stubborn fat deposits in obese young men. Other properties of the hormone include appetite suppression, according to Simeons. An HCG protocol involves a period of calorie loading followed by several weeks of severe calorie restriction and HCG injections. Today, some diet publishers have designed an HCG diet around the use of OTC HCG drops, which are far less expensive than injections that require a doctor’s prescription and supervision.
HCG hormone was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of hormonal irregularities. For women, HCG is used in fertility treatments. In men, it’s used to treat undescended testes. Shelly Burgess, a spokesperson with the FDA, announced that homeopathic HCG pills are not a recognized active ingredient in the Homeopathic Pharmacopia, a digest of official homeopathic treatments in the United States. Therefore, those companies that advertise weight loss properties are unapproved and illegal. Regarding the stronger and pure prescription HCG injections, Burgess says, “HCG has not been demonstrated to be effective adjunctive therapy in the treatment of obesity.” Further, no substantial evidence supports that the hormone increases weight loss beyond results gained from calorie restriction.
The FDA’s statement may not have made a dent in the number of people interested in giving this fad diet a go. OTC HCG pills may be much less expensive, but any exposure to the hormone could still put you at risk for adverse side effects. At least one patient on an HCG protocol had a pulmonary embolism. According to the FDA, the hormone increases the risk for blood clots, headaches and breast tenderness. A Manhattan orthodontist who supervises HCG patients requires an EKG to rule out a heart condition before enrolling new customers.
One other concern regarding the use of homeopathic HCG is that not all product distributors are trustworthy. In 2011, "USA Today" reported on the HCG diet fat. In the article, a homeopathic HCG distributor admits to discontinuing the product because the serum had no hormone.
- "The New York Times"; Diet Plan With Hormone Has Fans and Skeptics; Anemona Hartocollis; March 2011
- "U.S. News and World Report"; HCG Diet Dangers: Is Fast Weight Loss Worth the Risk?; Angela Haupt; March 2011
- HCG Diet Info: Pounds & Inches; A.T.W. Simeons
- "USAToday"; HCG Weight Loss Products are Fraudulent, FDA Says; Nanci Hellmich; Jan. 23, 2011