The surprising news about the HCG diet is that it is nothing new at all, having been around for almost 60 years. However, it is only for the past 8 years that the hcg diet plan has had a huge resurgence and continued to grow in popularity.
As always, Moose and Doc will offer a balanced (and fun) review of the HCG diet that is based on sound scientific research. The HCG diet is a huge and controversial topic and it is very easy to get lost in the hype.
There are 1,180,00 results on a general Google search for ‘the hcg diet’. There are 542,000 results for ‘where to buy HCG injections’ at present and 726,000 results on ‘buy HCG’ which proves, without a shadow of a doubt, that the HCG diet plan remains popular and that people are willing to pay A LOT to lose weight fast.
What is the HCG Diet, Doc?
What is HCG exactly?
Human Chorionic Gonadotrophin (hcg) is a naturally occurring hormone that is produced and released by a fertilised egg (or embryo) after it has attached itself to the lining of the uterus (womb).
It is this hormone that some pregnancy tests detect within a woman’s body to confirm a pregnancy. HCG is traditionally used for the treatment of infertility in both men and women. Interestingly (or worryingly), some illnesses and cancers also produce this hormone.
History of HCG for Weight Loss
Well, it all started with a British medic called Dr Simeons in the 1950s, who noticed, whilst working with boys treated with human chorionic gonadotrophin hcg for low testosterone levels, that these adolescents began to lose weight, particularly stubborn belly fat.
Over the following decade, ATW Simeons messed around with the dosage of HCG and combined it with a diet program which became known as the ‘Simeons Protocol’. In Dr ATW Simeons book ‘Pounds and Inches: a New Approach to Obesity’ generated a lot of interest in HCG as a weight loss agent. Interestingly, it was after the publication of this book that weight loss clinics or ‘fat clinics’ began springing up everywhere.
Everything HCG and it’s associated weight loss program quietened down for a few decades after that until another book about human chorionic gonadotrophin hcg, entitled ‘The Weight Loss Cure‘ by Trudeau in 2007, was published re-hashing a lot of Dr. Simeons’ work.
Once US Weight loss clinics latched onto the new trend hcg complex exploded onto the market once again. Inevitably, shortly after, internet marketers began selling all manner of hcg products including hcg drops, hcg injections, and even ‘homeopathic’ hcg.
Does HCG really work for weight loss?
…and now let’s look at some of the evidence.
There is really very little scientific evidence to support the claim that the use of HCG with a 500 calorie a day diet is superior to a 500 calorie a day diet for weight loss.
A clinical study way back in 1976 examined 51 women between the ages of 18 and 60 in relation to the HCG diet plan. The women were split into two groups with both groups following the same diet, but one group was injected with real hcg whilst the other group took a placebo.
This study found that there was NO difference in weight loss, the percentage of weight loss, measurements of hips and waist or the experience of hunger between the two groups. In conclusion, the study said:-
HCG does not appear to enhance the effectiveness of a rigidly imposed
regimen for weight reduction.
A more recent scientific study (1990) that also included a psychological profile echoed the same results and concluded that:-
. . . there is NO rationale for the use of HCG injections in the treatment of obesity
A large meta-analysis of a total of 24 clinical trials regarding HCG and weight loss, carried out in 1995 and published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, also summarized:-
We conclude that there is no scientific evidence that HCG is effective
in the treatment of obesity; it does not bring about weight-loss or
fat-redistribution, nor does it reduce hunger or induce a feeling of well-being.
The Controversy of HCG and the Law
… and this is why we needed to know a little of the history of the rise of hcg in the weight loss world. As early as 1976 the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) ordered the Simeon groups to NOT claim that hcg is effective, safe or approved for weight loss and that patients had to be informed in writing of this.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also demanded in 1975 that any labelling of HCG products must state that hcg is NOT an effective treatment for obesity. Following the huge resurgence of hcg the FDA and the FTC made it illegal to sell homeopathic hcg for weight loss over the counter or on the internet in 2011.
HCG has to be prescribed by a physician with a warning letter that it is NOT effective for weight loss. Furthermore Kevin Trudeau the author of ‘The Weight Loss Cure’ ended up with a 10-year prison sentence for misrepresentation and false claims in his book, after Trudeau took no notice of a court order and failed to pay a huge fine he was imprisoned.
The American Society of Bariatric Physicians (ASBP) also jumped on the bandwagon and in 2009 they released their Position Statement that stated that hcg is NOT a product recommended for weight loss, neither is the diet plan indeed the whole of dr Simeons hcg diet method is NOT recommended for weight loss.
What about the calorie Restriction?
There have been many medical research studies that have demonstrated that a very-low-calorie diet is only effective for short-term weight loss.
However, to achieve long-term weight loss success putting the body into starvation mode (such as a 500 calorie a day diet) and then returning to a more normal calorie intake can actually slow the metabolic rate and lead to weight gain in the long-term. A very-low-calorie diet should not really be part of anybody’s weight loss goals.
Side Effects of the HCG Diet
A very-low-calorie diet, with a hormonal supplement, such as the hcg diet can lead to other unpleasant side effects and even serious health risks due to the low nutritional intake. These include:-
- Extreme Fatigue as the body is not getting enough essential nutrients to maintain energy expenditure
- Constipation, nausea and/or diarrhoea
- Mood swings, irritability and depression
- Confusion and dizziness
- Bad breath
- Heart problems
- Loss of lean muscle mass
- Electrolyte imbalances
My HCG Diet Experience
A bit about Me
About three years ago I was a workout and fitness freak. I was the girl you’d see up at 5 in the morning doing the cardio workout and hitting the weights right after. Before this, I have always been a little overweight, which is what led me to my health and fitness journey. I was successful for about a year and half, I kept up with my healthy eating plan and physical exercise routine throughout college.
After graduation I started working in a 9 to 5 job. This completely changed my exercise and eating habits. Whilst I was still in school, I always registered for classes that started in the afternoon to have my mornings completely free for my usual gym routine.
As you can imagine, the 5 am cardio and weights before work for 8 did not go very well and before long, I began falling off the fitness wagon. I got to the point where I stopped working out all together. I would leave work, drained from the hectic work day, go straight home, have a quick dinner (often a take out) and rest up to do it all over again the next day. Somehow I ended up gaining weight – a total of 22 pounds all in all.
The HCG Diet: Could I? .. Should I?
It was around this low ebb that I first heard of the HCG Diet. I had always been sceptical of fad diets that promise rapid weight loss results however, my friend’s sister had just finished the first round of the hcg diet and the results were impressive. When I first saw how much weight she had lost I was stunned. This girl had always been heavy but she looked amazing and must have dropped about 20 pounds. This was when I decided to try the hcg diet plan for myself.
After a mind-boggling Google search on HCG and an array of results, ‘hcg diet injections’ ‘homeopathic drops’ ‘non-homeopathic hcg drops’ ‘oral hcg’ ‘hcg diet drops’, I ordered everything I needed to start the diet. I decided to use prescription HCG and ordered them on line after I had filled out a medical questionnaire. The sublingual hcg was far from cheap at $449 for a 60 day course.
When I saw that I would only be consuming a low-calorie diet, just 500 calories a day, I realised that this diet was going to be tough. The diet basically consists of 100 grams of protein, one serving of non-starchy vegetables, one fruit, toast or grissini. You must drink 2 liters of water a day. Yes, it really is that strict – it’s crazy. I had to mentally prepare myself for what was to come, but I was eager to see the quick results and so common sense went out of the window. Thank god you can drink coffee on the hcg diet as this was the only thought keeping me half sane at this point.
Weight loss and Woes on the HCG diet
A week into the diet I was really feeling the effect of such a low caloric intake. I started losing weight and dropped around 6 pounds, which was a great result, but I hadn’t bargained on how rough I would feel.
Each day I’d wake up feeling weaker than the day before. This was not just fatigue it was extreme fatigue. I started experiencing hair loss too – not just a little bit, but a fair old amount. Whilst the weight was steadily dropping off – the mood swings were really starting to kick in. I would become furious at things as simple as running out of toothpaste in the morning. My boyfriend and I almost split up over my irrational outbursts.
Who am I?
It was around this time that I realised I was becoming a completely different person and all because of a diet. How could a diet be changing my personality and taking control of my life? I had never experienced such negative changes on any diet before if anything dieting usually made me feel better. After I had difficulty concentrating at work and bouts of dizziness, I felt like the bad had begun to outweigh the good. The side effects of the hcg diet; the fatigue, hair loss, mood swings, extreme fatigue and the fact that I was basically torturing my body with eating only 500 calories a day, was all just not worth it. This wasn’t me, this wasn’t the way I wanted to get my body back.
Enough is Enough: I Quit
After just the third week (21 days) of being on the hcg diet, I decided I could NOT continue. My weight had dropped an incredible 20 pounds, but the hell I went through for it felt like it wasn’t worth it.
I stopped the HCG diet and went back to a healthy eating plan, I tried the Mediterranean Eating plan and I forced myself to start waking up early before work again, because I missed the feeling of physical exercise. Whilst being on the HCG diet I wasn’t allowed to workout, which made complete sense since I barely had the strength to even carry myself throughout the day. Since I started eating more calories a day I noticed I quickly gained weight, but I felt like a new woman. My personal experience with the HCG diet was horrific. I would never try it again, even if I were desperate to lose weight. It didn’t work to keep the weight off after I stopped and overall it was not worth it, made a large dent in the bank balance, and was a truly horrible experience.
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- Bosch B, Venter I, Stewart RI, Bertram SR. (1990) Human chorionic gonadotrophin and weight loss.A double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. S Afr Med J. 1990 Feb 17;77(4):185-9. (Retrieved June 28th 2016) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2405506
- Lijesen GK, Theeuwen I, Assendelft WJ, Van Der Wal G (1995) The effect of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) in the treatment of obesity by means of the Simeons therapy: a criteria-based meta-analysis. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 1995 Sep; 40(3): 237–243. (Retrieved June 28th 2016) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1365103/https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/321723