We’ve all done it. At some point, most of us have jumped on the bandwagon of some new fad diet promising to shed the pounds and have us looking like our favorite celebrity in just a few short weeks. Let’s see…there was The Atkins Diet, South Beach Diet, The Zone Diet, The Cabbage Soup Diet, The Maple Syrup Diet. I could go on and on. But there’s a new diet gaining popularity right now that really concerns me. I’ve had several of my patients make mention of this diet, having friends on it or preparing to go on it themselves. This particular diet boasts lasting weight loss, losing 1 to 2 pounds per day (yes, I said per day) with no hunger and no exercise, by using an all natural hormone. This not-so-new diet is The hCG Diet.
The hCG Diet was originally developed in the 1950s by Dr. A.T.W Simeons, a British physician practicing in Rome, Italy. It was birthed out of his extensive research on obesity. That’s right, this diet was designed to treat obesity and those individuals who are seriously overweight. Yet, some of us with just a few vanity pounds to lose are flocking to doctors, and much more often health food stores, to stock up on this hCG hormone. I’d like to explore the hCG hormone and Dr. Simeons’ hCG Diet and present you with information so that you can decide for yourself whether or not the hCG diet is something you should consider for your weight loss plan.
What is hCG hormone?
hCG, or human chorionic gonadotropin, is a glycoprotein hormone only found in the body of pregnant women. The primary role is to maintain progesterone production in pregnancy, the progesterone working to enrich the uterus to sustain the growth of the fetus. hCG aids in pulling stored fat from the mother’s body to make sure the developing fetus has enough nutrients to develop properly. Other functions of hCG in the body include immune tolerance in pregnancy, early pregnancy testing and fertility treatment. The hormone comes to market in a powder form of the pure substance extracted from the urine of pregnant women. Bleh!
How does the hCG Diet work?
In broad terms, the hCG Diet is a low calorie diet combined with the hCG hormone protocol. The idea is that the hormone, in conjunction with the diet, burns stored fat while keeping you feeling full and leaving healthy fat and muscle in place. I know you’ve heard the saying, “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” I’d keep that in mind as you read on about this diet. Also bear in mind that the majority of this information came directly from Dr. Simeon’s hCG diet protocol which I will reference at the end of this post.
Here’s the scoop: the hCG diet is based on two main elements. First, an injection of the hormone into the outer, upper quadrant of the buttocks with a 2 inch needle (ouch!) and second, a restricted diet of 500 calories. I am not a big fan of needles and it stands to reason that anyone would lose weight on 500 calories a day…but let’s continue. If one has 15 pounds or less to lose, they’d require 26 days of treatment with 23 daily injections. Those with more than 15 pounds to lose require up to 40 injections. The diet also requires weight gain before weight loss. Those who have recently been dieting must eat to capacity for one week before starting treatment to sustain the 500 calorie restricted diet. This is to ensure that “normal fat reserves are reasonably well stocked.” Those in satisfactory general condition are to start force feeding themselves or gorging on the first day of injection. It’s suggested that you eat the most fattening foods you can get down until you have your 3rd injection. A four to six pound weight gain is expected as you gorge on “highly concentrated foods such as milk chocolate, pastries with whipped cream, sugar, fried meats (particularly pork), eggs and bacon, mayonnaise, bread with thick butter and jam, etc.” Who else wanted to vomit after reading that? The diet then promises that you will lose the gain in the first 48 hours of the 500 calorie diet. Your 500 calories may consist of only the following:
- Breakfast – coffee or tea; any quantity without sugar
- Lunch – 100 grams of veal, beef, chicken breast or white fish boiled or grilled only; one type of veggie only (spinach, chard, chicory, beet, greens, green salad, tomatoes, celery, fennel, onions, radishes, cucumber, asparagus, cabbage); one breadstick or one melba toast; an apple or an orange (or a handful of strawberries or one half grapefruit)
- Dinner – same 4 choices as lunch
- No variations; All things not listed are forbidden
In addition to the needle sticks and restrictive diet, no medicines or cosmetics other than lipstick, eyebrow pencil and powder may be used without special permission, so kiss your MAC goodbye for a month or two. Apparently, fats, oils, creams and ointments that are applied to the skin are absorbed and interfere with weight reduction by hCG the same as if they’d been eaten.
If what you’ve read thus far is not enough to discourage you, there’s this critically important piece of the puzzle: the technique for this protocol must be followed implicitly and any insignificant deviation can and will produce disappointing results or annul the effect completely. In other words, follow the diet exactly or it and you will fail. Dr. Simeons warns that his protocol or technique is intended for the treating physician and that one should realize the importance of following physician instructions. He even goes so far as to say, “any patient who thinks he can reduce by taking a few shots and eating less is not only sure to be disappointed by may be heading for serious trouble.” That’s straight from the horses doctor’s mouth! Yet, there are people going to the local health food store and buying hCG hormone to inject themselves with. Some opt for the “homeopathic” alternative which is a sublingual (under the tongue) drop with ingredients obscure enough that they contain only trace amounts of the hormone. And this serious trouble he speaks of may have something to do with the possible side effects which include: headache, restlessness, blood clots, depression, signs of pregnancy (i.e. swelling of hands and feet, water retention, breast tenderness), manifestation of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), nausea, vomiting, breathing difficulty, excess urination and…weight gain. (Note: actual medical data revealing hCG diet dangers are not published)
So tell me, is it worth it? You may have been able to do without my added commentary but the facts remain the same. Not only is this diet scary and possibly dangerous, it’s not even guaranteed to work. Not to mention the fact that it’s not even FDA approved. I’ve heard people say this diet works and they’ve lost some weight…but at what cost? I come from the school of thought that the only way to lose weight is to burn more calories than you consume. Try a nutritionally sound diet of fruits, veggies, whole grains and lean meats along with some physical activity to shed the pounds. Please don’t resort to diets like this unless your doctor recommends it (and if he does, get a new doctor).
Simeons, A.T.W.. Pounds and Inches: A New Approach to Obesity. 1971.
“Human chorionic gonadotropin”. 8/26/2010 <en.wikipedia.org/wiki/human_chorionic_gonadotropin>.
“HCG Diet Info”. 8/26/2010 <www.hcgdietinfo.com>.