The question on many dieter’s minds recently is ‘what is the HCG diet?‘ The fact is that there seems to be a new diet trend on the market every couple of months and it’s hard to keep up with all of them! I took special interest in this one because a close friend of mine tried it out a few weeks ago. She began losing weight quickly, and posting pictures of her shrinking self on facebook. Fad diets tend to make me nervous and I decided to do some research for my friend’s sake.
WHAT IS HCG?: HCG stands for ‘human chorionic gonadotropin’ nd is a glycoprotein hormone that is produced by the body during pregnancy. Some cancer tumors also produce the HCG hormone. HCG interacts with the LHCG receptor and promotes the maintenance of the corpus luteum during early pregnancy- this in turn causes it to secrete the hormone progesterone. Progestreone strengthens the uterus in order for it to sustain the growing fetus. Hcg may also be responsible for repeling the mother’s immune cells, which protects the fetus in its first trimester. It is also possible that hCG levels are correlated with the severity of morning sickness pregnant women experience.
HCG can also be used to induce ovulation in women, as well as testosterone production in the testes. It is often collected from the urine of pregnant women in clinics for use in fertility treatment.
Ok, so at this point you’re probably thinking- what does this have to do with weight loss?? It seem that hCG plays a very important role in pregnancy, but what is the hCG DIET, and how is it linked to this hormone? Keep reading because this is where I get to the point….
HCG & WEIGHT LOSS: Albert Simeons is a british endocrinologist who studied pregnant women in India who were on a calorie-deficient diet. He also studied overweight men with pituitary problems who were treated with a low dose of hCG. He claimed that in both these groups, study participants lost fat rahter than muscle tissue. He concluded that in the pregnant women, hCG must be programming the hypothalamus to burn fat and not muscle to protect the developing fetus. This led to his writing ‘Pounds and Inches’, a book published by Simeons designed to fight obesity.
In his book, Simeons recommends a low dose daily hCG injection together with a low-calorie diet (500 calories a day). This combination, he reasoned, would lead to a loss of adipose tissue without loss of lean tissue. His theories have since spread like wildfire in the world of dieting, as many obese individuals are of course desperate for a way to lose weight quickly.
HCG CONTROVERSY: A meta analysis study found that hCG supporting studies lack methodological quality and do not prove that HCG is effective in the treatment of obesity. In fact, the Journal of the American Medical Association and the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition have since warned that hCG is neither safe nor effective as a weight loss aid.
Furthermore, since the FDA has declared selling hCG over the counter illegal, the homeopathic ‘hCG’ drops being sold without prescriptions contain no hCG in its pure form. The FDA has stated that any over-the-counter products that claim to contain hCG are fraudulent and ineffective for weight loss. The weight loss reported in individuals on the ‘hCG diet’ is purely attributed to the fact that the diets prescribe a daily consumption of 500 calories a day, which is about 25 percent of the recommended value of calories an adult male should be getting a day.
THE LONG AND THE SHORT: The hCG diet is just another fast-fix gimmick, and so far it seems that nothing will replace good old fashioned diet and exercise in helping people lose weight. I implore you to think twice next time you are tempted to spend money on a product that will help you lose weight ‘fast’ without needing to move a muscle!