Weight Loss

HCG Diet: Weight-Loss Magic or Health Hazard?

| by Kate Wharmby Seldman

Heard of the HCG diet? It’s a weight-loss method that utilizes human chorionic gonadotropin, or HCG, a naturally occurring substance in the female body, to burn fat extremely fast. Thousands of people call it a weight-loss miracle, and extol its virtues all over the Internet. But is it hazardous to your health?

HCG is a hormone that the placenta makes during pregnancy. It assists in the production of progesterone, which helps the placenta develop and sustain a growing embryo. British endocrinologist A.T.W. Simeons conceived the idea of an HCG diet in the 1950s, when he noted that pregnant women in India who ate too little didn’t lose muscle tissue – instead, they lost fat. Simeons reasoned that HCG must be programming the hypothalamus to make the women lose excess fat instead of vital muscle, in order to protect their growing babies. When combined with a 500-calorie-a-day diet, HCG helped dieters lose weight at a rate of one to two pounds per day.

It’s said that dieters following the HCG protocol will lose fat from very specific areas of the body - the stomach, hips, arms, thighs, and buttocks – without losing muscle. The diet is also said to reset the hypothalamus, stabilizing metabolism. This means dieters are much less likely to gain the weight back after completing the diet protocol.

The HCG diet in its present-day incarnation is twofold: dieters either inject HCG or take it orally in the forms of drops or pellets. There are four phases of the accompanying diet. Phase 1 involves preparing the body for the diet by exercising, eating healthily, and drinking plenty of fluids. Phase 2 begins with a period of “loading”, which lasts for three days: dieters eat whatever they like, in whatever quantities they like. This boosts energy in preparation for the 500-calorie diet, which comes next, and which lasts a month to two months, depending on how much weight the dieter wants to lose. If a person wants to lose 25 pounds or less, a 26-day diet is recommended; those looking to lose more than 25 pounds should go on a 42-day diet. Taking HCG for any longer than 42 days isn’t recommended, as after that, dieters may become immune to its weight-loss effects.

The 500-calorie diet is restricted to very specific foods. Dieters are allowed to eat 200 grams of lean protein per day, split up between lunch and dinner. They can accompany the protein with one vegetable from this list: spinach, chard, chicory, beet greens, green salad, tomatoes, celery, fennel, onions, red radishes, cucumbers, asparagus, or cabbage. They can choose one vegetable for lunch and one for dinner, but must only eat one type of vegetable per meal. One breadstick or Melba toast is allowed per meal, as is a small apple, orange, half a grapefruit, or a handful of strawberries. There’s no breakfast: dieters are restricted to coffee or tea with no sugar. They’re allowed to sweeten tea or coffee with saccharin or stevia. They can add milk, but can only have one tablespoon per day.

In Phase 3, the dieter can add more food choices to the original protocol, as long as he or she stays away from fast food, fatty foods and sugar. Phase 4 is the maintenance phase, in which the dieter eats a varied diet once again, and boosts calories to 1500-2000 a day.

Dr. Simeons also cautioned against using beauty products containing any fatty substances: he said these products will be absorbed into the body and hinder weight loss. Birth control and aspirin are allowed on the diet, stated Simeons, but massage is prohibited.

Dieters can visit a doctor to obtain HCG; they can also order HCG drops or injectable HCG online. Commercially available HCG is made from pregnant women’s urine or from human placentas. It’s purified before being sold.

Many doctors discourage any diets that result in weight loss of more than 1 to 2 pounds a week – they say it’s unhealthy to lose weight so fast, and unrealistic to think that you won’t put the weight back on as soon as you stop dieting. There are also side effects associated with taking HCG: some women will experience ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, which involves enlarged ovaries, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting. Prepubescent boys on the HCG protocol may begin puberty too early. There’s a higher risk of becoming pregnant with multiple fetuses when on the HCG diet. If you’re injecting the hormone, you risk infection and soreness at the injection site. Those ordering HCG online risk receiving products of questionable quality and purity, or products that simply don’t work.

The FDA hasn’t approved the use of HCG for weight loss, and there’s no scientific evidence as yet that this diet protocol works. Still, there are many satisfied (and skinny) customers: just look around the Internet for glowing reviews and testimonials. If you’re going to follow this diet, use caution, and check with your doctor before doing so.

Originally published at GrannyMed