The HCG diet has been a popular weight loss protocol for several years.
It was first introduced by Dr. Simeons, who wrote the original “Pounds and Inches” weight loss protocol about 60 years ago.
However, subsequent studies negated the claims of Dr. Simeons on HCG for weight loss. His data failed to be replicated in later studies, and the public interest in this weight loss protocol was minimal for a few decades.
When convicted felon and telemarketer Kevin Trudeau started promoting this diet again in 2007, it became very popular again very quickly. He said that the U.S Food and Drug Administration and the American Medical Association had hidden the truth about this weight loss system on purpose.
Over the last decade, a few weight-loss experts have reinvented the ‘improved and advanced’ HCG fat-diminishing protocol with different program structures. However, questions about its effectiveness and safety still need to be answered.
Many consider it an extreme diet product that promises up to 1-2 pounds of weight loss per day.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve of the claims of HCG proponents and manufacturers; it warns people to avoid over-the-counter weight loss supplements that contain HCG.
This article aims to present a critical review of the science behind HCG diet products, with all its pros and cons.
What is HCG?
Human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) is a hormone made by the placenta that keeps the corpus luteum in place while a woman is pregnant.
HCG is a prescription medicine used mostly to treat fertility issues. Hormone HCG is used as a marker in home pregnancy tests as well.
It supports the normal development of an egg in a woman’s ovary and stimulates the release of the egg during ovulation.
HCG is also used as a prescription medicine for treating ovulation issues in women, fertility problems in men and women, and disorders in the development of male testicles.
Human chorionic gonadotropin is also used as a tumor marker; elevated blood levels of HCG are one of the symptoms of a few types of cancer, including placental, ovarian, and testicular cancer.
HCG For Weight Loss
In 1954, Dr. Albert Simeons first introduced the HCG weight-loss system.
The details of using HCG for weight loss were first revealed in his book “Pounds and Inches,” which contains the approved HCG diet protocol. In this book, he says that human chorionic gonadotropin can help burn more fat and lessen the desire to eat.
The HCG injection and the HCG diet are the two main components of this weight loss program.
People on the HCG diet entail over 60 days of severe calorie restriction and HCG intake.
Over the years, other bariatric surgery specialists and researchers have developed different HCG weight loss plans and products.
This weight loss system is available in various forms, including injections, oral drops, pellets, and sprays.
HCG Diet Plan
It is a very low calorie diet, as low as 500 calories a day. The HCG diet limits you to 500 to 800 calories a day on average for 8 weeks while taking HCG.
You can take HCH by injection or by ingesting a “homeopathic” product like drops, pellets, or sprays.
HCG Diet Food List
Under the HCG diet, lunch and dinner are the same: one protein, one vegetable, one fruit, and one starch. For each meal, you select one type of food from each category.
The suggested protein food sources are chicken breast, lean beef, lobster, crab, fresh white fish, shrimp, or veal.
Its food list suggests vegetables such as beet greens, spinach, green salad, chard, chicory, tomatoes, celery, red radishes, asparagus, onions, cucumbers, or cabbage.
A few choices of fruits are included in the HCG diet: strawberries (a handful), small- to medium-sized oranges, one apple, or half a grapefruit.
The starch or carbohydrate diet under HCG weight loss is one low-fat breadstick, one Melba toast, or two Melba rounds.
The proponents of the HCG diet say that following the diet is the fastest way to lose weight. They claim that HCG could help you not only lose fat but also maintain long-term weight loss.
HCG Diet Plan in 3 Phases
Loading phase: Start taking HCG and eat plenty of high-fat, high-calorie foods for 3 days.
Weight loss phase: restrict food intake to only 500 calories per day and keep taking the daily prescribed dosage of HCG for 3 to 8 weeks.
Maintenance phase: After this phase, the supplement is not taken anymore. Gradually increase calorie intake, but strictly avoid starch and sugar for 3 weeks. Follow a healthy diet and lifestyle to be followed after that to prevent future weight gain.
The individual’s obesity conditions determine the duration of the treatment course. Those who have to lose a lot of weight need to follow a complete 8-week program and even repeat the treatment cycles if more weight is still needed.
For individuals who need to lose only a few pounds, 2 to 3 weeks of HCG treatment is sufficient.
Forms of HCG Shots
Today, HCG products for weight loss are sold in various forms. They are available in some pharmacies and on countless websites.
Here are the different versions of the HCG diet:
Proponents of the HCG weight loss program claim that injections of human chorionic gonadotropin speed metabolism, break down the body’s stored fat, and suppress appetite.
The recommended dosages of HCG hormone injection are 150 iu daily for the first week, then increase it to 175 iu daily for the second week, then increase it to 200 iu daily for the remainder of the diet protocol.
Usually, one injection per day for eight consecutive weeks is recommended for the best weight loss results.
Human Chorionic Gonadotropic Drops, or simply HCG Drops, are a synthetic variant of the HCG hormone produced during pregnancy.
Homeopathic HCG drops are prescribed 2–6 times per day. In each session, one drop of HCG is held under the tongue for one or two minutes; no drinks or foods should be consumed 15 minutes before and after each session.
HCG pellets are small dots placed under the tongue of those following the HCG diet. It is more of a ‘solid form’ alternative to the drops. It is a less popular option and less effective than the injection and drops.
The HCG spray and drops are quite similar in content. A spray dose is to be given each time under the tongue; the spray is to be used 2–6 times a day for 8 weeks.
HCG Diet’s Effects on the Body
Women naturally make HCG when they are pregnant. This protein-based hormone shows whether or not a woman is pregnant.
This hormone is mostly produced in the first three months of pregnancy; after this period, the blood levels of this hormone decrease.
Does the HCG Weight Loss Protocol Work?
HCG is one of the oldest weight loss solutions that has been in use for the last 60 years.
The inventors of this hormone-based diet make big claims about its effectiveness in enhancing metabolism, increasing fat burning, and suppressing appetite.
However, many past studies on this supplement only partially agree with those claims.
According to a South African Medical Journal study, there is no scientific evidence to support these claims.
Another double-blind study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 1979 concluded that “HCG does not appear to enhance the effectiveness of a rigidly imposed regimen for weight loss.”
Greenway F.L.’s study reports that between the placebo and HCG groups, “There was no evidence for differential effects on hunger, mood, or localized body measurements.” “Placebo injections, therefore, appear to be as effective as HCG in the treatment of obesity.”
Several other studies on HCG effects on weight loss have also concluded that the weight loss achieved by the HCG diet is due to the ultra-low-calorie diet alone and has absolutely nothing to do with the HCG hormone.
Most studies have reported identical weight loss results among HCG injection and placebo groups.
It was also noted that, contrary to the claims, the human chorionic gonadotrophin hormone did not significantly suppress appetite.
Does HCG Promote Muscle Mass?
One of the prominent claims of HCG supporters is its effectiveness in causing weight loss resulting from fat loss without affecting muscle mass.
They also claim that HCG drops help enhance the function of other hormones, which helps boost metabolism and improve muscle growth.
Extreme calorie-restricted weight loss plans usually greatly reduce body fat and muscle mass.
No scientific studies on HCG diets have proven their ability to promote muscle growth or maintain muscle mass.
It is false that HCG injections can increase muscle growth.
If you are on a 500-calorie-restricted diet, you will certainly need to eat plenty of high-protein foods and do weight-lifting exercises to maintain muscle mass.
Finding genuine HCG products on the market takes a lot of work. The actual product is only affordable for some as it is very expensive.
Homeopathic HCG synthetic variants of the actual hormone are now widely available online and over the counter.There is no human chorionic gonadotropin in it.
The actual HCG injection is specially formulated for fertility treatment. This prescription drug cannot be sold online or over the counter.
Homeopathic HCG products do not help raise the hormone’s blood levels. Most of these HCG products, such as drops, pellets, and spray, sold online are just scams. The weight loss results some people might experience with those kits are because of the extremely calorie-restricted diet they have to follow along with the treatment.
Aside from that, no scientific studies have shown that this hormone-based treatment could help people lose weight.
Companies selling over-the-counter HCG weight-loss products are selling ‘false promises’ to unsuspecting customers. It is even illegal to sell a product that the FDA has already banned.
Possible Side Effects Of HCG
The FDA has come down heavily on the false promises of the HCG proponents. It is not an FDA-approved healthy weight loss product.
It is strictly a prescription drug meant for fertility treatments as per the recommendations of the FDA.
There are many cons, including the serious danger of malnutrition from dietary restrictions.
The safety and guarantee of the product are highly unreliable. The ingredients used in it are unregulated and unknown.
There are a few side effects reported by HCG diet users, such as:
- thinning of hair
- Leg cramps
- fluid buildup (edema)
- Gynecomastia (in boys and men)
There have also been reports of a few people who got the treatment getting blood clots that blocked their blood vessels.
HCG alone cannot be responsible for some of the adverse effects of this treatment. The side effects, such as fatigue, depression, irritability, etc., are due to the starvation-level calorie intake.
Should You Try the HCG Diet?
Losing weight with an HCG diet is possible.
However, the actual weight loss results happen because of the extremely low-calorie diet, not the HCG intake.
If you consistently follow any diet low in calories, you will surely experience substantial weight loss results within a few weeks.
Contrary to all claims, HCG intake neither helps with weight loss nor suppresses appetite.
You can lose weight just by following the low-calorie diet that is included in the HCG diet. But ignore all forms of HCG intake, which are ineffective and expensive.
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