HCG Diet Investigated

Disclaimer: the nerd in me came out in this post. I couldn’t help it.

I have been waiting a long time for this…

Once again a very popular quick fix, fad diet is proving to be a scam. The FDA has recently warned consumers to be aware that the hCG diet has no scientific foundation and jointly with the Federal Trade Commision has “issued warning letters out to companies illegally marketing over-the-counter HCG products labeled for weight loss”.

Without scientific evidence, the HCG diet has taken consumers by storm over the last several years. This diet has claimed to be a homeopathic remedy promoting weight loss of 1-2 pounds per day “naturally”.

In reality, this diet preys on people’s emotional desire to lose weight in order to feel better about themselves while not providing any valid scientific proof. For example, here is a claims from a popular HCG website.

“What a wonderful thing diets can be. There is not a better feeling than showing up to visit someone you haven’t seen in a while having lost 10 or 20 pounds. Think if you’d lost 40 pounds. The admiration from friends, and peers would be overwhelming.”

Now, allow me to give you a bit of information that you WILL NOT find on popular hCG websites.

  • Diets based around starvation-style caloric restrictions are dangerous. Our bodies are designed to healthily lose between 1-2 lbs per week. The hCG diet claims 1-3 lbs of weight loss A DAY (only when combined with consuming less than 500 calories / day). Anyone eating only 500 calories per day with or without the hCG hormone is going to lose the same amount weight in a rapid and unhealthy way.
  • hCG (Human Chorionic Gonadotropin) is a hormone produced by the placenta during pregnancy. It plays a critical role in maintaining the integrity of the placenta and fetal growth. Because it is only released in the body during pregnancy, the detection of hCG in the urine is commonly used as a pregnancy test. It must be said that it IS NOT scientifically proven and there is absolutely NO reason to believe that hCG helps in any way to promote weight loss.
  • Long term success with this diet is just like any other “quick-fix” diet. Although you may lose the weight quickly, after the diet is over it is likely that the weight will return just as quickly as it came off.

Over time, a 500 calorie diet will put a body into starvation mode (with or without HCG injections). For those who care about the explanation of starvation and weight loss, keep reading.

  • In the state of starvation, glucose levels are depleted causing a metabolic shift from gluconeogenesis to lipolysis in order to preserve muscle protein. In result, fatty acids become the primary fuel for the heart, liver and skeletal muscle. However, fatty acids are not capable of crossing the blood brain barrier to fuel the brain. In order to provide an alternate useable fuel source for the brain, the body must break down protein (from muscle) to form what are called “ketones”. Ketones then help to sustain life under extreme circumstances in compensation for the lack of preferred fuel under normal circumstances (glucose). The breakdown of muscle tissue results in quick weight loss (once again, from muscle protein and NOT stored fat). Therefore, a 500 calorie diet even without hCG injections for one month can result in a substantial amount of weight loss from body degradation. Not to mention that a good portion of the weight loss will be water weight.

Whew. The main point is to say that with or without hCG injections, a person is going to experience extreme unhealthy weight loss from a 500 calorie diet. In fact studies have been done proving this very point. And anyone who puts their body into starvation mode is going to experience less hunger after a matter of time. this too is not an effect of the HCG hormone.

I would, of course, argue that there is a need for more research on this diet (if only to further prove the money making scam this diet really is, in my “humble” opinion).

It is hard not to see this diet as just another reason why our culture has become so twisted in our perspective of weight and diet. The more we look to quick fix diets (such as the hCG diet) to “fix” ourselves, the less we really appreciate our food and it’s intended ability to provide taste, to bring people together, to provide growth, to promote health, etc. etc. etc. And that is a very sad reality.

I could write all day on this subject, but it is after all Saturday morning, and I still need to go make my morning cup of coffee. So to end, I will simply leave you with a quote.

“Eating with the fullest pleasure- pleasure, that is, that does not depend on ignorance- is perhaps the profoundest enactment of our connection with the world. In this pleasure we experience and celebrate our dependence and our gratitude, for we are living from mystery, from creatures we did not make and powers we cannot comprehend -Wendell Berry


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