What About the HCG Diet?

If I had a penny – okay, maybe a dollar – for everyone who asked me about the HCG diet, I’d be ready for retirement! Locally here in Austin, we had a couple people within our medical community do the HCG diet and lose a dramatic amount of weight, which fueled the fire. In my practice, I have had multiple patients try (outside my advice) different versions of the diet- some shots, some sublingual, some pills- and though all lost weight quickly, virtually all regained it in the same time span. Reading the medical literature to find some evidence-basis for the diet, here is what I found:

1. First of all,  HCG is NOT FDA APPROVED for weight loss, and in fact, the FDA ordered the removal of all homeopathic OTC HCG products from the market back in December 2011 (because not only do they not work, but they promote a dangerous diet.)

2. HCG diets “work” because along with the supplement, patients are restricted to a dangerously low 500 kcal/day diet. Most people consume around 2500 calories per day, so a deficit of 2000 calories per day would mean a 1/2 pound or more of weight loss per day. So YES, anyone who managed to limit themselves to 500 calories a day will lose weight, but at what risk? This amount of caloric restriction can lead to heart arrhythmias, gall stone formation and electrolyte imbalance.

3. The idea behind the HCG is that it will suppress your appetite so that you can stand the severely restricted diet. HCG is the “pregnancy hormone”- if you had morning sickness (which I can first-hand attest does not simply last in the morning) you can certainly believe HCG would make you not hungry. Interestingly enough, however, in the majority of controlled studies, HCG injections showed no benefit over placebo injections- the test subjects lost no more weight on HCG than placebo, and there was no magical “redistribution of fat” (that is often touted as a potential result.)

BOTTOM LINE: HCG diets “work” because of the severely restricted calories in the diet, not from HCG “magic”. Talk with your doctor or  registered dietician to find the optimal weight loss plan for you. 

PS. Happy new month- change those AIR FILTERS!

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