More and more lately I am hearing about people trying the hCG diet. Many of my clients come to me after starting a fast-paced hCG diet looking for a sustainable, healthy way to continue toward their weight-loss goal. Unfortunately, many find themselves gaining back the weight they lost on the diet and resorting to hCG for a second or third diet round until they get close enough to where they feel they can take control. Only a few have been successful in keeping off the weight, and those people are the ones who stopped the dieting cycle and instead adopted a sustainable and healthy lifestyle.
What I was hoping was a fad is yet becoming more popular. So I did some research to shed a little light on this diet craze.
The hCG diet was developed in the 1950s by Dr. ATW Simeons. The diet has surged in popularity over the last few years because of a book called The Weight Loss Cure “They” Don’t Want You to Know About by Kevin Trudeau, in which the author takes Dr. Simeons’ original theories and adds his own. The idea behind the diet is to take hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin, a hormone found in the urine of pregnant women) in combination with a rigid, extremely low-calorie diet. Dr. Simeons believed that this hormone triggers your body to release its most stubborn stores of fat when combined with a low-calorie diet (as your body would to feed a developing fetus in the absence of sufficient caloric intake).
On the diet, you receive injections of hCG or homeopathic drops containing hCG and follow a very regimented diet of only 500 calories a day with almost no carbohydrates, fat, or nutrients. The diet must be followed precisely to the letter or you will not succeed and may actually gain weight. It is not a diet for the faint of heart, it’s quite extreme. But people who succeed on the diet claim that they lose a lot of weight, 1 to 2 pounds a day or more, with no hunger while feeling great. They say the diet “resets” their metabolism and they are able to keep up this low-fat, low-carbohydrate diet indefinitely to stay at their new weight.
Does it work?
Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? But does it actually work? The answer is, yes, it does. Any time you drop down to 500 calories a day with almost no fat or carbohydrates, you are going to lose weight — a lot of weight, very fast. But is the hCG actually increasing the weight loss or causing your body to burn stubborn fat? According to the article, “Drug Treatment of Obesity,” by George A. Bray in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (1992;55;538S–44S), “The treatment of obesity with diet and injections of HCG has been proposed for more than 30 years. There have been three double-blind, placebo-controlled parallel studies (27) comparing injections of HCG and placebo added to a low-calorie diet. In no instance was there a statistically significant improvement in the rate of weight loss during treatment with HCG compared with placebo. Thus, HCG is not effective in the treatment of obesity.”
The article, “The Truth About hCG for Weight Loss,” by Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD, on www.webmd.com , states, “In 1995, the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology published an analysis of research showing no benefit of hCG in promoting weight loss. A December 2009 position paper of the American Society of Bariatric Physicians concluded they did not recommend hCG as a weight loss aid.”
So the reason people lose weight is because of the starvation diet, not because of hormone injections. Perhaps their strong belief in the efficacy of the hormone helps them succeed on the diet. But is it worth it?
Risks and side effects
People who try this diet desperately want to believe that starving yourself while injecting your body with a hormone is a harmless practice. However, living on 500 calories a day (instead of the recommended 1,200 to 1,500) for up to 45 days at a time is not nearly enough to give you the energy, carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, and minerals you need. The lack of calories causes some people to feel weak and tired, have no energy, or even faint.
The nutritional deficiencies brought on by this diet often cause side effects such as leg cramps, severely dry skin, daily headaches, and/or insomnia. Some dieters have even reported significant hair loss, blood clots, hypoglycemic shock, and gall bladder problems. The propensity for adverse side effects means dieters must be under the supervision of a doctor.
On MedHelp.org, a member who was giving helpful advice to other dieters said, “You need to go to a doctor and have blood work done before starting the hCG drops. You need to take vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium, and multivitamins and get a prescription for potassium, very important. Do not use any oil-based vitamin or any oil on the skin while using the drops. You have to have your uric acid levels checked to avoid gout, and call your doctor if you have pain under your lower right rib cage, it may be a gall bladder issue. It is also important to LOAD up for the first 2 days on high-fat food, as much as you can eat, it helps to sustain you through the diet and helps avoid cramps, nausea, lightheadedness, and fatigue. Drink at LEAST 2 liters of water a day.” Does this seem like advice for a safe diet?
I also recently found out that hCG can encourage the growth of cancerous cells. It can’t give you cancer, but if you have cancerous cells lurking in your body, the hCG, being a growth hormone, can accelerate their growth. The article, “Can HCG Injections Cause Cancer?” on www.livestrong.com states, “An HCG injection can aggravate pre-existing ovarian cancer. As a result, it is important to let your physician know if you have had ovarian cancer before you receive an injection of HCG. Another dangerous side effect of HCG injections in women is a condition known as ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome. This can cause severe pain in the pelvis, swelling of the feet and hands, pain and swelling in the abdomen, and shortness of breath. It can also cause weight gain, nausea and diarrhea.”
Hypoglycemics and diabetics also need to be very wary of this diet. To suddenly take all the sugar out of your diet, including natural sugars in fruits, means people with diabetic or hypoglycemic problems need to be monitored by a doctor. Even though you are burning your fat stores, your body isn’t turning them into the sugar fuel that your body needs, which is dangerous for those who have trouble moderating their blood-sugar level.
And then there’s coming off the diet. Unless you continue a low-calorie, low-fat, very restricted diet, you will see extreme weight gain upon returning to a Standard American Diet, or whatever your normal diet had been.
The Naked truth
I understand the desire to have extra weight gone. And it feels at times like an unattainable goal. But extra weight is simply an overload from days gone by — food, toxins, and simple friendly abuse. But don’t fear — nothing is permanent. If you are trying to make changes in your current weight, think about giving your body what it needs instead of starving it of what it wants. Eating fresh, natural, raw foods will truly jumpstart and restart your metabolism to its youthful state. Stripping away the foods that are weighing you down is the beginning to a long-lasting weight-loss plan. Trying to trick our bodies will only cause more confusion; our bodies want straight talk. The less complicated our lifestyle, the more connection we have to what we need.
I want to be perfectly clear: this article is not to scare or disillusion your process, it is simply to care for you with love and information. To educate you so you can make good choices. Education is key to consciousness.
In health and love,
Image credit: http://www.answers.com/guides/what-are-the-dangers-of-the-hcg-diet