The term 'hCG diet' refers to a low-calorie diet supplemented with a hormone called 'Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG)'. Widely promoted for fast weight loss, this diet is not devoid of adverse effects. The dangers associated with hCG diet are discussed next.
Very few people exercise daily, and eat right for losing weight in the regular way. Easy and fast weight loss has become a fad amongst people who are desperate to shed extra pounds and remain in shape. This has led to the inception of diet pills, crash diets, unusual devices, and many other formulas which promise mind-boggling results.
One such booming weight-loss program is the ‘hCG diet’ that claims a weight loss of 1-3 pounds per day.
The diets and methods claiming quick weight loss are often surrounded by controversies owing to the risks and health concerns associated.
The hCG diet is no exception to this, and is surrounded by ample of arguments stating its usefulness as well as counter-arguments emphasizing the dangers. Here are some facts as well as the side effects and dangers of the hCG diet.
► hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) is a hormone synthesized during pregnancy, also known as the pregnancy hormone. During pregnancy, hCG is responsible for maintaining the progesterone production, relaxing the myometrium (middle layer of uterine wall) so as to provide support to the developing embryo, and protecting the fetus from viral infections.
► Proposed by Dr. Albert T. W. Simeons, a British endocrinologist, the hCG diet is basically a very low-calorie weight-loss program. The diet regimen involves a daily calorie intake of 500-800 calories supplemented with the hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) hormone.
► hCG aids in burning the accumulated fats (adipose tissue) from the body of pregnant women, in order to cater to the constant energy requirements of the fetus. It is on the basis of this function, that Dr. Simeons used hCG for the treatment of obesity, and formulated the hCG diet.
► hCG is extracted from the urine of pregnant women, purified and sold in the form of injections and oral supplements. It is also available as homeopathic hCG drops, sprays and pellets. Of these, hCG injections are strictly available as prescription drugs, whereas the other homeopathic forms can be purchased over-the-counter.
► hCG therapy is prescribed for the treatment of hormonal imbalance in males, and for infertility treatment in females. It is also a part of the in vitro fertilization (IVF) protocols.
In his book, ‘Pounds and Inches‘, Dr. Simeons (who first proposed the hCG diet) issued the following warning while emphasizing the need for medical consultation before and during the hCG diet regimen.
I must warn the lay reader that what follows is mainly for the treating physician and most certainly not a do-it-yourself primer….. Any patient who thinks he can reduce by taking a few “shots” and eating less is not only sure to be disappointed but may be heading for serious trouble.
hCG is synthesized by the developing placenta during early stages of conception, and by certain specialized structures of the placental tissue during the later stages of pregnancy. As per the proponents of hCG diet, this glycoprotein hormone aids in losing weight without adverse effects.
It helps in mobilizing, collecting, and utilizing the adipose tissue to fulfill the energy requirements of the body. Another touted benefit of hCG is its ability to suppress appetite for a longer period.
However, safety and dangers of the hCG diet remain a subject of major concern for medical experts, researchers and dieters. There are no clinical trials that support the benefits of hCG hormone in redistributing fats, burning adipose tissue, suppressing appetite, or decreasing the discomfort associated with low-calorie diet.
The results obtained by Dr. Simeons could not be reproduced by other researchers who tried to evaluate the effectiveness of hCG diet.
Dangers associated with a diet, as identified by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), an agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, are as follows:
► Loss of muscle tissue due to starvation, coupled with fatigue and overall deterioration of health
► Altered vision, speech and gait
► Increased risk for gallstones and kidney diseases owing to the calorie restriction
► Increased risk for electrolyte imbalance which may even lead to cardiac arrhythmia
► Sudden weight gain or bloating in women
► Pain and swelling of nipples in men
► Numbness in limbs or one side of the body
High doses of hCG may even lead to the development of Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS) in women. The symptoms include nausea, vomiting, breathing difficulty, excess urination and weight gain.
The administration of hCG may interfere with the normal menstrual cycles of females, by influencing the progesterone levels in the body. Hence, it is advisable for women to refrain from using hCG during the menstrual phase. Those who wish to conceive in the near future are also advised to avoid using hCG for weight loss.
Owing to the lack of substantial scientific evidence as well as the risks associated, use of hCG for weight loss has not been approved by FDA. Moreover, homeopathic hCG products are considered to be illegal, since they are neither FDA approved nor approved as homeopathic drugs.
Common Side Effects
The common and less severe side effects that may be experienced by individuals following an hCG diet are as follows:
- Cravings for food
- Muscle cramps and pain
- Swelling of hands and feet due to water retention
Is it Worth Trying?
Whether the approach for losing weight is intentional or therapeutic, it is imperative for dieters to examine the reliability of the specific diet or weight-loss product before trying it out. Given below is a compilation of the major arguments put forth by proponents of the hCG diet, as well as the opposing views put forth by regulatory authorities.
For: Clinical trials by Dr. Simeons demonstrated the efficacy of hCG diet for a fast weight loss of up to 1-3 pounds per day.
Against: His results could not be reproduced by other researchers, and the weight loss can be attributed to calorie restriction, and not hCG. Moreover, Dr. Simeons used pure hCG injections, and hence, his research does not validate the use of homeopathic drops.
For: There are several examples and success stories about weight loss achieved with the help of the hCG drops and sprays. After completion of the diet (lasting for 26 or 42 days), dieters usually notice a significant difference in the weight measurements taken before and after adopting the diet.
Against: In case of any weight-loss product developed by large drug companies, the advertising strategy will leave no stone unturned to attract public attention as much as possible. With the hCG diet too, success stories have been published in magazines and on the Internet. Some of these reports may be real, but not all.
For: The dieters did not complain of any side effects.
Against: The long-term health issues faced by these dieters are not documented or published.
For: hCG leads to fat redistribution in the dieters. So, the weight loss due to low-calorie diet does not lead to loss of lean mass, but reduces the unwanted fat content of the dieter’s body.
Against: The fat redistribution during pregnancy may be due to combined action of hCG and the placental steroid hormones, and not hCG alone. Thus, not concluded that hCG can have the same effect on non-pregnant individuals. Also, no scientific evidence that the weight loss occurring in dieters is indeed from the adipose tissue and not muscles.
For: hCG reduces hunger pangs and food cravings. Hence, it is essential for maintenance of the low-calorie diet.
Against: If hCG reduces hunger pangs and cravings, then the mere administration of hCG should lead to lowered appetite also reduced calorie intake, and there would be no need to include calorie restriction as a mandatory step of the diet protocol.
While the use of hCG in therapeutic formulations is relatively safe, coupling it with a low-calorie diet may be dangerous. A quick weight loss through hCG diet may be achieved without major side effects, but such an act may lead to severe health issues in the long run.
Hence, most medical professionals advise against the hCG diet as well as other fad diets, and emphasize on healthier options like regular exercise routines coupled with disciplined eating habits.
Disclaimer: The given content is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice.