As a physician, I know how desperate people can become when they want to lose weight. Over the years, there have been so many popular and wondrous (and unfortunately, also worthless) diet programs, it is impossible to remember all of them. One that I have heard about lately involves my field of Ob/Gyn, so I thought it wise to research this latest “miracle” weight loss program. It is called the hCG diet.
The hCG diet is all over the Internet. It is amazing. You can lose 1-2 pounds per day, and thus lose 20 pounds in 3 weeks! And it is so simple! All you need is a single daily injection of the hormone hCG and then just stay on a low calorie diet. You do not even need to exercise. Isn’t that incredible? Amazingly, there is also oral hCG that you can drink!
Let’s look closer.
What is hCG?
hCG stands for human chorionic gonadotropin. This is the hormone produced by a woman when she becomes pregnant. It is made by the placenta, and can be isolated from the urine of pregnant women. There are many functions of hCG in the woman’s body during pregnancy. The most critical function is that this hormone tells the ovary to keep producing the hormone progesterone, because progesterone is required for the body to hold on to the early pregnancy.
Without progesterone, the pregnancy will not survive and a miscarriage will result. hCG keeps the progesterone level very high in early pregnancy. Together, these two hormones bring on the many symptoms of early pregnancy such as decreased appetite, sensitivity to odors, nausea, vomiting and fatigue.
hCG diet proponents will tell you that hCG also allows your body to mobilize and metabolize stored fat, something that nature requires during pregnancy. More on this later.
Other uses for hCG
The hormone hCG is very similar to the female hormone known as LH. Ovulation is preceded by a surge in LH. This is how urine ovulation kits work, they detect high levels of LH in the urine, indicating the LH surge which is followed by ovulation. During fertility treatments hCG acts as a substitute for LH. By giving it at the correct time of the cycle, ovulation will occur about 24 hours after the hCG injection. The dosage for this is about 10,000 units, given as an injection. Protein hormones such as hCG (and insulin for example), must be given by injection. If these hormones are swallowed, the body will digest them the same way we digest steak.
The hCG diet
In the 1950’s, a British physician named Dr. A. T. W. Simeons claimed that hCG injections of 125 units daily plus a diet of 500 calories per day achieved significant weight loss. He also claimed that hCG suppressed hunger and enabled the body to burn fat beyond the normal daily needs resulting in a guaranteed weight loss of 15 pounds in 26 days using 23 daily injections.
A 150 pound low-activity person burns about 2200 calories per day. To lose one pound a person has to burn or reduce calorie intake by about 3500 calories. On a 500 calorie per day diet, the maximum biologically plausible weight loss would be 10 pounds in 3 weeks.
But, a 500 calorie per day diet is a starvation diet. It is almost impossible for anyone to adhere to this voluntarily. It is so low in calories and protein, the body will digest it’s own organs to obtain protein necessary for the body to function and this low calorie intake will quickly lead to exhaustion. Furthermore, the body can go into a dangerous state called ketosis from burning too much fat. When a person is starving, they will burn their own body fat for energy, hCG or no hCG!
History of the Simeon’s diet
Numerous studies showed that the addition of hCG to the diet was worthless. The only reason people lost weight was because they starved themselves. There was never any scientific proof that the hCG added any benefit, other than a financial benefit for the practices selling this diet to gullible and desperate patients. Critics say that as early as 1962, the Journal of the American Medical Association warned against the Simeons Diet.
In 1976, clinical research trials published by the Journal of the American Medical Association and the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that hCG was ineffective as a weight-loss aid. There were “no statistically significant difference in the two groups” and that “hCG does not appear to enhance the effectiveness of a rigidly imposed regimen for weight reduction.”
In 1976, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) ordered the Simeon Management Corporation, Simeon Weight Clinics Foundation and hCG Weight Clinics Foundation to stop claiming that their hCG-based programs were safe, effective, and/or approved by the FDA for weight-control. Although the order did not stop the clinics from using hCG, it required that patients who contract for the treatment be informed in writing that:
“HCG has not been demonstrated to be effective adjunctive therapy in the treatment of obesity. There is no substantial evidence that it increases weight loss beyond that resulting from caloric restriction, that it causes a more attractive or "normal" distribution of fat, or that it decreases the hunger and discomfort associated with calorie-restricted diets.”
So the hCG diet basically disappeared after that until 2007, when it came roaring back into public consciousness, propelled by a sensational infomercial guru/criminal named Kevin Trudeau, who published the book “The Weight Loss Cure They Don't Want You to Know About.”
Trudeau's activities have been the subject of both criminal and civil action. He was convicted of larceny and credit card fraud in the early 1990s, and in 1998 he paid a $500,000 fine for making false or misleading claims in his infomercials. In 2004, he consented to a lifetime ban on promoting products other than his books via infomercials.
His book describes a three-phase plan originally made by Dr. Simeons in the 1950s. The first phase involves switching to all organic foods with repeated colonics (enemas) and “liver cleansing”. This is followed by a second-phase period of daily hCG injections under the direction of a health care provider. In phase three, use of hCG stops, but food must continue to be 100 percent organic. Other recommended activities include walking an hour a day or more and doing breathing exercises.
Additionally, the Trudeau version had a list of over 50 different supplements, food avoidances and prescribed behaviors that had to be strictly followed. These including taking bizarre supplements such as raw apple cider vinegar, heavy metal cleanse, laxatives and digestive enzymes. The dieter had to use an “Electromagnetic Chaos Eliminator,” listen to “destressing CDs” and no microwaved food was allowed.
On November 16, 2007, Trudeau was found in contempt of his 2004 court order for making “patently false” claims in his weight loss book. U.S. District Court Judge Robert W. Gettleman ruled that Trudeau “clearly misrepresents in his advertisements the difficulty of the diet described in his book, and by doing so, he has misled thousands of consumers.” In October 2008, Trudeau was fined more than $5 million and banned from infomercials for three years for continuing to make fraudulent claims pertaining to the book.
But wait, there’s more!
No, this did not put an end to the hCG diet craze. It has now evolved to the point where you do not need the injections. Numerous web sites promote the use of oral hCG instead of the injections. You can drink it or just place a few drops under the tongue and get the exact same benefit as the injectable hCG. Isn’t that amazing? No prescription needed, no medical clinic needed. You can do all of this online and through the mail.
But, is this possible? As stated earlier in this article, adding hCG to water and drinking it will result in the hCG being swallowed and then digested. So how can this be promoted and believed by so many people? The answer is one word…homeopathy.
hCG in water is so wrong for so many reasons
“Modern homeopaths actually preach that liquid chemical solutions (minus the chemicals) are as powerful as the chemicals themselves, because of water's powerful ability to 'remember' what it was supposed to do. Confused yet? In some parallel dimension, it actually makes sense. On the bright side, homeopathic preparations usually have the same side effects as water does. Go figure.”
It turns out that hCG is a prescription drug and cannot be sold to consumers directly. So oral hCG is actually homeopathic hCG. It is a solution that used to have hCG in it, but through a series of increasing dilutions (which homeopathic believers claim actually make their product stronger), a type of water is created that has no measurable quantity of hCG in it any longer, thus no requirement for a prescription. The water remembers the hCG and when introduced into the body, will provide the same benefits as hCG injections. Of course it will.
Someone, please pick me up off the floor, please someone help me! This is absolute nonsense! How can any reasonable, logical person believe this garbage? The battle for the hCG weight loss patient has gotten so bad that the hCG clinics who promote the useless injection method are now attacking the hCG clinics who promote the even more worthless oral hCG preparations! (http://www.diet-hcg.com/).
Enough said about the hCG diet!