Flavour of the Week

HCG Diet


flavour-of-the-week-logoAccording to HCG Excite you can improve your health, be happy, and get in shape all by taking one simple drop at a time! Sounds amazing!

Step 1 – Choose your package. For $144.99 you can get a 43-day HCG Drops Complete kit with unlimited support. Each kit contains:

  • Homeopathic HCG diet drops
  • Vitamin B12 complex
  • Comprehensive diet manual
  • Diet protocol
  • HCG diet recipes, tips, FAQ
  • Complete shopping list
  • Full diet tracker
  • Meal planner
  • UNLIMITED phone and email support.

Wait, what is all this diet planning? What happened to as easy as one drop a day? Turns out you might have to restrict food intake? Next they’ll be suggesting you should exercise too!

Step 2 – There doesn’t appear to be a step 2 unless it’s giving your credit card number.  In fact, there doesn’t seem to be any other information on the website other than testimonials. I tried several times to click on “About the Diet” but the webpage came up as blank.

In Calgary, you can also get the HCG Calgary Weight Loss Program from Glenmore Healthcare. They will provide HCG injections, recipes, baseline testing and a variety of other support. They tell you to expect an average weight loss of ½ to 1 pound per day, decreased hunger, increased metabolism, and targeted fat loss without muscle loss.

And finally, the infamous Doctor Oz claims that HCG injections help spare muscle and prevent rebound weight-gain.

At this point you might be ready to sign-up… but hopefully you are taking a moment to pause and consider. What on earth they are injecting into you and is there is any scientific evidence to support these claims? As usual, this information is a lot harder to find than the cute little visa button to buy now.

Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG) is a hormone that is found in the body in large amounts during pregnancy. In the past, it was extracted from the urine of pregnant women; now it can also be made via genetic modification. In Canada, the injected form of HCG is approved as a treatment for women with infertility NOT for weight-loss. Physicians using HCG for weight-loss are using the drug off-label, which means using the drug for a different purpose than what it has been approved for.

Conversely, the HCG homeopathic drops are a bit of a mystery. They should not contain active forms of HCG because HCG cannot qualify as a natural health product. HCG is listed under Schedule F of the Food and Drug Regulations as Choriogonadotropin alfa, which means it would need follow the rules that apply to drugs. We would love to know what is actually in these homeopathic formulas if anyone can enlighten us! For those of you in the USA, you can check out with the FDA has to say about homeopathic HCG for weight loss.

Despite its recent popularity, the idea of the HCG diet is not new. It was initially proposed by A.T.W. Simeons, a British Physician, in 1954. The Simeons therapy involves injections of HCG in combination with a 500 kcal/day fat-free diet for 3.5 to 6 weeks. Several alarm bells should already be ringing. ANY diet that includes essentially starvation and lasts for a maximum of 6 weeks (who could stick to this for any longer?) is not likely to be conducive to long-term weight-loss. Back to Simeons, he acknowledged that the HCG injections should not increase the amount of weight-loss but suggested that the injections can help people stick to the diet because they won’t feel hungry. He also proposed that the HCG injections target specific fat deposits that are particularly stubborn such as the hips, belly and thighs (1).

Much of the scientific research on the effects of HCG is from the 1970s and not much has been done since; probably because most of the studies showed no real benefit. A meta-analysis (2) published in 1995 looked at all the papers published between 1966 and 1993 on HCG therapy and weight-loss – it found a total of 24 studies that were of high enough quality to be included in the analysis.  Fourteen of those studies were randomized clinical trials and only five reported on the purported outcomes of: weight loss, fat redistribution, hunger and feeling of well-being. The overall conclusion is that:

“there is no scientific evidence that HCG causes weight loss, a redistribution of fat, staves off hunger or induces a feeling of well-being” (2)

Of the 14 randomized studies, 12 found no difference with HCG as compared to the placebo or diet alone. While some studies showed weight loss, it was attributed to the restrictive 500 kcal/d diet. Whether the injections make it easier to stick to the diet or make people feel better is hard to test but the authors argue that if this was true, the control groups would have a greater number of people dropping out of the study or not sticking to the diet, and this did not seem to be the case. (2)

For more information on HCG for weight loss you can check out the report from CTV news published in April of 2011.

No Baloney’s advice? Save your money! It is unlikely that the HCG injections do anything to aid in weight loss, controlling hunger, targeting fat loss or increasing your feeling of well-being; aside from a possible placebo effect. Furthermore, an extremely restrictive caloric intake is not sustainable and you are probably going to end up right back where you started after a couple of months.

For moderate weight loss, focus on reasonable portion sizes of low energy density foods and an enjoyable exercise program. Consider the possible contributors to your weight gain: social, psychological, emotional. Take the time to think about the challenges and barriers to weight loss: time, access to healthy foods, Halloween candy, etc., and do your best to come up with a plan that will be successful. We know it’s not the answer most people want to hear but for now it’s all we’ve got!

References:

  1. Simeons ATW. The action of chorionic gonadotropin in the obese. Lancet 1954; ii:946-7.
  2. Lijesen GKS, et al. The effect of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) in the treatment of obesity by means of the Simeons therapy: a criteria-based meta-analysis. Br J Clin Pharmacol 1995; 40:237-43.
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