The HcG diet has become a hot topic in weight loss in the last couple of years. I have seen flyers and ads on the internet promoting this “safe and effective” diet that promises rapid weight loss in just a short period of time. The HcG diet is comprised of a very low calorie diet (500 calories) along with daily injections of HcG or homeopathic HcG drops that are taken sublingually. You may have heard of the hormone HcG before – that’s because it is well known as the hormone produced during pregnancy and is detected in the urine of pregnant women! This diet was founded by British endocrinologist Dr. Simeons. Dr. Simeons claimed that HCG would mobilize stored fat, suppress appetite, and redistribute fat from the waist, hips, and thighs. HcG dieters can expect to lose from 1-3 pounds every day while following this 26-day protocol.
At first glance I wondered, “How on earth does someone exist on 500 calories a day?” Even when preparing for a physique competition I will never allow my calories to go below 1,200 – and with that I feel as though I am starving! Simeons suggests that HcG suppresses the appetite as it causes the body to utilize adipose tissue (fat) for fuel causing dieters to experience satiety. Because of this phenomenon, Dr. Simeons states that HcG dieters also have lots of energy and feel that their moods improve while following the HcG diet.
Here’s what 500 calories looks like on the HcG diet:
• Breakfast: black coffee or tea
• Lunch: 3 oz chicken or fish, 1 cup of green veggies, small apple, 1 melba toast
• Dinner: 3 oz chicken or fish, 1 cup of green veggies, small apple, 1 melba toast
It doesn’t take a genius to look at this diet and recognize that it’s not a lot of food. Furthermore, this diet plan is deficient in many vital nutrients including calcium, vitamin C and D and contains inadequate amounts of fat, carbohydrates and protein. Did I mention that HcG dieters are encouraged NOT to workout while following this diet? This goes against everything we know about creating lean, sexy muscle and a healthy, fit body. The last time I checked, if you don’t use it, you lose it and without adequate protein in your diet, you can’t expect to keep that hard-earned muscle for long. I also questioned what happens to a person after they have completed the protocol – “Can one who followed this diet expect to keep the weight off when they increase their calories?” Dr. Simeons suggests that the HcG diet “resets the hypothalamus”, a gland deep in our brain that controls many bodily functions including the regulation and control of metabolism. The hypothalamus plays a role in appetite and Simeons suggests that after following the protocol for 26 days, HcG dieters find that their appetite has changed and they are more likely to follow a healthy lifestyle plan after losing so much weight. This completely negates everything we have ever learned about starvation diets and their NEGATIVE effect on the metabolism!
Completely baffled by this diet fad and all the conflicting information I have found on the topic, I asked Dr. Chad to weigh in on the topic and provide some more information on the science behind this diet phenomenon. Here is what he had to say:
“While Gillian has received a number of questions on this topic from readers and clients, I have had this topic come up in one of the classes I teach. I have students complete a project where they outline a fad diet and this topic has come up every semester for the last four or five times I’ve taught the class. Believe it or not, the HcG diet is not new! In fact, the technique was first introduced in 1954. I’m not even sure if television was around at that time! The technique was introduced by Simeons for obese people to aid them in losing weight rapidly without experiencing significant hunger. The basic program consisted of a rigid 500 calorie diet each day and intramuscular injections of human chorionic gonadotrpin (HcG) six days per week.
In his reports, Simeons claimed that weight loss was more successful than weight loss achieved with a 500 calorie diet because of how HcG suppresses a person’s appetite and improves mood. A key aspect to consider is that he never touted the diet would result in more superior weight loss, but rather a person following the HcG diet would have improved mood, less hunger and be able to lose weight particularly from “trouble” areas (e.g., belly, thighs, hips, etc.).
Surprisingly, a number of studies have been published attempting to support [1-4] or to disprove [5-9] the Simeon’s theory on the effectiveness of the HcG diet. A study published by Asher and Harper was one of the first studies that employed a well-controlled study design  and concluded that a significantly greater weight loss resulted in the HcG diet in comparison to a placebo. However, a follow-up study by Stein and colleagues in 1976 reported conflicting results. In this study, 51 women participated in a month-long study in which women between the ages of 18 and 60 followed a 500 calorie and one group received daily HcG injections and the other group received placebo injections. After the study, no differences in body mass, weight loss, hip and waist circumferences, hunger, and percentage of weight loss were found, leading the authors to conclude that HcG does not appear to enhance the effectiveness of losing weight while following an extremely low caloric intake . How does this happen where one study says one thing and another study says another? For starters, the original study was not as well controlled. For example, some of the research participants were on the diet for a longer or shorter period of time than other people suggesting the some people had more or less time to lose weight. The follow-up study was better controlled and along with a number of well-controlled studies, they consistently report that the HcG diet is no more effective than a regular 500 calorie per day.
Just in case you still are convinced that HcG is way to go and defend your feelings by saying the research was “old”, articles from each decade can also be found with a similar conclusion. In 1983, Birmingham and Smith wrote in the Canadian Medical Association Journal that HcG is of no value in the treatment of obesity. As part of their article, the authors developed a table highlighting studies which have been published examining the effectiveness of the HcG diet. Of this six studies mentioned, only one (the previously discussed Asher study) reported a positive effect, but as mentioned previously the results of this study have been highly questioned. Of the other five studies, none of them reported any type of positive effect in favor of the HcG diet as weight and fat loss was similar across the entire body. Most of these studies show that the diet program certainly does promote fat loss, but the fat loss seen is no different than someone who follows a similar diet with placebo injections. A similar summary report was available in 1987 and again in 1990 which provided no support for the claims commonly associated with the HcG diet [12, 13]. Finally, a comprehensive statistical review of 24 studies available on HcG concluding that a majority of the studies were of poor quality. Regardless, only one study was found which provided support for the HcG diet, leading the authors to conclude that there is no scientific evidence that HcG is effective at treating obesity.
So where does this leave us? From a science perspective, there is next to no supportive evidence for the claims associated with the HcG diet. Will you lose weight on the diet? Yes, you will, but no studies support the need for painful injections and the costs associated with this program. Unfortunately, this diet approach is yet another example of consumers wanting a quick fix or “easy” weight loss in combination with some people trying to make a quick buck. For these reasons, this diet is not recommended and instead a well-balanced diet that is restrictive in caloric intake along with a regular exercise program is the only proven combination to stimulate weight loss and body composition changes. If you are considering paying the money for HcG therapy, then put this money to use on a personal trainer and high-quality foods. Set reasonable goals, stay focused, stay positive and stick with it. Results will follow!”
Wow! Thanks, Chad. One last thing I would also like to highlight the legal aspects of HcG for weight loss. Some medical offices advertise HcG injections for weight loss. Real HcG must be obtained by prescription from a physician or nurse practitioner and must be obtained from a pharmacy. Furthermore, HcG is not approved for weight loss by the Food and Drug Administration (USA Today, Jan. 23, 2011). Beyond that, any HcG bought online or from a nutrition store is definitely fake and may only contain traces of HcG. A quick online search about HcG generates hundreds of sites that sell HcG drops or sublingual sprays. A bottle of this stuff costs anywhere from $70 to $200! It’s a total rip off. Bottom line – save your money, people. Weight loss is not effortless, it takes work. It takes day in, day out discipline and dedication. Permanent and sustainable weight loss results, tight glutes and rock hard abs simply cannot be obtained over the course of a 26 day fad diet and the sooner you come to terms with that the sooner you’ll be on your way to REAL results.
Train hard, eat clean and live the lifestyle consistently to obtain and maintain the body of your dreams.
The post Hey Gillian! I keep hearing about this diet called the HcG diet- I read somewhere that you can lose 30 pounds in 30 days! This sounds amazing! What is the HcG diet and does it really work? appeared first on 1st Phorm.
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