The hCG Diet: Taking pregnancy hormones for weight loss

To kick off our monthly hot topic series, I chose a fad diet that makes me hot (with anger) – the hCG diet. The official website claims “lose up to 2lbs per day”, “3 easy steps to weight loss” and imagine this “with a slimmer body, you may get more job opportunities and a more active social life”. Seriously? The last statement nearly made me choke on my morning coffee—a diet that will help you get a job and become popular— now I’ve heard it all.

I felt it was my duty as a healthcare professional to spell out why this hot topic in the latest health trends is actually NOT so hot after all.

So what is hCG? hCG stands for human chorionic gonadotropin, simply put a pregnancy hormone excreted in a woman’s urine when they are pregnant. Yes, urine! If this is not deterrent enough, once the hormone is extracted, it is then injected into your body. A man on this diet you would test positive for being pregnant or more dangerously, be mistaken for having the cancerous tumor that also can produce hCG.

The hCG diet is not new. It was initiated back in 1954 by Dr. Simeons and then it re-emerged in 2007 when infomercial salesman Kevin Trudeau popularized the diet in his book The Weight Loss Cure They Don’t Want You to Know About. What you actually do need to know about is the Journal of the American Medical Association and the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition both claim hCG is neither safe nor effective as a weight loss aid.

I was curiousl however to learn what kind of diet would promote 3lbs of weight loss per day. What I uncovered was alarming:

• First the diet starts you off with 2 days of fat loading. Their reasoning – load your normal fat cells to prepare the body to burn the abnormal fat cells. Rest assured, if your body is losing fat, it is not discriminatory. Furthermore, a meta-analysis disproved this diet was capable of fat redistribution.

• For the next 24 days the diet drops your total caloric intake down to 500 calories per day, plus an injection of hCG or a drop depending on the mode of delivery, and a B-vitamin complex. This is when, as a dietitian, I begin to see red. 500 calories is considered a dangerously low calorie diet and is harmful to anyone. The site even has a disclaimer “drink ½ – 1 gallon of water daily as the body is more inclined to retain water when the intake falls below its normal requirement.

• In the final 3 weeks, you reintroduce foods back into your diet as you stabilize your weight to prevent, as the website states: “violent fluctuations”. Perhaps by violent they are referring to the phenomena “hangry” a feeling of anger because you are so hungry! More likely they are referring to violent weight fluctuations. A healthy amount of weight to lose in any given week should not exceed 1-2lbs. Why, otherwise it is violent and can be harmful to your health.

• Now try this on for size, if you gain 3lbs from your finishing weight, you MUST perform a steak day. What is a steak day you ask? You eat nothing for breakfast or lunch and have a large steak and apple for dinner! As a client and reader of Revive Wellness you are well trained to know that a sure fire way to gain weight or to increase your cravings and increase the likelihood of binging late into the night is to skip any meal!

My hope is that after reading this post, you too will agree this latest diet trends is actually NOT so hot after all.

January 26, 2012
Revive Wellness