The HCG Diet
Drive around and you will find strip malls with “diet centers.” All promoting the “HCG” diet – with either shots, or pills, or drops. In some upscale places you will find “physician weight loss” centers that have “medical grade HCG” – and probably cost you more money. People will tell you how they lost weight, all because of this magic ingredient. But it isn’t the HCG that is causing weight loss – it is the highly restrictive 500 calorie diet that is causing the weight loss.
The Science of HCG
The article that should have put the nail in the coffin of HCG was written in 1974 in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The paper was a study of 202 patients treated with either HCG or saline placebo. The physicians administering the medicine did not know if they gave the patient HCG or if they gave the patient the saline (salt water). The patients did also not know. All patients were placed on the 500 calorie diet. At the end of the study, there was no difference between those who were given HCG and those who were given placebo in terms of weight loss. There was also no difference in fat loss. There was no evidence that those who had received HCG were more or less satisfied, and the dropout rate was the same. Thus, they could not prove what the advocates of HCG said- that people who use HCG along with the diet will feel better and adhere more to the diet, and that there was no more or less fat loss among those patients. This was the article that, temporarily, put the nail in the coffin for HCG.
The reasons physician-scientists consider this article a good article are: (a) The study was randomized so the patients did not know what they were getting. This eliminates bias of the patient. (b) The physicians did not know what the patients were getting – eliminating the bias of the physician (c) The results were reviewed by non-bias staff (d) the study was prospective- meaning the subjects were followed ahead of time so the authors could not manipulate the data either way. (e) the article appeared in a journal that is peer reviewed, meaning editors read the article for its content, have the ability to ask the authors to submit raw data, and can spot bias.
So Why Did HCG Gain Popularity?
In 2007 Kevin Trudeau came out with his book “The Weight Loss Cure “They Don’t Want You to Know About.” With his jazzy infomercials he resurrected a diet that had been tested by science and found to be of no value.
Today Kevin Trudeau is in jail, serving a ten year sentence for defrauding Americans. But still, weight loss centers around the country are defrauding people by injecting them with HCG that has no proven benefit but does cause harm.
You Get Weight Loss With The Diet
The diet plan is a highly restricted, very low calorie diet. It is from the diet that you will lose weight. You lose hunger after a few days because your body goes into ketosis, and ketones suppress hunger.
You Regain The Weight After You Leave The Diet
As soon as you get off the diet, you will regain the weight you lost and more. And some people will go back and try it again, and again, and again. Spending lots of money.
Side Effects of HCG
It is not a benign drug. Its side effects include: weight gain, spontaneous miscarriages, trouble concentrating, abdominal pain, deep vein throbosis, and clots.
You don’t need this diet. You will lose weight, but it will return. Instead the answer is to change lifestyle – increase vegetables in your diet and if you have morbid obesity to consider weight loss surgery. Diets don’t work – changing lifestyle does.
JAMA. 1974 Nov 4;230(5):693-4. Fallacy and hazard. Human chorionic gonadotropin-500-calorie diet and weight reduction.
Ballin JC, White PL. PMID: 4479126
Dr. Terry Simpson
Dr. Terry Simpson received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Chicago where he spent several years in the Kovler Viral Oncology laboratories doing genetic engineering. He found he liked people more than petri dishes, and received his MD. Dr. Simpson, a renowned weight loss surgeon, is a leading advocate of culinary medicine. A frequent contributor to media outlets discussing health related topics and advances in medicine, he is also a proud dad, husband, author, cook, and surgeon “in that order.” For media inquiries, please visit www.terrysimpson.com.