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The Health Risks of the HCG Diet

There is a reinvented diet being promoted called the HCG diet and there are some health risks with this diet you need to be aware of.

There is a reinvented diet being promoted called the HCG diet and there are some health risks with this diet you should be aware of.

What hCG Is

HCG is human chorionic gonadotropin, a hormone produced by pregnant women. It can sometimes be found in men at very low levels. HCG is not approved by the FDA for weight loss, but is approved for other health problems including fertility treatments for women.

What the HCG Diet Is

The HCG diet is not new; it has been around since the 1950s. Just like diet pills, people think this it is completely safe. The HCG diet is being touted as a healthy way to lose a lot of weight, have more energy and especially lose inches, all in about 3 to 6 weeks.

Since HCG is supposed to help pregnant woman keep up their energy and support the growth of a healthy baby even when the mother cannot eat because of morning sickness, the thought is that HCG helps the pregnant women utilize fat and turn it into healthy food for the baby, it will do the same for any of us.

The promoters of the HCG diet claim that the diet will suppress your appetite, burn the stored bad fat like belly fat and redistribute the fat. The claim is, you will lose the fat and not lose muscle on such a low calorie diet, all because of the HCG injections.

The 500 calories per day comes from a very strict diet that you have to adhere to. The theory is that the HCG will get the rest of your 2,000 or so needed daily calories from your bad fat.

The History Behind the HCG Diet

The first doctor to study and prescribe HCG for weight loss was a British doctor, Dr. A.T.W. Simeons. He believed that small injections of HCG with a low-calorie diet high in protein would stimulate lipolytic functions of the body. Lipolytic function is the function of breaking down fats to use for energy.

In 1976, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) ordered the Simeon Management Corporation, Simeon Weight Clinics Foundation, Bariatrics Management Corporation, C.M. Norcal, Inc., and HCG Weight Clinics Foundation to stop promoting their HCG weight loss programs as effective, safe or FDA approved for weight loss.

Sudden New Interest in the HCG Diet

New interest in the HCG diet is mainly because Kevin Trudeau, infamous author and infomercial salesman, wrote a book in 2007 promoting this diet. In 2007, Kevin Trudeau violated a court order by misrepresenting the contents of the book in infomercials and was ordered to pay $37 million.

Kevin Trudeau is not a doctor; he is an author and a salesman and has written numerous books about how to get your money, wealth creation and natural remedies.

The Federal Trade Commission has also accused Mr. Trudeau of allegedly promoting unproven pain relievers, cancer cures and other products and in 2004 was banned by the FTC from appearing in anymore infomercials [1].

Health Risks of Eating Only 500 Calories per Day

The HCG diet says you are to eat two meals each consisting of only 250 calories per meal. To put this in perspective, 250 calories is equal to about 2 1/2 pieces of bread.

Eating only 500 calories per day is dangerous to your health and body. Every organ in your body needs the right amount of calories, including your heart and brain. And 500 calories is far below this minimum requirement.

The minimum amount is called the Basal Metabolic Rate, the amount of calories your body needs if were to rest 24 hours to keep your body functioning in a healthy way. Woman shouldn’t eat less than 1200 calories per day and men not less than 1800 calories per day.

The health risks of eating only 500 calories per day would include loss of muscle and lowering your metabolic rate, which would then cause you to burn fewer calories. Other health risks would be inadequate intake of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. The lack of certain vitamins can cause other medical illnesses such as anemia.

Health Risks of the HCG Diet

There are health risks when taking HCG other than eating only 500 calories per day. These risks include:

  • Potentially life-threatening ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), call your doctor immediately if you have severe pelvic pain, stomach pain, swelling of the hands and feet, stomach swelling, weight gain, shortness of breath, vomiting, diarrhea and urinating less than normal.
  • Mood swings
  • Headaches
  • Swelling breasts and water retention
  • Increased risk of blood clots
  • Restelessness
  • Depression
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Gout
  • Do not use HCG if you are pregnant, it can cause birth defects.
  • Call your doctor if you have the symptoms of pain, warmth, tingling in your arms or legs, redness, severe headache, extreme dizziness and confusion.
  • And remember, HCG is a fertility drug, if you do get pregnant, HCG can increase your chances of having twins, triplets or even quadruplets.

Before You Start the HCG Diet

Many people who are doing this diet are just buying the HCG off of the internet and starting the diet from instructions in the book. Not even sure if what you are paying for is HCG or the right amount. You need to talk to a qualified doctor since there are health risks. You must talk to a doctor first if you have:

  • A hormone related cancer or any cancer
  • Thyroid or adrenal gland disorder
  • Kidney disease
  • Epilepsy
  • Migraines
  • Asthma
  • And numerous other medical conditions

HCG Diet Studies

In 1995, Dutch scientists looked at 24 studies concerning HCG and found that 12 studies were done correctly. They did a meta-analysis of these 12 studies and concluded that there is no scientific evidence that the hormone HCG is effective in the treatment of obesity, weight loss, fat redistribution or reducing hunger pains on such a low calorie diet. One study out of 12 did find HCG was useful in weight loss [2].

In 1973, the Asher, Harper study had 40 women ages 18 and up participate in a double-blind placebo study for 36 weeks. The conclusion was that the group receiving the HCG lost significantly more weight than the placebo group. The doctors who conducted the test did conclude that the reason for such a large difference in weight loss was because those receiving the placebo did not adhere to the strict diet. They reasoned that this is probably because the patients receiving the placebo felt more hunger than the HCG group did [3].

In 1975, 51 women between the ages of 18 and 60 participated in a double-blind placebo controlled study. This study was to try and duplicate the findings of the Asher, Harper study. Each group ate the strict 500 calories per day, one group received the HCG hormone and the other group received a placebo. The conclusion found no statistical significant difference in weight loss, hunger pains or hip circumference between the HCG and the placebo group. Both groups did lose weight and hip circumference due to the small amount of calories eaten [4].

FDA Issues Warnings about HCG

Today, December 7, 2011, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Trade Administration (FTC) has issued warnings to companies that are selling any form of HCG as a weight loss product stating these are unsubstantiated health claims. In fact some of these company ads illegally use the FDA logo. The FDA has taken the position that anyone eating a 500 calorie per day diet will lose weight and that HCG is nothing more than a placebo [5].

Conclusion

It is very hard to tell the facts from the hype about the HCG diet. There must be many thousands of people on the internet getting paid to promote and sell the HCG hormone.

When you read articles and comments from people who have had success with this diet, make sure they aren’t selling the HCG. Here is an article from a writer who had success with the diet and who isn’t selling the product; The HCG Diet Craze - If or How It Works

Studies have shown that people eating 500 calories per day and a placebo instead of the HCG also lost weight, so save your money and learn to eat healthy. Try the calorie restriction diet instead.

© July 2010 Sam Montana

Resources

[1] FTC Complaint against Kevin Trudeau

[2] Dutch study (pubmed) - The effect of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) in the treatment of obesity by means of the Simeons therapy: a criteria-based meta-analysis. Lijesen GK, Theeuwen I, Assendelft WJ, Van Der Wal G.

[3] Full text of the Asher, Harper study - Effect of human chorionic gonadotrophin on weight loss, hunger, and feeling of well-being. W. L. Asher, M.D., and Harold W. Harper, M.D.

[4] Full text of the 1975 study - Ineffectiveness of human chorionic gonadotropin in weight reduction: a double-blind study. Mark R. Stein,MD., Ronald E. Julis, M.D., Carl C. Peck,M.D., William Hinshaw,M.S. Hosp. Pharm., John E. Sawicki, M.D., and John J. Deller, Jr.,M.D. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

[5] Chicago Tribune article

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Natural Weight Loss by the Numbers Basal Metabolic Rate math

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Comments (32)

A very expert discussion, well-researched.

Good discussion sir. I've heard some of it but then you clarified it so well. Thank you. Re tweeted.

Excellent research. I have never heard of this diet but I've certainly heard of Kevin Trudeau. If he's involved in something, I run far, far away.

Nice article.

Thank you for this article. I ran into someone who did the diet and she was a fanatical proponent of the diet. She was not selling it but her friend was. She was allowing this person to prepare injections for her with an HCG product bought from Mexico. How scarey is that!? Someone is going to eventually end up dead.

Good job. Sending you some page love.

Ranked #4 in Diet Programs

Thank you Charlene. Judith, it is common to get HCG from Mexico from what I have read. Major league baseball has banned it because it is associated with players taking steroids. Male athletes take it after a cycle of steroids, to get certain parts of their body working again, after the steroids messed that part up. If people want to try the diet, they should at least do it at a doctors office.

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Thanks for sharing this article, I like especially the "Health Risks of Eating Only 500 Calories per Day" section. It make me understand the program a lot better before deciding whether to start.

HCG Diet Shots

What a great site! The content is most valuable for day to day life of human being. HCG diet is plays a vital role for the human being. Thanks for the valuable information...

Ella Milton

This week an aquaintance of mine died, a 30 year old healthy mother of two small children. Her husband came home from work and found her passed out and not breathing. She had been on the HCG Diet. People need to really be aware of the risks with taking these hormones!

This piece is very well-researched and excellently written. Great work!

debra brown

I took hcg drops lost 16 lbs on the 23 day cycle...gained it back in the last week and have had alot of side effects.....severe memory loss, confusion,blurred vision stomach cramps and more...there are side effects and they are real... most of these post are fake..ive been researching for months...i had to take a detox pill to get it out of my system...

Erin

I've been on the HCG diet a couple times and have done very well. The first time, I lost 30lbs. The second, 20lbs. It was incredible to lose 50 lbs for my wedding. I am on it again now and doing well. Each time I stopped I maintained my well give or take 5 or so pounds. I have been very successful rebuilding my metabolism. I love this diet.

Just because there are some successes for some people does NOT make this a safe diet. Anyone who does this without being supervised by a doctor is playing with fire.

Ranked #4 in Diet Programs

50 pounds is a lot of weight to lose. In what time frame did you lose that in. Now that you have lost that amount of weight, I would encourage you to learn about healthy eating so you never again have to use a diet as extreme and risky as this one.

Sam, This is an excellent well researched article. My wife is currently on this diet although she took the drops, not injections. These drops are available at Walgreens. I was extremely skeptical of this 500 cal. diet at first. My wife is a stickler for details and has followed the directions of this diet to the letter. She is currently in the maintenance stage of the diet where you stabilize your metabolism. She is eating very well with plenty of fruits, vegetables and protein. The only things she's not eating are sugars and starches. She uses pure Stevia as a sweetener. There is a final stage to this diet where you work in starches and sweets but she truly is not craving them and says she probably will skip that part of the diet. She has been done with the drops and low calorie portion of the diet for a few weeks now.She is active in an online forum with other HCG diet participants and she has lost about 17 lbs. without any ill effects. I do think there was a period of about 2 weeks of moodiness associated with the diet...Well maybe just one but it felt like two. She won't admit to this though.

Tracy

I have felt horrible on this thing. I am dizzy from day one and weak feeling. Any suggestions or is there a danger I should watch for?

Ranked #4 in Diet Programs

Tracy, make sure you are taking real HCG. The only way to know that is to do it through a qualified doctor and get a prescription. Or you could just quit this diet since it is not healthy to eat only 500 calories per day. I would think anyone would feel terrible eating that small amount of calories per day.

My girlfriend actually tried the HCG diet and it made her really sick for awhile. She stuck with it for almost 2 weeks before she had to stop because she felt terrible and wasn't losing fat. Maybe it works for some people but in this case it didn't. So I showed her a guide to healthy fat loss to help her that I review here

Great article, very informative. People think there's a magic pill for weight loss but there isn't.

Sarah Gray

I have been on the HCG diet for 20 days and have lsot 20 pounds. It really is a miracle magic pill for weight loss. I followed the 500-calorie rule as closely as possible, but I did cheat if I felt hungry and I did drink vodka and diet when I went out. I dropped 11 pounds in just the first week. I could have lost much more if I had followed it closer. I am going off of it for a few weeks and then I am going to begin another 20 days. I had zero side effects. A friend of mine lost 40 pounds in 40 days on it, which is why I tried it. I know I will continue to eat a low calorie diet even off of the HCG and it will be interesting to see if I continue to lose. I highly reccomend this diet!!!

Jennifer

I came home from the Hospital last night after nearly dying from the HCG diet. I was on the diet for 5 days. Only on the restricted 500 calorie part of the diet for 2 days, after the initial gorge period. I woke in the middle of the night feeling awful. I checked my blood pressure and it was 66/37. I called 911. When the EMT arrived my blood pressure was 55/35. I narrowly escaped death thanks to the quick work of the EMT and emergency room. My veins had already started collapsing. The cardiologist at the hospital told me that people die when their blood pressure gets that low. He also said that I was lucky not to have permanent heart damage. I am 36 and he said the only reason I did not have permanent heart damage was because I was young and healthy. I couldn't believe so much damage could happen in such a short time. He said everyone's body is different on how long a starvation diet can kill them. Anorexia kills people every year with heart failure from the starvation, not necessarily being too thin. The starvation (500 calories) is what dropped my blood pressure to nearly fatale. I beg anyone wanting to try this diet to please learn from my near death experience. I almost killed myself by following this diet exactly and I would have left behind a husband and child whom I love more than anything. Please do not go to these drastic measures, because you may not live to regret it. Thankfully I did live to regret it and regret it I do.

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Anya

Through my Naturopathic Physician, I used the HcG program and was not hungry or experienced any of the symptoms listed here. In addition, the foods that I ate on the program were low-glycemic foods that one will find within the low-glycemic chart. The program help me tremendously. I was monitored my doctor weekly for check-ups.

Ranked #4 in Diet Programs

Anya, that is good news you did not have any of the side effects. It is also important you went to your doctor during the time you were on this diet. Too many people do a strict diet like this on their own, and that can be dangerous.

Louann Good

I tried the HCG diet and loved it. Never felt better in my life, not to mention lost 33# and so far keeping it off with ease. 500 calories might equal 2 slices of bread but what I ate on that diet exceeded the nutrition of 2 slices of bread 10 fold. First off, most bread is not healthy to eat anyways! I ate 3.5 oz of protein 2x a day...uhhh that is only .5oz from being a 1/4# or 1oz from being a 1/2# of lean meat, fish, seafood, or chicken every day. Do you realize that 4 packed cups of lettuce (I use organic spring mix) = 40 calories? I ate tons of veggies and you also eat 2 servings of fruit a day...My plate was full of food! I guess no one would say anything if I had a dexatrim, a candy bar and a mountain dew to add those calories up...oh yeah....and a few slices of that unhealthy bread. I felt great on that diet. I was on it for 43 days total. My boyfriend lost 50# in the same amount of time on it. I had no hunger after about the 3rd day and was bursting with energy. I think I was getting "nesting" tendencies as I was cleaning everything in sight. My waist and butt was the first to go and then I lost a couple of my chins. I did not however, lose my D cups! I plan to restart this diet after the New Years to lose those last 10 stubborn pounds. This diet was great for me. I would have to say the best part was losing the weight so fast and feeling good while it was going. I am now wearing size 4's and my knees and back feel much better. Being able to resume a normal life and using moderation seems to easy to keep the wight off without a problem. I would say just about anyone knocking this diet has never tried it. Just ask the people who have actually done it...I did make sure I used REAL HCG and followed the protocol to a T. If you cheat even a little bit, it does not work. I had to try it to find out for myself.

Tony S

Why would anyone EVER try to do something this drastic without being monitored by a doctor???

One of the first things I was asked by my doctor is if I had any heart issues.

I would never even consider doing this without the guidance of a doctor.

I want to KNOW that I'm getting HCG and not anything else.

And, I would never buy something from Mexico to ingest as some above have described...

So far, I'm on day 5 of this diet.

I will say that the part of the preparation that was not adequately explained is coming to grips with the difference between appetite and actual hunger.

I am having difficulties not grazing late at night, or plowing through a bag of chips because I can, or snagging that piece of candy on my way by the bowl.

However, in each case, when I really think about "Am I Hungry" the answer is NO. My stomach is not growling, And, in truth, I feel fine.

So, my current, daily battle is to unlearn the bad habits I've developed over the past 30 years.

I concur with someone above who wrote that the meals are good and filling.

I became interested in this diet after speaking with three others who had tried various forms of the diet, ALL of them having substantial success.

Ranked #4 in Diet Programs

Tony, it sounds like you are doing this right. Making sure a doctor monitors your condition and you are getting actual HCG. The low amount of calories of this diet still concerns me and I certainly wouldn't stay on this diet long term. Once you learn to eat healthy and that healthy eating becomes a lifestyle for you, then you can feel and be healthy. With all of our food choices, it is not easy to eat healthy until you make a real lifestyle change. I have written a lot of articles about eating healthy and why it is really so easy to become overweight. If you're interested in reading my other articles, I have a list of them on my blog at http://healthyfoodandlife.blogspot.com/

Michelle

This is not a starvation diet. The purpose of the shots is that after you eat only 500 calories, the hormones in the shot mobilize stored fat and transfer an additional 3,000-4,000 calories into your system for energy. The dual effect is to suppress hunger and melt fat. If you only ate 500 calories on your own, you would indeed go into starvation mode and feel sick, possibly not even losing weight for a while as your body hoards calories. I've lost 12.5 pounds in 14 days and got the shots at a medical clinic. It was $275, I don't think the over-the-counter drops contain the true hormone, only appetite suppressants. I know the shots are contributing to the weight loss because if I ate only 500 calories and it takes 1,500 calories to maintain my weight each day (hence a 1,000 deficit, and it takes a 3,500 calorie deficit to lose a pound), I could not lose a pound a day like I have been.

Some people commenting ,having a bad experience with hcg were most likely using fake hcg drops or homeopathic which contain very little hormone and therefore are putting their bodies at risk when the hormone is so low that the body cannot detect the hormone in your blood so that its in starvation mode,and not drawing completely from your fat stores.You will be  in starvation mode.If you use crappy drops dont blame hcg diet but yourselves for not doing your homework.As for the person who died as a result from this diet coming to find out,was using drops from Mexico,Which we are advise not to use from other countries because these countries do not have any regulated control of any kind and the drops can get easily contaminated. If hcg was causing as some of you are saying, a danger,then we would be hearing these stories all over the media or paper ,but I am yet to hear of one.The cases are very isolated and it was probably because of people having other health issues that contributed to their failure.If you get the right kind of real hcg,this diet is easy,no hunger,great fatloss and energy,and does not slow the metabolism like when you are starving.A lot of people have kept the weight off and if they gain it back its over a long period and as a result in going back to the eating habits they had before.

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