You’ve seen them on TV, and read about it in magazines and on the internet. HCG diet plans have got to be the most controversial weight-loss plans of all time.
You can find thousands of brands of orally administered HCG products online – but do any of them really work? Most experts will tell you either “absolutely not”, “the reduced calorie diet plancaused the weight-loss” or “the weight-loss was the result of the placebo effect.” Yet, the fact remains that tens of thousands of men and women swear by it.
So what’s behind these HCG diet plans making everyone talk so much?
- You can lose a pound per day
- Lots of dieters swear by it
- Doctors are very skeptical
- US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) call hCG supplements illegal and fraudulent
What is HCG?
HCG is human chorionic gonadotropin, a hormone produced during pregnancy. Naturally it is made by cells that form the placenta, and can also be extracted from their urine or created synthetically. As a prescription medication, HCG is used mainly to treat fertility issues.
“Real” HCG hormone must be prescribed by a physician. The hormone hCG has never been approved to be in any product sold directly to consumers. I have found websites offering real hCG, however don’t know how they can offer it to the public. But, suffice it to say you can get real hCG hormone easy enough. And, they are likely to be the most effective for the hCG Diet.
Pharmaceutical grade hCG can come in different forms – most popular being hCG injections, or drops. The most effective method to ingest hCG is an injection which is simple for the average person to administer themselves.
The only form of hCG that is legal to buy without a prescription in the USA, Canada and Europe is homeopathic hCG. Several companies offer products that are a mixture of amino acids, or a homeopathic solution, which simulate the effects of prescription hCG. These are taken orally, and are in the form of drops, pellets, or sprays.
The central idea behind the diet is that the hormone forces the body to mobilize fat and use it for energy, as it would during pregnancy in order to nourish the fetus. This “trick” to your body makes you feel sustained, even if you’re not eating much. Even better, the HCG combined with caloric restriction apparently “resets” your metabolism.
What is the HCG diet?
The hCG diet limits you to 500 calories a day for 6-8 weeks while also taking hCG. An injection of 125 iu of hCG is administered daily or a daily dose of oral drops.
With this ultra-low-calorie diet, backers claim, hCG can “reset your metabolism” so you lose as much as a pound a day without feeling hungry or weak. It’s generally accepted that after not more than 8 weeks the body becomes HCG immune.
The HCG diet was published in book form in 2007 by Kevin Trudeau as The Weight Loss Cure They Don’t Want You to Know About, a reference to its lack of FDA approval. Trudeau also spent two years in prison for fraud and has been fined numerous times as a result of complaints made by the Federal Trade Commission—which has detracted from his credibility, to say the least.
What You Can Eat and What You Can’t
At only 500 calories per day, the hCG diet is highly restrictive. It limits you to two meals a day – lunch and dinner. Each meal has to include one protein, one vegetable, bread, and one fruit. You would hit your daily limit with one turkey sandwich with cheese and mayo.
You can broil or grill veal, beef, chicken breast, fresh white fish, lobster, crab, or shrimp as long you don’t eat any visible fat. No high-fat fish are allowed, including tuna, dried, or pickled fish.
Most vegetables are allowed, in moderation. Breads are strictly limited.
For fruit, you can choose an orange, an apple, a handful of strawberries, or half a grapefruit.
You can use sugar substitutes but not sugar to sweeten drinks. Butter and oils aren’t allowed, and milk is limited to a tablespoon per day.
Can you lose a lot of weight on the hCG diet?
Yes – definitely. If you don’t lose weight you’re not following the hCG diet correctly.
Skipping meals and extreme restriction of food has been used by dieters for decades to try to lose weight. If you stick to a diet of only 500 calories a day, it’s possible to lose 5 or more pounds a week. Anything below 1000 calories per day is considered, by most, to be highly restrictive.
Losing weight on this diet is not one of the controverted facts – its safety is. And, more importantly, can the hCG actually help you to feel comfortable while on such a restrictive diet.
Vegetarians and Vegans
Although anyone can follow the hCG diet, vegetarians and vegans need to make substitutions in order to get enough protein in a day. Vegetarians would have to drink extra skim milk to make up for not getting protein from meat and other sources. Because it includes dairy, it’s not a vegan diet. For this reason, I wouldn’t recommend either vegetarians or vegans attempt to follow this diet to the letter. Fudging is mandatory by eating a good portion of beans, lentils, or other food that will give you sufficient amounts of protein.
Why Doctors are Skeptical
For one, if you only eat 500 calories a day, there are serious health risks. Women need over 1600 calories per day, while men should be eating over 2000 calories per day to stay healthy. Even in the short run, only 500 calories per day needs to be done very carefully.
The safety of injecting a pregnancy hormone into woman and men when they are eating so few calories has never been studied. For that reason, real hCG must be prescribed. The hormone hCG is not approved to be in any product sold directly to consumers. The leader of the FDA’s Internet and Fraud Team has said all such products are illegal.
Pros and Cons
- Consistent weight loss results when in combination with a reduced calorie diet
- HCG supplements easy to find online
- Diet is easy to follow
- Not considered safe by many physicians, due to low calorie intake
- Weight loss is temporary
- Side effects can be very serious. According to the Mayo Clinic, side affects associated with hCG include fatigue, irritability, headache and male breast enlargement.
- Almost none of the over the counter supplements contain actual hCG
- It’s often very expensive – monthly supply can range from $300-$800
After researching the HCG diet, I’d recommend anyone who’d like to try it first consult with a physician. Anything that limits your calorie intake to less than 1,000 per day is risky. Otherwise, it’s simple enough to try. If the results are less than expected stop taking hCG, and resume a normal diet.
Remember, hCG doesn’t make you lose weight by itself – it’s meant to curb the appetite while you diet. But, being satisfied while dieting is a powerful thing. And, if temptation is your demon this can be a huge option. Doctors are very skeptical. However, I hear far too many great testimonials to simply blow it off. A recent woman reviewing this diet said rather succinctly – “I heard it was risky, and I’m usually not a risk taking person. But in this case I took a chance, and I’m glad I did!”