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A 55 year-old woman (named MS) came in today looking for a healthful way to reduce her body fat and improve her health.

She admits not eating well and not exercising, which has now created a BMI (body mass index) of almost 30—close to obesity—and a body composition that was 40% fat. Forty percent of her body was fat. She had tried ‘dieting’ before, and experienced the ups and downs most people go through when trying to lose weight. 

At her wits’ end, she met a doctor who suggested the HCG diet as a solution to her body-composition issues. If you haven’t heard of this artificial and potentially dangerous way to lose weight, let me explain.

HCG is human chorionic gonadotropin—a hormone that is released after a woman’s egg has been fertilized by a sperm. HCG is the hormone tested for in early pregnancy tests. Certain cancer cells release it, which helps to diagnose those cancers. It also spurs the development of the gonads (testes and ovaries). How on earth did a hormone from pregnancy get thrown into the dieting craze?

Supposedly, years ago an endocrinologist gave HCG to boys with immature gonads (testes). He found that these individuals lost weight and seemed to have decreased appetite while taking the hormone.

Thus, the crazy and risky ‘HCG Diet’ was born. In combination with the injected hormone, a severely calorie-restricted diet was developed.

The food plan—if you can call starvation a food plan—consists of eating 500 calories a day, while giving yourself hormone shots.

This is done for roughly 26 days. I’m at a loss for words here … inject yourself with gonad-stimulating hormones while starving yourself?

Realize that severely restricting calories also deprives the body of nutrients. This is a very unsafe position for many reasons. Oh, on top of starvation, you’re injecting a pregnancy hormone into your body. Seriously? 

How effective are these injections?

According to the Canadian Medical Association and the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, HCG as a weight-loss aid is useless. Concluding remarks from the research regarding the use of HCG for obesity and overweight were “there is no scientific evidence that HCG is effective in the treatment of obesity; it does not bring about weight-loss or fat-redistribution, nor does it reduce hunger or induce a feeling of well-being.”

Since there is no evidence that injecting a pregnancy hormone induces fat-loss, why does the diet work? Severe calorie restriction equals starvation. While  the ‘diet’ encourages people to stay away from sugar and carbs, its main focus is insane calorie restriction. 

What does 500 calories look like? Let me put this into perspective. Two eggs (150 calories), 15 walnuts (150 calories), half an avocado (160 calories), half an apple (40 calories) equals 500 calories.

If you chose to eat junk instead, 1 cup of Ben and Jerry’s chocolate ice cream equals 500 calories, so that’s the only thing you can eat … all day. Again, how do people lose weight on the HCG diet? Radical calorie restriction. 

Back to MS. After evaluating her body fat, I sat with her to create a food plan specific to her needs and her metabolism. After our conversation and coaching session, MS was ready to go.

Her inability to succeed in the past was due to a lack of the right tools; she just needed that personal nudge. I’m looking forward to see her ‘after’ pix in roughly 12 weeks, after she follows the customized food plan. Because exercise will help in her fat-loss efforts, I recommended an exercise plan to be implemented along with her food plan. 

I understand the desire to lose weight or fat. You need to realize there is no magic weight-loss cure. No silver bullet. There is no quick fix. Make a decision to get healthy, eat healthful foods, indulge in the foods that won’t make you fat, enjoy the process, and watch your body composition transform … safely, effectively, and for a lifetime.

The cost of a box of injectable HCG, and the elaborate 500-calorie diet:  $1,500
The cost of a low-fat, lean body:  Free.

Just make a decision.

Br J Clin Pharmacol 1995; 40: 237-243
CAN MED Assoc J, Vol.128, May 15, 1983