It used to be that every few years a new diet fad swept the nation. Now it feels like it’s every few months. The newest is the hCG diet, which actually first swept the nation in the 60’s, but is having a revival. The diet involves a severe calorie restriction augmented with human chorionic gonadatropin (hCG) either via injections or as a liquid taken orally. hCG is a hormone that all people have, but that is especially produced during pregnancy. The idea behind the diet is that the calorie restriction will cause the body to consume its own tissues and that the hCG will ensure that it consumes fat rather than lean muscle. It sounds simple enough, but is it safe?
Absolutely not. According to the American Medical Association “continued adherence to such a drastic regimen is potentially more hazardous to the patient’s health than continued obesity.” Simply put, 500 calories a day is not enough to support the normal functions of your body. Moreover, no double blind study has ever demonstrated that hCG is effective as a weight-loss tool. Accordingly, the USDA forbids makers from claiming that it can cause you to lose weight. hCG also has potentially dangerous side effects that can affect fertility and the reproductive systems of both men and women. It should also be noted that while hCG can be prescribed by doctors (usually as part of a fertility treatment), it is a controlled substance, so over-the-counter hCG often contains no hCG or is illegal.
Your parents were right. If something sounds to good to be true, it probably is. The hCG diet promises adherents can lose a pound a day taking hCG. It’s possible that by starving yourself, you can lose weight rapidly. Ask any high school wrestler. But, losing weight over the long term requires healthy eating and exercise and is a slow process. The immediate payoff of hCG may sound attractive, but it won’t work and it isn’t safe.