Recently, I friend of mine brought a new diet to my attention - the hCG diet. Being a dietitian, of course, I had to check it out. Was this just another fad diet, or was there something to it?
What it is
The hCG diet was first invented by Dr. Simeons in the 1950’s and re-born in Kevin Trudeau’s book The weight loss cure “they” don’t want you to know about. hCG is a hormone produced by women in pregnancy that is believed by some to affect the hypothalamus and promote fat loss. According to the websites, if the protocol is followed, you can expect to lose 1-3 pounds per day.
Proponents of the diet claim the hCG can be taken in injections or orally. The program is both extremely restrictive and intensive and involves hCG injections, forced feeding, an extremely low Calorie diet (500 Calories per day), but no exercise. On such a low Calorie diet, it’s no surprise that exercise is not recommended. Side effects include headaches, alterations in menstrual cycle, cramping, and more.
This diet screams fad diet. It's pricey, makes unrealistic claims that are too good to be true, and is not sustainable long term. What’s worse, it’s probably one of the most dangerous fad diets I’ve come across. I was surprised at the abundance of websites there were for this diet, complete with images of doctors, it’s easy to see how people could me mislead into thinking this diet is a legitimate way to lose weight.
The general consensus among medical and health professionals regarding the hCG diet is that it is both ineffective and dangerous. The hCG diet is essentially an expensive and extremely risky starvation diet. Following any sort of starvation diet will put you at risk for nutritional deficiencies and serious health complications. In 2009, the American Society of Bariatric Physicians issued a position statement that states:
Numerous clinical trials have shown HCG to be ineffectual in producing weight loss. HCG injections can induce a slight increase in muscle mass in androgen-deficient males. The diet used in the Simeons method provides a lower protein intake than is advisable in view of current knowledge and practice. There are few medical literature reports favorable to the Simeons method; the overwhelming majority of medical reports are critical of it.
On a side note: It’s always a good idea to research who is behind any diet you’re considering following. Most of his followers probably aren’t aware that Kevin Trudeau is a convicted felon with no medical training, and was later fined by the FTC for making fraudulent claims in his book.
Thanks to dietetic intern, Mehek Mathur, for the topic idea.