Human Chorionic Gonadotropin is the hormone secreted by trophoblastic cells in the human placenta. There is no evidence that when injected or taken sublingually (under the tongue), HCG is effective in treating obesity. Yet, there is a growing and lucrative industry promoting this fallacy. I have been asked now many times by patients to prescribe the HCG treatments because they have used them before and found them to be effective or they have read about the treatment and are interested in trying it, but it is too expensive through the MedSpas that sell them.
HCG was first described as a treatment for obesity in conjunction with a specific 500 calorie a day diet by Dr. Simeons in the 1950s. Of course anyone would lose weight consuming only 500 calories per day so that explains the mystery of how it works, but while the total calories in this diet is similar to some current prescribed Very Low Calorie Diets, the total protein intake is too low at 45 to 50 grams. Current experts agree that 30 grams of protein per serving is needed to initiate muscle protein synthesis, and that higher than RDA protein intake improves weight loss in calorie restrictive diets. Early on this diet fell from favor after a series of clinical trials disputed the claims it made.
But the HCG diet has resurfaced and proponents insist that the HCG lowers hunger enabling continuation of the diet, increases well being and modifies fat distribution. However, a large analysis done in 1995 looking at the studies on obesity and HCG concluded that none of these claims were true. There have been no articles since the 1995 study with opposing findings on the Simeons method.
The authors stated:
…the use of HCG should be regarded as an inappropriate therapy for weight reduction… Pharmacists and physicians should be alert on the use of HCG for Simeons therapy. The results of this meta-analysis support a firm standpoint against this improper indication. Restraints on physicians practicing this therapy can be based on our findings.
There is no evidence in the medical literature of harmful effects of HCG injections and there is no data at all on the sublingual form of HCG. There is some evidence that HCG injections in testosterone deficient men can help improve muscle mass.
Because of the major health implications of being obese, including the increased risk for some cancers and the increased risk of diabetes, weight management is of increasing concern to patients and their doctors. A balanced and realistic approach to losing weight and maintaining ideal body mass includes following safe caloric and nutrient guidelines, personalized exercise programs, and behavioral counseling to aid in the development of good eating habits for the whole family.
Given the current information about the HCG diet, doctors cannot in good faith, advocate it as an effective weight loss program and can certainly not justify the up to $700 dollars for the 3-4 week recommended initial course.