This diet is decades old, but it’s recently gained some popularity and notoriety with the help of drastic before and after photos on the Internet. If you’re thinking about starting this diet, then here are the things you need to know.
1. You’ll Be Taking HCG, a Hormone Produced During Pregnancy
HCG stands for human chorionic gonadotropin, which is produced naturally in a woman’s body during pregnancy. It is the presence of HCG in urine that makes at-home pregnancy kits test positive. It is used as a prescription medication to treat reproductive issues and is not approved for over-the-counter use. HCG is, however, still sold illegally and marketed by some companies for this diet. Advocates of the HCG diet say that the hormone tricks the body into losing fat, not muscle. People usually take the hormone in liquid drop form, as a spray, or as injections.
2. What Can You Eat on the HCG Diet?
Very little. On the diet, you’re restricted to 500 calories a day for 8 weeks. You can have two very small meals a day that consist of one protein, one vegetable, one bread, and one fruit. The advertising surrounding the HCG diet claims that the hormone suppresses the cravings and painful hunger pangs you’d normally feel on such a low-calorie plan. You can’t eat any dairy, carbs, alcohol, or sugar.
3. Does the HCG Diet Work?
There are many people who have lost weight this way. People report losing as much as a pound per day on the diet. Regardless of the addition of the HCG hormone, critics of this diet point out that anyone will lose significant weight if they’re eating a near-starvation diet of just 500 calories per day.
4. What Do Doctors and Medical Professionals Say?
HCG weight loss products are illegal and warned against by the FDA. Brad Pace, regulatory counsel at the FDA’s Health Fraud and Consumer Outreach Branch, says: “You cannot sell products claiming to contain HCG as an OTC drug product. It’s illegal.”
According to Professor Pieter Cohen at Harvard Medical School, the HCG diet is “reckless, irresponsible, and completely irrational.”
Can you lose weight on it? Of course, but that’s mainly because you’re hardly consuming any calories. And any benefit is not going to last.
When thinking about trying a new diet, always remember: if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.
5. Who Came Up With the HCG Diet?
This diet started with research done by Dr. Albert T. W. Simeons in London in the 1950s. From some of his work with obese patients, he determined that the HCG hormone facilitated quick fat loss on a severe diet without drastic hunger pangs. You can read his original thesis, Pounds and Inches, here.
It sounds wonderful, but all of the research since his initial theory has shown that the hormone does not redistribute fat or reduce feelings of hunger.