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Review: The HCG Diet


By By Nicole Ferring Holovach, MS, RD & Katie Lewin

Human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) is the hormone pregnant women’s bodies produce that prompt the little purple plus sign on home pregnancy tests. HCG supplements can be purchased in the form of drops you take under the tongue, but more concentrated doses must be doctor-prescribed and injected. The HCG diet, which combines HCG supplementation along with extreme calorie restriction, boasts a weight loss rate of a pound a day, which is far more than the one to two pounds a week that most doctors recommend.

The Theory: Supposedly, this hormone burns fat and simultaneously suppresses appetite, but the real key to this diet is the severe calorie restriction — HCG dieters can eat just 500 calories a day. HCG diet proponents claim that the hormone keeps them from feeling hungry despite the pithy calorie intake. This method is very controversial and not recommended — the Food and Drug Administration advises consumers to steer clear of over-the-counter weight-loss products that contain HCG.

Pros: There’s nothing positive about this kind of extreme calorie cutback. It can lead to nutritional deficiencies and electrolyte imbalance, which can impact heart health.

Cons: Eating only 500 calories a day is potentially dangerous and unsustainable, not to mention incredibly unpleasant. Once you lose the weight and ditch the HCG you won’t have learned how to eat right and reasonably. The weight will come back and you’ll be out $800 — the cost of a six-week program of HCG.

Bottom Line: Controlled studies have shown that the HCG itself isn’t an effective means of weight loss. Success related to this diet can be attributed to the extreme calorie restriction, which itself is a dangerous way to lose weight. HCG marketers promote success stories but there are just as many, if not more, negative consequences. Not worth it. 


Published January 5, 2015. 


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