It seems like there are a million and one diet fads out there and chances are if you have ever wanted to learn how to lose weight fast, you’ve probably tried a few, or at least thought about it. One method that has come to light in the past years is the HCG diet. Many people have tried this method without fully understanding the HCG diet dangers that make this an unviable way to lose weight.
What is the HCG Diet?
Before we talk about HCG diet dangers, let’s have a look at what is involved with this diet. There are two ways that people can obtain HCG or human chorionic gonadotropin hormone:
- Via the internet, which the FDA has clearly stated is illegal since no HCG products are approved by FDA for weight loss AND FDA has never approved HCG products to be sold directly to consumers. The most frequently sold preparations are drops taken orally, which have NEVER been tested by scientific studies and shown to have benefits.
- Physician administered injections, even though the FDA has NOT approved HCG injections for weight loss and the overwhelming preponderance of medical evidence does not support its use.
The HCG diet involves either taking the oral form or receiving an HCG injection. The HCG hormone occurs naturally in pregnant women and has been touted to greatly assist with weight loss. The hormone isn’t what makes you lose weight, it’s the associated starvation diet that does. It actually changes the way you lose weight by making you feel less hungry but the accompanying diet rules contribute to the weight loss. By restricting caloric intake to 500 to 800 calories per day for a period of 8 weeks while taking the HCG hormone, the diet promises that you’ll drop one pound a day. Sound too good to be true? That’s because it is. Unfortunately, the HCG diet dangers aren’t worth the risk.
Debunking the HCG Diet
Pieter Cohen, M.D., of the Cambridge Health Alliance at Harvard Medical School, debunks some of the common HCG claims:
Although you will lose weight on the diet, you won’t keep it off.
“Decades of research have demonstrated that if your diet by eating only 500 calories a day, you regain a lot of weight after the diet ends… These crash diets lead to no more weight loss after one year than if you modestly reduce calories and increase exercise,” said Dr. Cohen.
- HCG injections don’t work. “Every single well-done trial showed that the HCG injections were no better than injecting a saltwater placebo,” said Dr. Cohen.
- Very low-calorie diets lead to health issues down the line. “The Centers for Disease Control has already investigated over a dozen deaths linked to these very-low-calorie diets as far back as the 1970s… Of course, most people won’t die from the HCG diet, but many will develop other health problems like gallstones — a painful condition that often requires surgery.”
- HCG is a placebo for weight loss. “When it comes to hunger,” said Dr. Cohen, “humans are very suggestible. When we want to believe that a shot, whether it’s saltwater or hormones, will make our hunger go away, our hunger sometimes does go away.” HCG does have FDA approval, but not for weight loss — only as a fertility treatment.
HCG Diet and Weight Loss
By Nanci Hellmich, USA TODAY January 23, 2011
A popular type of weight-loss product, heavily promoted on the Internet, is fraudulent and illegal, Food and Drug Administration officials say.
HCG weight-loss products that promise dramatic results and claim to be homeopathic are sold as drops, pellets, and sprays on the Web, in drugstores, and at General Nutrition Centers. They are supposed to be used in combination with a very low-calorie diet of 500 calories a day.
Many of the labels indicate the products contain HCG, or human chorionic gonadotropin, a hormone made by the placenta during pregnancy. The hormone itself is approved as a prescription treatment for infertility and other conditions.
There is no evidence that oral over-the-counter products are effective for weight loss, says Elizabeth Miller, FDA’s leader for the Internet and health fraud team. While they may not be dangerous, they’re at least “economic fraud,” she says.
Because the products do not seem to be “a serious direct health hazard or a serious indirect health hazard,” they have been a lower priority for FDA action than other products. Still, Miller says, “they could be subject to enforcement at any time.”
One of the issues is the homeopathic label. Homeopathy is an alternative medicine practice of using very small or diluted preparations of medicines or remedies to treat a condition. Miller says, “We are aware of HCG products that claim to be homeopathic, but it is not recognized in the Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia.” Therefore, these products “are not recognized by the FDA as homeopathic drugs, so they are unapproved drugs and are illegal,” she says.
Miller says HCG began being used for weight loss in the 1950s when a British physician had a theory that it could help people on a near-starvation diet not feel hungry. “Since then, a lot of research and clinical trials debunked that theory.”
Samuel Klein of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis agrees: “Data from most randomized controlled trials show that HCG is no better than placebo in achieving weight loss or reducing hunger.”
Stephen Barrett, a retired psychiatrist who operates quackwatch.org, says, “The bottom line is there is no reason to think the product works.”
Even experts in the supplement industry say the products aren’t legal and don’t work. Andrew Shao of the Council for Responsible Nutrition, an industry group, says HCG is “not considered a legal dietary ingredient and therefore cannot be sold as a dietary supplement. I am not aware of any scientific evidence that supports its use when taken orally.”
Because HCG is a peptide hormone, it would be broken down by the stomach and rendered ineffective, he says. He says the products are mostly sold over the Internet, so it’s difficult to track sales.
Kevin Wright, president of HCG Platinum, says his company made HCG products until about two months ago; it stopped because it found a formula that doesn’t use the hormone. Some bottles of the HCG formula are still on store shelves, selling for about $70 an ounce.
Many other companies are still selling HCG products, and there are weight-loss clinics that use the prescribed injectable hormone, he says.
FDA’s Miller also has concerns about injectable versions of HCG for weight loss. The drug is not approved for weight loss, she says. Dieters getting injections of the hormone from people who aren’t licensed to do so run the risk of getting infections and can’t be sure what product they’re getting.
Source: USA Today
What Are the Dangers of HCG Diet?
There are plenty of HCG diet dangers that will steer anyone clear of attempting this method of weight loss. The first red flag is that HCG is not FDA-approved for weight loss. The HCG shots are legal and you may be able to get them from your healthcare provider but they have NEVER been approved by FDA for use as a weight-loss therapy.
The Diet’s Risks
Another one of the HCG diet dangers is the extremely restrictive diet. Not only are you limited to 500-800 calories a day but the diet’s rules are very specific, limiting its users to just a few food options. Generally, your body needs between 1,200 to 2,400 calories per day, depending on your activity level. With such a restrictive diet, it’s impossible for your body to get all of the nutrients in the appropriate proportions it needs to function properly. Additional HCG diet dangers include the formation of gallstones, an imbalance of electrolytes, and an irregular heartbeat.
The Hormone’s Risks
What about the hormone? Because this method also utilizes a hormone, several of the HCG diet dangers involve the HCG hormone itself. Many HCG dieters have complained of depression, hair thinning, headaches, life-threatening blood clots, constipation, breast enlargement in male users, leg cramps, and restlessness. Female users have also reported that they experienced symptoms of pregnancy. This isn’t too surprising since the hormone is only found in pregnant women. One of the scariest HCG diet dangers caused by the hormone is Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome or OHSS. This means that the ovaries can become over-stimulated and can swell and leak fluid, causing pain in the abdomen, weight gain, and possibly even kidney failure, blood clots, and fluid buildup in the abdomen and chest. The FDA has deemed advertising HCG products as weight loss products fraudulent and warns they are not FDA approved. Click Here to watch the FDA’s video on the subject.
An extreme diet like the HCG diet might sound like the perfect plan if you are trying to lose weight as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, as with many of these crash diets, the HCG diet’s dangers far outweigh the benefits and you won’t keep the weight off! In order to avoid the many HCG diet dangers, seek the help of a professional who can help you lose weight in a healthy way.
People following the HCG Diet may suffer from deprived quality and quantity of sleep. Studies have demonstrated that nocturia (awakening during the night) and insomnia (difficulty sleeping) are frequently experienced while on the HCG Diet.
On a very low-calorie diet, you will often feel extreme hunger. Consuming fewer calories than your total daily energy output alters hormones such as leptin, ghrelin, insulin and peptide YY (PYY) – and it is these hormones that are responsible for sensing hunger and satiety.
The frequency and serving size of your meals can influence hormone amounts, which leads to feelings of hunger. Your body tries to alert you about low-calorie intake so it can protect you from the damaging impacts of inadequate nourishment.
Stoping the HCG Diet
It is probable that if you stop the HCG Diet it will cause a person to put on weight again. It is unrealistic to adhere to extremely restrictive diets and, more often than not, results in the recovered lost weight.
This is contingent on how many alterations you make to your diet and can occur gradually or quickly. Since the HCG Diet consists of meager calories, fast weight regain is very probable.
A Word from CardioMender, MD
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