The Health Risks of the HCG Diet

two pieces of toastAn old diet idea is making a comeback, the HGC diet. Some people say it works, some say it makes them sick. It is not certain if taking this hormone is safe and the diet only allows you to eat 500 calories per day. There are health risks with this diet you should be aware of before you start it.

There is a reinvented diet being promoted called the HCG diet and there are some health risks with this diet you should be aware of.

What HCG Is

HCG is human chorionic gonadotropin, a hormone produced by pregnant women. It can sometimes be found in men at very low levels. HCG is not approved by the FDA for weight loss, but is approved for other health problems including fertility treatments for women.

What the HCG Diet Is

The HCG diet is not new; it has been around since the 1950s.  Just like diet pills, people think this it is completely safe. The HCG diet is being touted as a healthy way to lose a lot of weight, have more energy and especially lose inches, all in about 3 to 6 weeks.

Since HCG is supposed to help pregnant woman keep up their energy and support the growth of a healthy baby even when the mother cannot eat because of morning sickness, the thought is that HCG helps the pregnant women utilize fat and turn it into healthy food for the baby, it will do the same for any of us.

The promoters of the HCG diet claim that the diet will suppress your appetite, burn the stored bad fat like belly fat and redistribute the fat. The claim is, you will lose the fat and not lose muscle on such a low calorie diet, all because of the HCG injections.

The 500 calories per day comes from a very strict diet that you have to adhere to. The theory is that the HCG will get the rest of your 2,000 or so needed daily calories from your bad fat.

The History Behind the HCG Diet

The first doctor to study and prescribe HCG for weight loss was a British doctor, Dr. A.T.W. Simeons. He believed that small injections of HCG with a low-calorie diet high in protein would stimulate lipolytic functions of the body. Lipolytic function is the function of breaking down fats to use for energy.

In 1976, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) ordered the Simeon Management Corporation, Simeon Weight Clinics Foundation, Bariatrics Management Corporation, C.M. Norcal, Inc., and HCG Weight Clinics Foundation to stop promoting their HCG weight loss programs as effective, safe or FDA approved for weight loss.

Sudden New Interest in the HCG Diet

New interest in the HCG diet is mainly because Kevin Trudeau, infamous author and infomercial salesman, wrote a book in 2007 promoting this diet. In 2007, Kevin Trudeau violated a court order by misrepresenting the contents of the book in infomercials and was ordered to pay $37 million.

Kevin Trudeau is not a doctor; he is an author and a salesman and has written numerous books about how to get your money, wealth creation and natural remedies.

The Federal Trade Commission has also accused Mr. Trudeau of allegedly promoting unproven pain relievers, cancer cures and other products and in 2004 was banned by the FTC from appearing in anymore infomercials [1].

Health Risks of Eating Only 500 Calories per Day

The HCG diet says you are to eat two meals each consisting of only 250 calories per meal. To put this in perspective, 250 calories is equal to about 2 1/2 pieces of bread.

Eating only 500 calories per day is dangerous to your health and body. Every organ in your body needs the right amount of calories, including your heart and brain. And 500 calories is far below this minimum requirement.

The minimum amount is called the Basal Metabolic Rate, the amount of calories your body needs if were to rest 24 hours to keep your body functioning in a healthy way. Woman shouldn’t eat less than 1200 calories per day and men not less than 1800 calories per day.
The health risks of eating only 500 calories per day would include loss of muscle and lowering your metabolic rate, which would then cause you to burn fewer calories. Other health risks would be inadequate intake of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. The lack of certain vitamins can cause other medical illnesses such as anemia.

Health Risks of the HCG Diet

There are health risks when taking HCG other than eating only 500 calories per day. These risks include:

Potentially life-threatening ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), call your doctor immediately if you have severe pelvic pain, stomach pain, swelling of the hands and feet, stomach swelling, weight gain, shortness of breath, vomiting, diarrhea and urinating less than normal.

  • Mood swings
  • Headaches
  • Swelling breasts and water retention
  • Increased risk of blood clots
  • Restelessness
  • Depression
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Gout

Do not use HCG if you are pregnant, it can cause birth defects.

Call your doctor if you have the symptoms of pain, warmth, tingling in your arms or legs, redness, severe headache, extreme dizziness and confusion.

And remember, HCG is a fertility drug, if you do get pregnant, HCG can increase your chances of having twins, triplets or even quadruplets.

Before You Start the HCG Diet

Many people who are doing this diet are just buying the HCG off of the internet and starting the diet from instructions in the book. Not even sure if what you are paying for is HCG or the right amount. You need to talk to a qualified doctor since there are health risks. You must talk to a doctor first if you have:

  • A hormone related cancer or any cancer
  • Thyroid or adrenal gland disorder
  • Kidney disease
  • Epilepsy
  • Migraines
  • Asthma
  • And numerous other medical conditions

HCG Diet Studies

In 1995, Dutch scientists looked at 24 studies concerning HCG and found that 12 studies were done correctly. They did a meta-analysis of these 12 studies and concluded that there is no scientific evidence that the hormone HCG is effective in the treatment of obesity, weight loss, fat redistribution or reducing hunger pains on such a low calorie diet. One study out of 12 did find HCG was useful in weight loss [2].

In 1973, the Asher, Harper study had 40 women ages 18 and up participate in a double-blind placebo study for 36 weeks. The conclusion was that the group receiving the HCG lost significantly more weight than the placebo group. The doctors who conducted the test did conclude that the reason for such a large difference in weight loss was because those receiving the placebo did not adhere to the strict diet. They reasoned that this is probably because the patients receiving the placebo felt more hunger than the HCG group did [3].

A 1975 double-blind placebo controlled study with 51 women between the ages of 18 and 60 participated in this study. This study was to try and duplicate the findings of the Asher, Harper study. Each group ate the strict 500 calories per day, one group received the HCG hormone and the other group received a placebo. The conclusion found no statistical significant difference in weight loss, hunger pains or hip circumference between the HCG and the placebo group. Both groups did lose weight and hip circumference due to the small amount of calories eaten [4].


It is very hard to tell the facts from the hype about the HCG diet. There must be many thousands of people on the internet getting paid to promote and sell the HCG hormone.

Studies have shown that people eating 500 calories per day and a placebo instead of the HCG also lost weight, so save your money and learn to eat healthy. Try the calorie restriction diet instead.

Copyright © July 2010 Sam Montana


[1] FTC Complaint against Kevin Trudeau
[2] PubMed - The effect of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) in the treatment of obesity by means of the Simeons therapy: a criteria-based meta-analysis.
[3] AJCN - Effect of human chorionic gonadotrophin on weight loss, hunger, and feeling of well-being. W. L. Asher, M.D., and Harold W. Harper, M.D.
[4] AJCN - Full PDF text of the 1975 study - Ineffectiveness of human chorionic gonadotropin in weight reduction: a double-blind study. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

1 comment:

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