It seems like everyday I get asked about a new diet. The latest seems to be the HCG diet. I say its the latest, but it is actually well over 30 years old. Here is the gist of the diet. You do a small inject of HCG daily (Human Chorionic Gonadotropin). This is combined with a 500 calorie per day diet (about 3 crackers and some tuna salad, well and maybe a spoon full of almond butter). The idea of the HCG is that it will suppress appetite and make the diet more achievable. So what is HCG and why would it do that? HCG is actually a hormone that is obtained from the urine of pregnant women. This is actually what a pregnancy test is looking for (So ladies, as my wife just learned, these test don’t frequently give a false positive, unless maybe you’re injecting HCG). Don’t freak out, it is sterile. Actually, it is most commonly used as a fertility drug for both men and women (not sure how a low dose would effect fertility but if you don’t want a curtain climber you may want to reconsider). It accomplishes this by having a similar function to Luteinizing Hormone. In Women this causes ovulation and in men it can increase testosterone and sperm count as well as activity. So I am sure that you are wondering how this can suppress hunger when given in a low dose….me too. Actually there are a few studies that demonstrate a leptin response in vitro (injected directly a cell), however that is far different that a system injection in many cases. So the only way that we really know if it works is through a double blind controlled study comparing the diet with HCG versus the diet alone. Fortunately there have been about 14 thus far, most of which are over 20 years old. Why are they so old? Why aren’t there any new studies if the diet is so popular? As it turns out they were pretty conclusive the first time. I have attached a link to one below: http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/reprint/29/9/940
The results?: 12 out of 14 showed quite a bit of weight loss for both groups but no significant difference between the too. One study showed far more weight loss in the diet alone group. 1 study showed a much larger effect in the HCG group….guess which study the promoters of this diet mention…if any? What was interesting is that it does look like there is a bit of a placebo effect (but again not significant). The take home message, go buy a bottle of sterile water and inject it into yourself everyday while also eliminating all fat, and most of the carbs and protein from your diet. You will loose a lot of muscle and feel and look like you are starving to death but you will loose weight…I promise. Granted there are healthier ways to loose weight.
I remember when I first started researching this diet and found out that it was restricted to 500 calories per day. I looked at the Doc and said “No wonder they loose weight on this stupid diet, If I didn’t loose weight on 500 calories per day I would throw myself off the Ravenel Bridge!”. Obviously I wouldn’t do that but you get the point. Interestingly that very same doctor recently had a friend ask her to her on the diet. She refused being aware of the research and informed her of what the data said, so her friend went to her dermatologist who decided that it was worth a try (you couldn’t make this stuff up, a dermatologist prescribing a fertility drug for weight loss…seriously). Don’t be too surprised, it happens all the time. That’s why I don’t ask my doctor about the latest research on something. Most of them aren’t up to date because they don’t have time to be. Anyways, her friend lost 12 pounds!!! Outstanding! Then she ate 700 calories for 3 days and gained 3 pounds back! (whats interesting is that she only consumed an extra 600 calories total and gained 3 pounds yet 1 pound of fat is 3500 calories, that’s one reason why I am not a huge calorie proponent).
For more information on the research you can log into my mendeley account linked on my blog and do a search.