Human Chorionic Gonadotropin, or hCG, is a hormone that women secrete during the early stages of conception. HCG is extracted from the urine of pregnant women and processed into supplements, either in the form of sublingual (under the tongue) drops, or as injections. Like insulin for diabetics, injections can be self-administered, but many dieters prefer to have them professionally administered at a weight loss clinic that specializes in the hCG diet plan.
Oral supplements of pure hCG are prescription-only, but homeopathic hCG drops (HHCG drops) can be purchased without a prescription. The latter arguably contain effectively no hCG, based on the homeopathic theory of using extremely minute dilutions of an active ingredient. Like other liquid homeopathic medicines, they bypass FDA restriction by being almost 100% water. Nonetheless, HHCG has a high volume of positive, unsolicited testimonials. Claims of one-pound-per day weight loss on a pure hCG diet are not uncommon.
The hCG diet got its start in the 1950s, with hCG having already proved successful for treating infertility problems in women and certain hormonal problems in pre-pubescent boys. Endocrinologist A.T.W. Simeons, pioneer of the official hCG diet, observed that by administering small doses of hCG to his obese patients, they would lose adipose tissue (accumulated fat) in trouble spots like the thighs, buttocks, upper arms and stomach while preserving muscle tissue.
Dr. Simeons claimed in his original manuscript, “Pounds and Inches”, that the glycoprotein hormone not only aids in collecting adipose tissue from the body, but also acts as strong appetite suppressant, allowing the dieter it maintain a under 500-calorie daily regimen without feeling hungry.
HCG remains FDA approved due to its origins as a fertility drug, but the agency discourages its use for weight loss, requiring labels on hGC products to state that the hormone has not been proven to accelerate weight loss, curb appetite or burn fat. The FDA has not positively refuted HCG weight loss claims, but is unwilling to endorse its use as a weight loss supplement without sufficient clinical evidence that the supplement is the active ingredient in the rapid weight loss that many dieters have experienced when using it.
Many critics insist that the key to HCG has less to due with dissolving adipose tissue and everything to do with the small number of calories eaten each day. Dieters are are prohibited from eating more than 500 calories per day. If they go over the limit, they’re required to drink nothing but water the following day and eat nothing but six apples.
On regular days, recommended foods are vegetables and organic meat and fish, while all carbohydrates, dairy, sugar and alcohol are off-limits. HCG advocates don’t necessarily disagree with the argument that Simeons’ Very Low Calorie Diet (VLCD) is the primary cause of weight loss, but point out that as long as hCG works as an appetite suppressant, the hCG/VLCD regimen is extremely effective.
In clinical settings, supervised programs offer packets of different lengths. Some clinics, for instance, offer a 3-week program for $500 or a 5-week program for $600. The patient receives daily injections during this period, after which he or she must go off the injections and eat normally for at least six weeks to prevent developing an immunity to hCG.
The hCG diet is not a panacea. It requires discipline, just like any other diet. While hCG might be effective in reducing one’s appetite, many overeaters eat habitually rather than being driven by appetite, so staying within the 500 calorie limit for several weeks is a project that should not be taken lightly. It’s highly recommended that anyone considering the hCG diet research the arguments for an against it thoroughly, and opt for clinical supervision if possible.