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The HCG diet: 6 things you need to know BEFORE you decide to do the HCG diet

The HCG diet combines daily shots of a hormone called human chorionic gonadotrophin (HCG) with extreme calorie restriction.

1) Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) is a glycoprotein hormone produced in pregnancy. The claim is that the HCG injections "suppress your appetite," however multiple studies find no difference between HCG and placebo on appetite (and no studies show an effect).[i,ii,iii]

2) Your minimum protein requirements (while on restricted calorie intake) is 1.0 to 1.5g/Kg of "ideal body weight", or not less than 72 to 80g/day. This is required to preserve both lean body mass (meaning muscle tissue, including your heart!) and bone mineral density during weight loss.(iv) The hair loss (that at least one person on the "diet" mentioned on the Dr. Oz HCG Diet segment), is a common side effect of VLCDs (very-low-calorie-diets), but may be related to protein as well as vitamin and mineral status. The deaths that occurred in the 70's from (over the counter) liquid diets were due to insufficient/poor quality protein intake.

3) The difference in weight loss between following 500 calories a day (which the HCG diet "requires") and following 1,000 calories a day is only one additional pound per week! Meanwhile the (nutrient) quality of the diet is exponentially lower, and the difficultly in following the diet is exponentially higher.  Point being, the excessive calorie restriction doesn’t actually have much benefit!

4) Calcium intake of 1,000 to 1,500mg/day is recommended (to protect bone mineral density), even on a "Step 1 Low Calorie Diet," which will require calcium supplementation. A Step 1 Low Calorie Diet is 1,000 to 1,200 calories  for women, and 1,200 to 1,600 calories for men. These are National Institutes of Health guidelines on the treatment of overweight an obesity.

5) Meeting minimum requirements of vitamins and minerals would also require taking a basic multiple vitamin while following this (and any low-calorie) diet.

It should give you pause, if the doctor you see isn't aware of the protein, calcium, and vitamin/mineral information discussed here.

6) If you use the HCG diet to lose weight, how do you plan to keep it off? Weight loss maintenance requires permanent lifestyle changes, that are best "practiced" while you lose the weight.

Finally, I have to say that I get very frustrated with our "wild west" medical system that allows physicians to prescribe any drug for pretty much whatever they feel like. Is this an example of the for profit medical system endangering the average uninformed consumer (even if the damage is limited to their back pocket)? Forget the Hippocratic oath, these docs care about one thing, money. Shame on them.

For additional information see:

(i) Greenway FL, Bray GA. Human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) in the treatment of obesity: a critical assessment of the Simeons method. West J Med. 1977 Dec;127(6):461-3.
(ii) Shetty KR, Kalkhoff RK. Human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) treatment of obesity.
Arch Intern Med. 1977 Feb;137(2):151-5.
(iii) Stein MR, et al. Ineffectiveness of human chorionic gonadotropin in weight reduction: a double-blind study. Am J Clin Nutr 1976 Sep;29(9):940-8
(iv) Dalton S. Overweight and Weight Management. Aspen Publishers 1997. Pg. 382.
(v) Lovejoy J, Greenway F. The Obesity Society Position Statement: HCG - An Ineffective Approach to Treating Obesity. 2013 (added 6-MAR-13)