I’ve been meaning for a while to comment on the HCG diet.
You’ve probably seen it advertised on the internet – its everywhere these days. You can get it in spray, sublingual, pill or injection form. Recently the FDA stated that selling HCG as a weight loss substance amounted to economic fraud. What really got me fired up about it and finally drove me to my computer to blog about it is that I heard about a friend of a friend, who paid $200 for 4 weeks worth of HGC pills – and get this, she gets to eat a whopping 500 calories per day! Will she lose weight like this – WELL YES. If she tossed those pills out she would still lose weight. There’s so much to say about it, I almost don’t know where to begin.In the first place the idea about the HCG promoting drastic weight loss has many studies disproving it. I don’t want to reinvent the wheel so if you want a pretty good run down of the research which disproves it, please have a look at this site. I chose this site to link to because there is a good amount of research links in one place for anyone who is interested if you want look at this research and come to your own conclusions. There are other research articles I found as well, and I’ll list them at the end of this post. I did actually find one study that supports HCG and if you want to read it go here . But after you do, please for your own good health, read on.
What is HCG anyway?
HCG is a hormone – human choroionic gonadotropin. It is a hormone secreted by both men and women, but has very significant roles in pregnancy and is used to confirm tests. It has at least two functions related to maintaining a pregnancy. One is to assist in the production of another hormone, progesterone which helps to line the uterus and make it thick and nutrient rich for the growing fetus. The other is to protect certain cells from being attacked and destroyed by the body’s immune system – the cells that make up the fetus.
But there are other cells besides a fetus that use HCG too
Cancer cells use them. Tumors can ‘hide’ in the body by secreting HCG. Pretty awesome that cancer can do that – but deadly for us. And luckily we know that cancer does this. And because we know cancer does this, HCG is also considered a tumor marker.
Well - right there is one good reason I don’t want to be taking HCG.
It doesn’t take Einstein to figure out that if you are taking HCG you run the risk of hiding tumors that might be growing inside you such as cancer of the testes, ovary, liver, stomach, pancreas, and lung. In fact having HCG on board might cause them to develop at a quicker rate at what they otherwise would. But those that promote the use of HCG for weight loss, don’t mention that. What they do say is that, it can actually be used to treat breast cancer and they link to several studies that show this.
Well, they are correct, but it’s not the whole story.
What has been shown to protect women against breast cancer is a full term pregnancy at a young age. The hormones that circulate in pregnancy and are involved in protection against developing breast cancer later in life are HCG and another hormone called Luteinizing hormone. The HCG site seems to indicate that if you take it, it is preventative against breast cancer. What is correct is that HCG is of INTEREST in protecting against breast cancer. Studies are still underway and eventually it may be used as preventative medicine, but we are a long way from that. I hate that the site implies that if you take HCG it may actually be beneficial for you in this regard.
What they don’t tell you is that…..
HCG promotes androgen and some tumors such as prostate cancer are fuelled by this. Prostate cancer is one of the slowest growing cancers, but not with HCG on board. Contrary to this, the promoters of HCG state on their website that HCG can reduce risk of prostate cancer because it helps men lose weight and obesity is linked with cancer. Quite a bit of fancy verbal dancing there don’t you think? Well, YES, obesity increases risk of many cancers and prostate is one of them. But don’t be mislead to think that HCG can reduce your risk of prostate cancer.
Studies on this issue are scarce but I did did find a study that states that HCG could assist in the destruction of prostate cancer cells, but that was in combination with radiation or lovastatin, a cholesterol drug. I found some disturbing anecdotal comments by people who have taken HCG – or their spouses have, and as a result, caused very rapid growth of tumours they didn’t know they had. Have a look here and here.
To my mind the risk of hiding or advancing the growth of cancer is the most serious risk that you take with HCG but there are other things that are worth knowing too. OK, so you will lose 1-2# per day on this diet. You have to stick to diet of 500 to 800 calories to do this. It is what is known in health industry terms as a ‘very low calorie diet’. In addition it’s a very low carbohydrate diet too. Of course you will lose weight on this diet. What the HCG diet claims is that with out HCG you will lose muscle mass, and with it, you will hang on to your muscle and you will ‘reset’ your metabolism. There is no proof of this.
The Natural Medicine Data Base
says that on the basis of the available evidence HCG is ‘LIKELY INEFFECTIVE’ for weight loss. The success of HCG is not supported by peer reviewed scientific research. The data base reports that although a 500 calorie per day diet will result in weight loss over the short term, the long term effectiveness of HCG isn’t known. I think its pretty well guaranteed that you will put that weight back on as soon as you stop your 500 calories per day. The American Institute for Cancer research reports that of fourteen studies on weight loss with HCG there were two that did show benefit. But one of these lasted only 3 weeks, and the other only 6 weeks. The remaining 12 studies didn’t show any benefit between the placebo and the HCG. In other words, they didn’t continue with 500 calories long enough to see how people would comply with it, and of course – may be they were concerns about long term use of HCG and safety.
If after reading this and researching yourself about HCG and you are still bound and determined to take it, my recommendation is don’t do this on your own. This is a diet that you should only do under the supervision of a qualified medical practitioner and even then only for a very short time. The Natural Standards Data Base reports that it is POSSIBLY SAFE when used appropriately and for short term. The data base also cautions against using it if you are pregnant because it caused a high rate of abnormalities occurred in offspring when it was tested with animals. Although it is generally well tolerated, other adverse events when using HCG are causing ovarian cysts to grow and rupture, the accumulation of fluid in the abdomen (usually this condition is associated with those who have cirrhosis, liver cancer or congestive heart failure ), tumors of the testes and decreased or absent testosterone in men.
So I guess I will save my hard earned dollars and not spend it on HCG pills or injections. If you are considering it, I hope this post will have given you food for thought.
W.J Assendelft, G.K Lijesen, I. Theeuwen and G. Van Der Wal, “The effect of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) in the treatment of obesity by means of the Simeons therapy: a criteria-based meta-analysis,” The British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology 40 (1995): 237-43