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Not Quite right it is. It comes in the form of nasal sprays, under the tongue drops or hormone injections.

These daily hCG injections or drops are combined with a very low calorie diet (500 calories/2100kJ), with claims that you will lose up to 1 kg per day (insert drum roll) from all the right places. It also promises that the low calorie componemt of the diet will be bearable due to the appetite suppressing effects of hCG.

What are in these fancy HCG products that will set you back lots of $$

HCG Hormone Injections:

They contain the active hormone, Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG) that is normally produced in the first trimester of pregnancy by the placenta. Injections with hCG are mostly used to treat those with infertility issues or males who are lacking testosterone.

Sublingual (under the tongue) drops and intranasal spray of HCG:

Spray: Cyanocoblamin (B-12), L-Carnitine, Ornithine, Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG)

These products usually contain some type of amino acid mixture, some even contain some vitamin B12 and a particular concentration on the hCG hormone.

One particular pharmacy "is pleased to inform you" that they purchase pure and sterile hCG powder extracted from human urine which then gets converted into Sublingual Drops containing a certain concentration hCG.

How about the homeopathic version of HCG?

The homeopathic version contains miniscule amounts of the active hCG hormone diluted in ‘expensive’ water.

Something to ponder over - In the USA homeopathics fall under the control of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and late in 2011, the FDA banned the use of hCG in homeopathic products and declared them fraudulent and illegal. However, these product are still allowed to be sold down under.

How about HCG products minus the HCG!?

As the Food and Drug Administration in America have placed restrictions on the use of the hCG hormone for weight loss, a clever marketing company has come up with an ingenious idea of bottling up only the "weight reduction qualities" of hCG without actually containing any "real" hCG hormone in their product. They claim, "We are in compliance with FDA guidelines" whilst routing individuals of $$$ for providing merely amino acids and herbs inside a bottle claiming to do wonders for those areas of stubborn fat.

But the HCG DIET is doctor prescribed and monitored!

Yes, popularised by Dr. A T W Simeon 50 odd years ago, GP’s started implementing this diet in their practice and as it currently stands, a prescription is required for all hCG products that are not homeopathic as they all contain therapeutic doses of hCG.

As more and more evidence became available suggesting in fact that hCG did not assist with weight loss or appetite suppression some GPs stopped prescribing it. However unfortunate, some are still stuck in their ways or may not be aware that the research states the use of hCG for weigh loss may be misleading to the consumer and that Clinical trials failed to demonstrate a weight loss or physiological or psychological benefit of hCG over placebo.

The infamous Dr. Oz who is now known for endorsing dubious products, featured Dr. S L Emma's updated version of the HGC diet on his show. Dr. Emma's "dosing method is customised, with much higher doses of HCG than previously published". Dr Emma claims to have extensive research in hCG and has become the leading expert in the field of hCG treatment. It is mind boggling as to how one can claim to have done extensive research on the topic and not have any published studies. In fact the only evidence of research by Dr Emma I came across was what seems to be a poster presentation entitled HCG Injections in a Randomized, Double-Blinded, Placebo-Controlled Trial. In her conclusion, even she agrees with the numerous studies that showed HCG had no impact on overall weight loss of individuals when compared with placebo. The world would have been a better place if the conclusion had ended there, however, Dr Emma then goes on to state that hCG should rather be used as a tool for creating a “stable environment” in the body during a very low calorie restriction to prevent the sarcopenia (muscle wasting) which readily occurs with use of such a low calorie diet. How was muscle wasting measured in this study you ask? Your guess is as good as mine. This poster presentation is weak to say the least.

What does the real evidence tell us

No, HCG does not make you change how you lose weight or redistribute fat

No, HCG does not reduce hunger or create a feeling of well-being

No, HCG does not aid with weight loss

For links to studies and journal articles have a read of this blog by dietitian Jessica Fishman Levinson and this blog by pharmacist Scott Gavura.

If you look really closely you'll find these disclaimer statements on the very sites that sell the weight loss dream:

The statements made about hCG, diet or weight loss have not been evaluated by the FDA (America) or Therapeutic Goods Association (TGA) (Australia). These products and information are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease. The use of hCG has not been approved by the FDA or TGA as safe and effective in the treatment of obesity or weight control. There is no substantial evidence that hCG increases weight loss.

I went one step further and looked into these statements, as I wasn’t familiar with the fact that TGA formally disproved the use of the product. To my dismay I was correct, the TGA hasn’t formally made any statement on the use of hCG for weight loss. My assumption is that these Australian sites copied the American disclaimer as it is true that the FDA does not approve the use of hCG for weight loss. In 1976 FDA-mandated disclaimer be used for HCG diet advertisements.

Is the HCG diet dangerous?

Alarming is the measly intake of foods you are allowed daily for a 21-day period.

2 x protein (100g protein serves)

2 x serves of vegies (only of a specials selection of vegetables)

2 x pieces of fruit (you only get to choose from an apple, or orange or some strawberries or grapefruit)

and finally 2 x bread sticks

Such a restriction can put you at risk of gallstone formation, an imbalance of the electrolytes that keep the body’s muscles and nerves functioning properly, an irregular heartbeat, the refeeding syndrome, macro and micronutrient deficiencies and not to mention the likely hood of developing disorder eating and a poor relationship with food.

If you thought that was odd, here are some HCG diet NQR rules that will get you scratching your head.

Throw out your skin care products that contain oil, the oil may get absorbed and prevent you from weight loss.

No medicines or cosmetics other than lipstick, eyebrow pencil and powder should be used.

Sun-tan oil should not be used.

No massage of any kind! Your body may absorb this oil and cause you not to lose weight.

Have as many tea of coffees as you like - No sugar though and no more than one tablespoon of milk for the entire day.

The juice of one lemon can be used daily for any purpose

The 2 breadsticks or 2 pieces of fruit may not be eaten at the same time

If your weight has plateaued you can have an "apple day" - An apple day is when you eat ONLY 6 apple in the 24hr period with no other food and minimal water

Australia needs to do its part to protect its consumers from misleading statements on products, particularly those which claim to have health benefits. TGA stated that they do perform reviews on products and that If one wishes a review to be made on a particular product a formal request for a compliance review can be submitted on their website. Until then please don’t be marketed into trying the HCG diet for weight loss. It is misleading and can be dangerous.

As a dietitian, time and time again I have seen how unsustainable and short lived these approaches are and most will have re-gained any weight loss by the 5 year mark. Just remember if something doesn’t feel right it probably isn’t. There is no quick fix to weight loss and there is no magic pill. Food doesn’t need to be classed as good or bad, clean or dirty. Food is just food. You will be able to enjoy all the pleasures of food and live a healthy life by incorporating a mindful approach and learning to listen to your body’s cues.

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