The hCG diet is a very controversial weight loss method. It has defenders who assure its effectiveness, but the Food and Drug Administration of the United States (FDA) considers it dangerous, illegal and fraudulent.
But what is hCG? Why is it said that it helps with weight loss? Well, hCG refers to the hormone “human gonadotropin” whose levels are high in early pregnancy. It is also related to fertility treatments.
However, a few years ago, Dr. Albert Simeons proposed its use as a weight loss modality. Specifically, the plan suggests consuming just 500 calories a day plus a hormone injection. Of course, its implementation poses several risks. Next, we tell you all the details.
What is the hCG diet based on?
The hCG diet consists of extreme caloric restriction – only 500 calories a day – and the injection of the hormone hCG (human choriogonadotropin). This hormone is the one released by pregnant women to help the healthy growth of the uterus and the development of the fetus.
As a method of losing weight, its use became popular in the 1950s. According to its proponents, the hCG injection could decrease feelings of hunger and support weight loss. It was even claimed that it contributed to the redistribution of fat in the thighs, hips and stomach.
Despite this, there are no studies to support its safety and efficacy. On the contrary, most of the studies assure that the effectiveness of this diet lies in the low consumption of calories and has nothing to do with the use of the hormone.
In most tests, a placebo was given to one group of dieters and the hormone to another group. Weight reduction was found to be similar between both groups. In addition, they showed that hCG does not suppress hunger.
What does the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) say?
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved hCG as a prescription drug to treat female infertility and hypogonadism in men. However, they disapprove its use as a weight loss product.
According to this entity, manufacturers promote these products assuring that they “change abnormal eating patterns” or “reset the metabolism“. In fact, it is claimed that it can help you lose 10 to 15 kilos in 30 to 40 days.
Despite this, the FDA warns of its dangers, explaining that “any weight loss is due to extreme calorie restriction. No to hCG. ” In certain doses it puts health at risk.
For this reason, in 2016 they sent seven warning letters to the companies that marketed these products. They consider their commercialization as violating the law and only admit it when the doctor suggests them as part of a hormonal treatment.
How is the hCG diet planned?
Distributing 500 calories a day is not an easy thing. Therefore, it must be a very low-fat diet. It is divided into 3 phases:
- Loading phase: during the first 2 days, foods rich in fat and calories are consumed. In addition, the intake of hCG is started.
- Weight loss phase: From weeks 3 to 6, 500 calories are eaten along with the hCG. Only lunch and dinner are allowed.
- Maintenance phase: it is time to exclude hCG; In addition, food intake is gradually increased, but without sugar or starch, for 3 weeks.
The promoters of this diet recommend only 3 weeks in the middle phase for those seeking minimal weight loss. However, if a more significant weight loss is desired, it should be followed for 6 weeks. In fact, some repeat all the phases until they reach the expected weight.
Each meal should contain a serving of lean protein, a piece of bread, a vegetable, and a serving of fruit. Butter, sugar and oils should be avoided. In turn, you have to drink plenty of fluids, especially water.
Does the hCG diet help you lose weight?
In general, when you follow a low-calorie diet, the body uses its energy reserves to be able to carry out its functions. In this way, the accumulated fat begins to decrease.
To understand it better, it is worth remembering how metabolism works. All foods and drinks become energy through calories. When taken in excess, the body cannot use it and it tends to accumulate.
According to this, it is logical to think that the hCG diet does help in significant weight loss. And it is that, for an average adult, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the intake of 2,000 to 2,500 calories a day.
Risks of the hCG diet
Watch out! Although this eating model allows you to lose kilos, the truth is that it poses several health risks. Today, it is a type of diet discouraged by professionals. Let’s take a closer look at its dangers.
1. Impaired nutritional status of minerals
In a study published in the Latin American Archives of Nutrition, a group of obese women was divided into two. One did a 1,000-calorie diet and the other a 1,300-calorie diet.
At 12 weeks, the nutritional value of iron, zinc, copper and calcium was evaluated. Hypocaloric diets were recorded to impair the nutritional value of micronutrients.
Consequently, disorders such as anemia, hair loss, altered bone calcification and dental changes may appear.
2. Electrolyte imbalance
The blood contains electrolytes, which are positively and negatively charged ions. They have important functions in the body, such as nerve reactions and muscle function. An inadequate diet and a lack of vitamins can cause its imbalance. Its symptoms include the following:
- Irregular heartbeat.
- Changes in blood pressure.
- Nervous system disorders.
- Bone problems.
3. Irregular heartbeat
Heartbeats that are too slow or too fast can be caused by eating problems. This is because the heart is always on and needs energy all the time.
In fact, it is known that a deficient supply of energy produces structural and functional alterations in the heart in the long term. It usually appears in patients with anorexia nervosa, who also have a caloric insufficiency in their diet.
4. Various side effects
Science has shown that hCG can cause side effects such as:
- Edema or accumulation of fluids.
- Formation of blood clots.
- Enlarged breasts in men.
Calorie restriction can also lead to muscle loss, adverse mental and physical health effects, malnutrition, increased risk of kidney stones, and complications in people with diabetes and kidney disease.
Is it Safe?
At this point, remember that the FDA has not approved hCG as an aid to weight loss. Also, there is no evidence to support the purported benefits of this diet.
On the contrary, it warns of possible secondary effects due to the use of the hormone and due to the caloric restriction proposed by this regimen. So, if it’s about losing weight, it’s best to seek professional guidance from your doctor and nutritionist.