Let me start this off by saying that I’m usually not a judgmental person. I’m just.. not. I feel like educated people should be able to make educated decisions about their lives without unsolicited criticism or influence from others. I also feel like after a certain age, you should be given the benefit of the doubt and it should be assumed that we’re all very intelligent. Hence.. I don’t judge. However.. for some reason, when it comes to health and fitness, this line is blurry for me. Why? Because even the most intelligent of individuals are still out there committing the most egregious of sins when it comes to health. I’m not talking about eating a whole bag of cheetos or slaughtering a whole pie. I’m talking about stuff like the HCG diet.
Table of Contents
- What is the HCG diet?
- What does the HCG injection do?
- Are there any significant HCG studies to review?
- Why is this 50 year old “diet” being reintroduced as new?
- What makes this so unhealthy?
Well, let me tell you. It consists of injections of HCG in your ass, and 500 calories a day. Ta da!
Wait… that’s it?
I can hear you asking it in your head. Of course that’s it.
Taking a look at HowStuffWorks gives a pretty thorough understanding of what the diet hopes to accomplish for any of it’s participants:
Shifting into the HCG diet is likely to be quite a lifestyle change. Participants are required to cut their caloric intake to roughly 500 calories and take a daily injection of HCG hormones. More water, vegetables and fiber in the daily meal plan is said to accelerate the weight loss [source: HCG Weight Loss]. There is no established exercise regimen, and the duration of the diet is up to the individual, as the plan dictates that the rules be followed until the target goal is reached.
The original HCG diet plan is quite restrictive and particular. For breakfast, you can have only tea or coffee without sugar. The diet puts a one-tablespoon limit on how much milk you can consume each day, so if you require milk with your coffee and tea, you’ll want to keep this in mind. For lunch and dinner, you can cook 100 grams (.22 pounds) of lean meat or seafood and pair it with one vegetable from this list of 13: asparagus, beet greens, cabbage, celery, chard, chicory, cucumbers, fennel, green salad, onions, red radishes, spinach and tomatoes. For lunch and dinner, you can eat one toast cracker and an orange, apple, half a grapefruit or strawberries [source: Goldsmith].
That explains the eating habits and how, on Earth, you’re expected to survive on 500 calories. But what about the injections? What is HCG? Ask HCGWeightLoss how this stuff works, and they’ll tell you the following:
In overweight people, HCG seeks out the stored nutrients in the fat cells. Liquefying the content of the fat cell, these nutrients are then flushed through the bloodstream. This naturally stored energy supplies the body with upwards to 2000 calories per day. While burning this stored energy, the body’s energy level increases and appetite decreases. The cells are emptied and shrunk down to sizes much smaller than normal cells. Therefore, inches, as well as pounds are lost on the program. — HCGWeightLoss
Let’s talk about that whole HCG thing. HCG stands for human Chorionic Gonadtrophin. You know how, when a woman believes they’re pregnant, they go and snag a pregnancy test? Well, those tests are looking for HCG, because it’s the chemical that pregnancy produces in the human body. According to The Daily Spark, it’s possible that HCG serves to break down stored abdominal fat to be used as an energy source for a growing fetus, thereby increasing the budding mom’s metabolism. This is why it’s assumed that HCG can do the same for the non-pregnant (quite a term, ain’t it?) as well. It’s also generated in the human body as an indicator of some cancers [Source: UFB], as well as a tumor. It can be prescribed by a doctor to increase fertility, as well as aid in the production of testosterone for men. Needless to say, it has its beneficial uses.
Notice I didn’t say anything about weight loss. Why? Because I can’t find any study to back that claim. In fact, a trip to the National Center for Biotechnology Information’s website produced a study titled The effect of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) in the treatment of obesity by means of the Simeons therapy: a criteria-based meta-analysis.
Guess what that said?
We conclude that there is no scientific evidence that HCG is effective in the treatment of obesity; it does not bring about weight-loss of fat-redistribution, nor does it reduce hunger or induce a feeling of well-being.
Got another. Guess what it said?
There was no statistically significant difference between those receiving HCG vs placebo during any phase of this study…
HCG does not appear to enhance the effectiveness of a rigidly imposed regimen for weight reduction.
Keep in mind, the daily injections of HCG are supposed to be the mitigating factor in whether or not you can handle getting by on 500 calories a day. If there is study after study after study after study that says it’s not possible, how are these people getting by? Apparently, there are people all over that are getting by on this diet, so what’s the deal?
I have a personal guess. You know how, if you go out of town for an extended period of time – say, for a conference or something – and your eating habits change drastically because you have to accommodate your new temporary schedule? You ever experience that feeling of, I don’t know, comfort or complacency accepting the changes in your eating habits? Maybe it’s attributed to mind over matter, maybe it’s your body getting used to the changes, maybe the lack of calories just konked out your ability to understand what you’re doing to yourself. Either way… the HCG can’t help you. Period. Your body is simply trying to accept the deficiency you’re forcing on it – and it may do a good job of accepting it at first – but you’re not becoming “less hungry” because of the shots.
The NHLBI advocates that a healthy weight loss plan will include cutting your caloric intake by anywhere from 500-1000 calories. Considering how the average person takes in about 2000 calories in one day (very base assumption) and it only takes 3500 calories to lose one pound… if you cut down to 500 calories in a day, it’s not going to take too long to see weight start falling off. Right? The deficiency of at LEAST 1500 calories is going to ensure that you lose at least one pound every two days.
I believe I can also answer that. You know the guy — yeah, the one with no medical credentials whatsoever — on the late night infomercials peddling the “natural cures” book that talks about how to save on prescriptions by instead going a more holistic route in regard to health? Well, his name is Kevin Trudeau and he’s taken up the task of reintroducing the HCG diet to the masses. In 2007, he wrote a book about how HCG is “the weight loss plan they don’t want you to know about.” His whole shtick is promoting cures that the government doesn’t/won’t advocate because the government is SO in bed with the pharmaceutical/food industry, they’re not going to promote something that will hurt their buddies’ profit margins. Regardless of whether or not I think there’s truth to that (I’m sure you’ll figure it out in my future posts), he’s profiting off of the fears and paranoias of the public. The FTC makes it their business to publish press releases about how much of a crook he is… and I’d hate to forget the lawsuit.
I’ll make it easy for you, so you can get a quick glimpse of the FTC’s beef with him:
During the ads, Trudeau claims that the weight loss plan outlined in the book is easy to do, can be done at home, and ultimately allows readers to eat whatever they want. However, when consumers purchase the book, they find it describes a complex, grueling plan that requires severe dieting, daily injections of a prescription drug that consumers cannot easily get, and lifelong dietary restrictions.
Because you’re not a gerbil. You’re a human being… and if you’re living a regular day as a carnivorous individual, you’re not going to be able to function on the portion sizes that 500 calories would allow you. A better question would be, “Why is the injection so pointless?” Now, that? I can answer:
When hCG was tested, it was compared to a placebo which included the Very Low Calorie Diet. And yes, VLCDs work. You will lose weight on one. Guidance and support can also be very helpful for weight loss; that’s why programs like Weight Watchers have regular meetings and weigh ins. Frankly, if you have to be accountable to someone for your successes and failures, you tend to be a little more serious about making an effort.
But what the clinical data shows is that when you compare the results of people on a VLCD and those on a VLCD and hCG, there is no perceptible difference—in weight loss, in perceived hunger, in anything.
In other words, it is the low calorie diet, possibly in conjunction with the regular support and guidance, that is responsible for the weight loss.
Not the hCG shots.
And even if it were effective, it would not be easy to obtain. You’d need regular intramuscular injections, a “friendly” doctor to prescribe it for “off label” usage, and it would cost you and arm and a leg. — UFB
I have my complaints about supplements, but I will save those for another rant. Why? Because I’m well over 1500 words on this one. The bottom line is this: considering injecting your body with a foreign substance all as a means of tricking it into undoing the years of damage you’ve BEEN doing to it… is not the answer to your weight loss problems. It simply isn’t. Trying to circumvent the process of healthy eating and regular activity will cost you every time, and seeing as how these injections and “treatments” are getting more and more radical by the day… following the wrong trend can cost you your life. Be happy, be healthy, but most of all.. be smart. : )
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