HCG Diet: Hip or Hype?

It seems like the HCG diet is popping up everywhere these days.  Ads and “success stories” are plastered all over the internet and magazines.  But unfortunately, most of the information out there is just plain false. Here are the answers and info you should know about this weight loss gimmick.

What exactly is the HCG diet?

The HCG diet is nothing new.  It was created by a British endocrinologist in the 1950s, but has resurfaced several times since then, including in the past few years.

The original diet involved extreme calorie restriction (500 calories per day) and daily injections of HCG (Human Chorionic Gonadotropin), a hormone that’s naturally produced by pregnant women. Proponents claim that the HCG hormone suppresses appetite and fights weakness and fatigue, enabling you to stick with the 500-calorie regime. They also claim that it favors weight loss from body fat, instead of muscle. 

The injections are tough to come by because they need to be prescribed by a doctor and injected every day. A month’s supply of injections (actual HCG hormones plus supplies) typically costs several hundred dollars.

These days, most people following this diet use homeopathic versions of HCG, sold as under-the-tongue drops.  The drops don’t require a prescription, are far easier to purchase, and can be significantly cheaper.  Depending on the brand, a month’s supply of drops can cost anywhere from $15 to $150.

Is the emphasis on the drops/injections or is it on the calorie restriction?

Companies selling the diet will tell you that you need both elements, but in reality, it’s the severe calorie restriction that causes weight loss.  The HCG hormones, whether in the form of drops or injections, have no added effect. Numerous scientific studies have debunked the diet’s claims.  Researchers gave one group of participants real HCG injections and another group placebo injections of an inactive solution, and there was no difference in weight loss between the two groups.

If you’re only eating 500 calories a day, and you stick to it, you WILL lose weight quickly—but you’ll be so ravenous, irritable, lethargic, and headachey from the calorie deprivation that you won’t be able to sustain this diet for long.

What does a daily meal plan on this diet look like?

The food is boring and bland and portions are miniscule.  Plus, there’s no way you can meet all of your nutrition needs eating just 500 calories a day. Here’s a sample day on the plan:

Breakfast:

Cup of coffee or tea

Lunch:

3.5 ounces boiled skinless chicken breast (no added fat)

2 cups spinach (no added fat)

One piece melba toast

One apple

Water/tea

Dinner:

3.5 ounces white fish (no added fat)

2 cups steamed asparagus (no added fat)

One piece melba toast

One orange

Water/tea

What are the pros for this diet?

None that I can think of!

How about the cons?

The drops and injections are useless and expensive.  And, if you’re using the real hormone injections, they may cause unpleasant side effects like acne, hair growth, or more serious effects.

If you’re only eating 500 calories a day, you’re going to be so hungry and deprived that your efforts will more than likely backfire and lead to binging, and consequently, regaining all the weight you worked so hard to lose.  Plus, extreme calorie deprivation and low blood sugar leaves you feeling terrible.  You’ll feel weak, exhausted, moody, and foggy-brained.  It’s definitely not worth the suffering. 

Losing weight at a healthy pace with a sustainable plan—which includes at least 1,000 calories of healthy, real food per day, along with regular exercise—is definitely the way to go if you’re looking for long-term results.

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For more information on losing weight, visit joybauer.com and follow Joy on Facebook and twitter.

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