'HCG Diet' for Weight Loss?

Low-dose human chorionic gonadotrophin (HCG) combined with a severe diet remains a popular treatment for obesity, despite equivocal evidence of its effectiveness.
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Friends, I could probably figure out a way to beat around the bush and make this post the standard length. But given the apparent popularity of variations on the "HCG diet" theme, and the clarity of the one and only appropriate response to it -- I won't. This will be brief.

The HCG diet is entirely bogus. I believe it it will separate you from your money, and possibly your health.

The only advocacy for this diet comes from those peddling it and profiting from it.

I have done my best to search the world's scientific literature objectively, and the below abstracts constitute the bulk of the yield. They constitute a clear, scientific indictment of an insidious exploitation of weight loss desperation that has waxed and waned with memory. When people forget that HCG diet claims are all false, its popularity rises again.

Along with avoiding this dangerous snake oil yourself, please do me a favor and help spread the word. Just one word about the HCG diet will do. I won't say the word, but its initials are: BS.

Dr. David L. Katz

1. S Afr Med J. 1990 Feb 17;77(4):185-9.

Human chorionic gonadotrophin and weight loss. A double-blind, placebo-controlled
trial. Bosch B, Venter I, Stewart RI, Bertram SR.

Department of Medical Physiology and Biochemistry, University of Stellenbosch,
Parowvallei, CP.

Low-dose human chorionic gonadotrophin (HCG) combined with a severe diet remains
a popular treatment for obesity, despite equivocal evidence of its effectiveness.
In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, the effects of HCG on weight loss
were compared with placebo injections. Forty obese women (body mass index greater
than 30 kg/m2) were placed on the same diet supplying 5,000 kJ per day and
received daily intramuscular injections of saline or HCG, 6 days a week for 6
weeks. A psychological profile, hunger level, body circumferences, a fasting
blood sample and food records were obtained at the start and end of the study,
while body weight was measured weekly. Subjects receiving HCG injections showed
no advantages over those on placebo in respect to any of the variables recorded.
Furthermore, weight loss on our diet was similar to that on severely restricted
intake. We conclude that there is no rationale for the use of HCG injections in
the treatment of obesity.

PMID: 2405506 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

2. Am J Clin Nutr. 1976 Sep;29(9):940-8.

Ineffectiveness of human chorionic gonadotropin in weight reduction: a
double-blind study. Stein MR, Julis RE, Peck CC, Hinshaw W, Sawicki JE, Deller JJ Jr.

Our investigation was designed to retest the hypothesis of the efficacy of human
chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) on weight reduction in obese women in a clinic
setting. We sought to duplicate the Asher-Harper study (1973) which had found
that the combination of 500 cal diet and HCG had a statistically significant
benefit over the diet and placebo combination as evidenced by greater weight loss
and decrease in hunger. Fifty-one women between the ages of 18 and 60
participated in our 32-day prospective, randomized, double-blind comparison of
HCG versus placebo. Each patient was given the same diet (the one prescribed in
the Asher-Harper study), was weighed daily Monday through Saturday and was
counseled by one of the investigators who administered the injections.
Laboratory studies were performed at the time of initial physical examinations
and at the end of the study. Twenty of 25 in the HCG and 21 of 26 patients in the
placebo groups completed 28 injections. There was no statistically significant
difference in the means of the two groups in number of injections received,
weight loss, percent of weight loss, hip and waist circumference, weight loss per
injections, or in hunger ratings. HCG does not appear to enhance the
effectiveness of a rigidly imposed regimen for weight reduction.

PMID: 786001 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

3. West J Med. 1977 Dec;127(6):461-3.

Human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) in the treatment of obesity: a critical
assessment of the Simeons method. Greenway FL, Bray GA.

Injections of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) have been claimed to aid in
weight reduction by reducing hunger, and affecting mood as well as aiding in
localized (spot) reduction. We have tested these claims in a double-blind
randomized trial using injections of HCG or placebo. Weight loss was identical
between the two groups, and there was no evidence for differential effects on
hunger, mood or localized body measurements. Placebo injections, therefore,
appear to be as effective as HCG in the treatment of obesity.

PMCID: PMC1237915
PMID: 595585 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

4. Arch Intern Med. 1977 Feb;137(2):151-5.

Human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) treatment of obesity. Shetty KR, Kalkhoff RK.

After a nine-day control period, six hospitalized obese women were placed on 500
calorie diets and were given 125 IU of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG)
intramuscularly daily for 30 days. Another five obese women received injections
of diluent only and consumed identical diets for the same period. Mean weight
loss in the HCG-treated group was nearly identical to that achieved by women
given the placebo. Reduction of triceps skinfold thickness or circumferential
body measurements of the chest, waist, hips, and thighs were not different.
Patters of change of a variety of plasma and urine substrates, electrolytes, and
hormones were similar in the two groups and consistent with semistarvation and
weight loss. These results indicate that HCG has no effects on chemical and
hormonal parameters measured and offers no advantage over calorie restriction in
promoting weight loss.

PMID: 836112 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

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