Drastic Measures: HCG Injections for Weight Loss
Are HCG injections for weight loss really effective?
So, I was chatting with a coworker the other day when she mentioned a new diet program she'd been on for the past few weeks. In just about 30 days she'd lost 35lbs. "Give me some love," she says as she holds her hand up for a high five.
I gave her the props but also instinctively said something to the effect of respecting the weight loss more if it were due to hard work (oops). To me, it seemed like congratulating someone for losing 20lbs of fat after they had liposuction. Yeah, I said that out loud too. Anyone can pay for an instant--or near instant-- fix, but to someone who gets up before the crack of dawn to work out nearly every day, this just seemed a bit unfair. This thought I managed to keep to myself.
What is hCG
hCG stands for Human Chorionic Gonadotropin and is a hormone produced during pregnancy. It has traditionally been used as a fertility treatment
The hCG Diet
As she explained more about the program though, I had to wonder how much of the loss was due to the HCG injection versus the EXTREMELY restrictive diet she had to follow. I mean, wouldn't anyone lose weight when consuming just 500 calories per day? You read that right, PER DAY, not per meal!
Steamed veggies and tiny portions of a healthy protein are probably always a good meal guideline but ONCE per day? That's just insane. And no working out. Perhaps that's because they don't want the density of muscle affecting the perceived weight loss, but I'm guessing that on so few calories, you also wouldn't have the energy needed for an effective workout.
Now I've heard of diets where you can't consume oil, but on this you can't even WEAR it. No oil-based body lotions. Fortunately for her, Aveeno came to the rescue but still, the thought of not being able to use a lotion because of a diet just seems whack to me.
She also explained that the program "resets your metabolism." I'm sure it does but not in a good way. As you'll discover by reading more of my posts, I'm all about organics and whole foods but deprive your body of the nutrients it needs and you're just begging your metabolism to take a nosedive. On 500 calories a day, your body's going to think it's in starvation mode and begin to shut down the metabolism. She also said it flushes fat in a non-pregnant woman because the hormone is not being directed to the placenta, so it has to rid the body of the fat that would be directed to or shared with the unborn baby.
Sounds to me like the clinic has the marketing speak down to a science, even if the science itself says quite the opposite.
The hCG Hype
She says she's not hungry and will do a second cycle. There are no side effects (except pregnancy I suppose if that's your actual goal as opposed to weight loss). 40 days. $750. Is it worth it? Is the loss long-term? Is it safe? Well, the monetary value is a personal assessment although I'm sure we've all spent more than that for the sake of vanity at some point in our lives. But the long-term efficacy remains to be seen.
The fact that the FDA has never approved hCG injections for weight-loss treatment doesn't mean much to me. I don't trust them either and am certain their favor is bought and sold by industry lobbyists on a regular basis. Don't agree? Then consider the drugs that make it to market that are later taken off market because it has finally harmed enough people. Or think about the long disclaimers on every drug commercial that have worse side effects than the original problem for which the drug was prescribed.
What does mean more to me is that scientific studies have demonstrated that hCG injections do not cause weight loss and that blind studies show those taking the injections lost the same amount of weight as those just following the restrictive diet.1
So, I do indeed give her props--for being able to stick to such a restrictive diet for 40 days at a pop. Personally, I'd rather enjoy my whole grain pasta and raw sugar and do an early morning workout. Besides, the workout really sets the tone for a great day.
I firmly believe that like most diets and quick-fix solutions, if you don't change your mind or your habits, you will find yourself back in the same place one day. That applies to diet, weight, finances or any habit that has us in a negative place.
Change your thoughts, change your actions, change your world. Really.
1. For more on the studies, see this comprehensive article.