The Science Behind the HCG Diet

It is the position of the American Society of Bariatric Physicians, a group of over 1500 doctors focused on the treatment of the patients affected by obesity and associated conditions, that:

  1. The Simeons HCG method for weight loss is not recommended.
  2. The Simeons HCG diet is not recommended.
  3. The use of HCG for weight loss is not recommended.

Here’s What We Know...

I would love to be able to tell you that the HCG diet works and that you will keep off the weight that you lose. Unfortunately, that is not what medical science has proven about the HCG diet.

 

History of the HCG Diet

The HCG diet was first introduced by Dr. A.T. Simeons in 1954. HCG is a hormone seen in pregnancy. Dr. Simeons and providers that give HCG believe that HCG somehow helps decrease hunger on a 500 calorie dietSince its introduction, thousands of people have been on and off this diet.    

 

Do People Lose Weight on the HCG Diet?

Like many fad diets, people do lose weight on the HCG diet. Some lose a lot of weight. Unfortunately, the weight is usually regained, and sometimes more weight is regained than lost. 

 

My Experience

In my Arizona clinic, it seems that for every four or five new patients, at least one has been on the diet, lost weight and then regained that weight. More often than not I also hear that they have regained more weight than they lost.

 

Why does this happen? Weight is regained because you cannot sustain a diet of 500 calories indefinitely, especially not in the world in which we currently live full of readily available food, sweets and high-calorie beverages. In addition, this diet does not have enough protein to sustain muscle mass. When an individual loses muscle, metabolism slows and when calories are added back into the diet, resting metabolism will be lower than before and you will eventually gain more weight than you lost. 

About the HCG Diet

On this type of diet, with significantly low sugar (carbohydrates), the body will break down fat as its primary fuel source. This is not because of the HCG but because of the low amount of sugar/carbohydrate available to the body. It is the same reason why people who follow an Atkins-type diet are not hungry and lose a lot of weight even as they consume loads of meat, cheeses and other fat-containing calories. The concept of medical ketosis (this breaking down of fat for energy) was not discovered until after Dr. Simeons started using this diet. At the time, there was no other logical explanation for the lack of hunger on this diet and HCG seemed to fit as the answer.  

 

Medical science has come a long way since the 1950s. Through multiple studies of hundreds of patients, it has been repeatedly shown that if the individual is given HCG or placebo (salty water without HCG) during the diet, dieters cannot tell the difference. In other words, neither the control nor the HCG group is hungry, and the weight loss is believed only secondary to the low-carbohydrate diet. 

 

About the New Study and New HCG Protocol

Dr. Emma’s new study on HCG was presented on The Dr. Oz Show. In this study, 30 women were placed on HCG and 29 women received a placebo shot. The HCG group received a higher dose of HCG than previously studied. Both groups were on the same diet, which had a significantly higher protein content than that originally given by Dr. Simeons. When I analyzed Dr. Emma’s data for myself, I noticed that 20% of participants in both groups didn't lose weight at all during the study, because they couldn’t follow the protocol and dropped out of the study. Among those who did lose at least 5 pounds, I noticed that the median weight loss was the same in both groups, suggesting that HCG does not help weight loss. However, the study did suggest the HCG group retained more muscle mass; however, I think it may be due to chance.

 

If this same study is repeated with more patients, Dr. Emma suggests that the evidence for HCG’s effects on muscle retention and weight-loss maintenance will become more obvious. I do not know what the results will be from that study; however, I always encourage medical research.  

 

Hope Remains

I still have hope for patients to lose weight – but not because of HCG, and not because of this diet. It is because I and other medical obesity specialists have scientifically proven tools to help individuals lose weight and sustain weight loss using a combination of healthy diets, proper exercise, behavioral and lifestyle changes and perhaps weight-loss medications. For the best odds at success, these tools have to be used together and for long periods of time.

 

Medical Society Position Statements on HCG:

American Society of Bariatric Physicians (released 2009)

The Obesity Society (released 2013)