Wednesday, October 5, 2011

hCG Diet: Glorified Starvation

Recently, while working out at my gym, I participated in a somewhat heated discussion regarding the 'hCG Diet'.  If you know me, or have been paying attention to anything I write, you are already aware that I am not a fan of any extreme diet, diet pill, or any other unmaintainable lifestyle that shoots for skinny instead of healthy.
The point I try to drive home, whenever anyone asks me about hCG, is that it simply is not healthy or maintainable.  The diet consists of injecting or orally ingesting the hormone while only allowing yourself 500 (or less) calories per day.  It is generally very low-carb and very low-fat (P.S. low-fat and Atkins-esk diets tend to be horrible for you in the long run).  All in all, it's glorified starvation.  Your body needs at least 800 calories each and every day to simply survive.  More if you are at all active (as in you actually have to get out of bed each day and function).  When you send your body into starvation mode, your body will store fat and feed off of muscle.  This is not what you want your body to do, people.  You need muscle to give you strength to perform daily activities.  You need calories to give you energy to live -- and I mean this in both the most basic and most extensive form of the word live.
Fans of this plan (which to me sounds suspiciously like a concentration camp diet) boast that hCG is 'all natural'.  I'll grant you that.  hCG is a natural hormone produced by the body during gestation.  However, many companies are selling synthetic versions of hCG.  My other point... do you know what else is 'all natural'?  Grass, blood, marijuana, urine, dirt, tree bark, and bugs.  But I don't suggest you eat or inject any of those into your body for weight loss purposes.
Other supporters of this diet will spew information about hCG opening the 'garage doors' to your fat cells so that your body can eat up all your fat.  I'm sorry, but it doesn't work that way.  Have you ever seen a pregnant woman boast about her weight loss simply because of the hCG her body is suddenly producing?  And if (big IF) it did work that way, how do you explain the need to drastically reduce caloric intake?  It doesn't. make. sense.  If you only eat 500 calories a day, of course you will lose weight.  You are starving yourself.  It's called an eating disorder.  It's not fun.  I've been there.
People who participate in this plan are looking for that magic solution.  They are looking for the next cabbage soup diet or grapefruit diet, praying that this time it's the real deal.  But, I'm telling you from experience, starving yourself is not the way to do it.  It's not worth it.  You absolutely cannot maintain that sort of extreme lifestyle.  The side effects of starvation, both short term (hair loss, constipation, lack of concentration, irritability, sleeplessness, lethargy, etc.) and long term (infertility, thyroid disorders, slowed metabolism, higher susceptibility to eating disorders, etc) are not worth it.  If you want to lose weight and be healthy, you have to work hard and eat healthy.  The slower you lose it, the longer it stays off.  If you lose it over night, it will come rushing back on (plus some).  At some point, you will crash.  You simply cannot abuse your body with such careless abandon and expect to stay healthy.
Be healthy.  Love yourself.  And thank you for keeping me In Good Company.

Below you will find information from both Wikipedia and US NewsPlease feel free to educate yourself further.

Human chorionic gonadotropin or human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG) is a glycoprotein hormone produced during pregnancy that is made by the developing embryo after conception and later by the syncytiotrophoblast (part of the placenta),[1][2] but it is not known whether this production is a contributing cause or an effect of tumorigenesis. hCG is also produced in the pituitary gland of males and females of all ages.[1][3]

Human chorionic gonadotropin interacts with the LHCG receptor and promotes the maintenance of the corpus luteum during the beginning of pregnancy, causing it to secrete the hormone progesterone. Progesterone enriches the uterus with a thick lining of blood vessels and capillaries so that it can sustain the growing fetus. Due to its highly-negative charge, hCG may repel the immune cells of the mother, protecting the fetus during the first trimester. It has also been hypothesized that hCG may be a placental link for the development of local maternal immunotolerance. For example, hCG-treated endometrial cells induce an increase in T cell apoptosis (dissolution of T-cells). These results suggest that hCG may be a link in the development of peritrophoblastic immune tolerance, and may facilitate the trophoblast invasion, which is known to expedite fetal development in the endometrium.[5] It has also been suggested that hCG levels are linked to the severity of morning sickness in pregnant women.[6]
Because of its similarity to LH, hCG can also be used clinically to induce ovulation in the ovaries as well as testosterone production in the testes. As the most abundant biological source is women who are presently pregnant, some organizations collect urine from pregnant women to extract hCG for use in fertility treatment.[7]
Human chorionic gonadotropin also plays a role in cellular differentiation/proliferation and may activate apoptosis.[8]

Weight loss
A controversial usage of hCG is as an adjunct to the British endocrinologist Albert T. W. Simeons' ultra-low-calorie weight-loss diet (less than 500 calories). Simeons, while studying pregnant women in India on a calorie-deficient diet, and “fat boys” with pituitary problems (Frölich's syndrome) treated with low-dose hCG, claimed that both lost fat rather than lean (muscle) tissue. He reasoned that hCG must be programming the hypothalamus to do this in the former cases in order to protect the developing fetus by promoting mobilization and consumption of abnormal, excessive adipose deposits. Simeons, practicing at Salvator Mundi International Hospital in Rome, Italy, recommended low-dose daily hCG injections (125 IU) in combination with a customized ultra-low-calorie (500 cal/day, high-protein, low-carbohydrate/fat) diet loss of adipose tissue without loss of lean tissue. After Simeons’ death, the diet started to spread to specialized centers and via popularization by individuals, such as the controversial author Kevin Trudeau, famous for promotion of alternative therapies and treatments.
The controversy proceeds from warnings by the Journal of the American Medical Association and the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition[16] that hCG is neither safe nor effective as a weight-loss aid.[17] However, recent studies in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism show hCG can have an effect on the lean body mass of older men with androgen deficiency.[18]
A meta analysis found that studies supporting hCG for weight loss were of poor methodological quality and concluded that "there is no scientific evidence that HCG is effective in the treatment of obesity; it does not bring about weight-loss or fat-redistribution, nor does it reduce hunger or induce a feeling of well-being".[19]

Homeopathic hCG for weight control

Controversy about, and shortages[20] of, injected hCG for weight loss have led to substantial Internet promotion of "homeopathic hCG" for weight control. The ingredients in these products are often obscure, but if prepared from true hCG via homeopathic dilution, they contain either no hCG at all or only trace amounts.
The United States Food and Drug Administration has stated that this drug is fraudulent and ineffective for weight loss. It is also not protected as a homeopathic drug and has been deemed an illegal substance.[21][22]
According to the studies noted above, the weight loss indicated by individuals on an "hCG diet" can be attributed entirely to the fact that such diets prescribe a consumption rate of 500-550 calorie per day, or approximately one quarter of what is commonly accepted as the daily recommended value for a male adult of average build and activity. Further, double-blind studies note no decrease in appetite by those taking hCG versus individuals on placebos and have offered no evidence that individuals taking hCG are more likely to lose fat than lean tissue. Long-term results caution that unlike individuals participating in a diet of, for example, 1100 calories per day those on a 500 calorie per day diet are unlikely to develop more appropriate eating habits and will gain weight more quickly after the diet has completed.

US News:

HCG Diet Dangers: Is Fast Weight Loss Worth the Risk?

It's dubious. There's no good evidence it works. But hCG dieters insist they're dropping pounds fast
Angela Haupt

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