How many diets have you heard of? Boot up your computer, open the paper, or turn on the telly, and you’ll be bombarded with advertising for Weight Watchers, Atkins, The Zone, NutriSystem, Mediterranean Diet, and plenty of others. (Doesn’t the Cookie diet sound cool?!) As you know by now, most diets don’t work; people end up ‘relapsing’ and making the same poor dietary decisions that lead to their weight gain in the first place.
I don’t like the word diet, because people tend to focus on aesthetic goals instead of their overall health. Our overly obese nation is more concerned with what the outside of the body looks like than what’s happening on the inside, and it leads to some pretty unhealthy but thin people. (Sounds like Skinny Fat to me!) When we compromise our health for aesthetic reasons, then we’re missing the boat on why we should be eating right and moving more. To me, the HCG diet misses the boat.
HCG, or human chorionic gonadotropin is a hormone that’s produced in the pituitary gland of men and women, as well as during the embyro/placenta during pregnancy. Thanks to the research of British endocrinologist Albert T. W. Simeons, it’s now being used as part of an ultra-low calorie weight-loss diet. How long? 500 calories low. (That’s like half of a meal!) During research of pregnant women in India and boys with Frölich’s syndrome he noted that lean tissue was spared while fat mass decreased. While practicing at Salvator Mundi International Hospital in Rome, Italy, Simeons developed a protocol of low-dose daily hCG injections (125 IU) in combination with a customized ultra-low-calorie (500 cal/day, high-protein, low-carbohydrate/fat) diet. This diet demonstrated the same loss of adipose tissue without loss of lean tissue. Since Simeons’ death, there’s been an increase in the use of hCG for weight loss, which has been met with warnings from numerous organizations regarding both the safety and effectiveness of the related diets. I pulled the following quotes from THIS article.
“We conclude that there is no scientific evidence that HCG causes weight-loss, a redistribution of fat, staves off hunger or induces a feeling of well-being.”
Another study published in The Western Journal of Medicine says:
“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.”
Even a dietitian at MayoClinic.com weighed in:
“Years ago, researchers studied HCG injections as a possible weight-loss aid. Results of most studies weren’t promising, however. In fact, HCG injections seemed to be no more effective than were placebos in promoting weight loss. Today, HCG injections are primarily used to treat fertility issues.”
Before I continue, I’ll include two different videos that ‘explain’ how the hCG diet works. Each video is from an HCG drop supplier, and they’re so convincing even I was saying that it sounds like a good product. Pick one video, or watch both, then we’ll continue.
Now, my biggest issue with the hCG diet really isn’t related to the administration of hCG, but to the diet and exercise recommendations. First, let’s consider the diet. 500 calories? Now, according to the second video, the use of hCG allows you to make up this energy deficit, and use your fat stores for the extra calories needed for daily activities. If you’re interested in caloric consumption, the participants in the Minnesota Starvation Experiment experienced a reduction from 3,200 calories per day to approximately 1,560. That’s a third the calories consumed by a population that lost approximately 25% of their body weight in a 24 week period. The explanations of the hCG diet explicitly say that the 500 calorie diet is an extremely important part of the diet, and that the drops on their own can’t account for weight loss. The 500 calorie per day restriction is the decisive factor in the effectiveness of the diet. 500 calories a day is going to cause you to lose weight, with or without hCG. My concern is of the dieting double standard: Most people would recognize the risks involved with a 500 calorie diet, but somehow it seems accepted when you’re taking hCG. That’s pure marketing.
As for exercise guidelines, the actual recommendation is to not exercise. That sounds great; so you just sit on your butt and the pounds just fall off? Essentially, that’s what they’re saying. That doesn’t sound very reasonable does it? Diet and exercise go hand in hand for fitness and overall wellness. This is a diet that eliminates exercise, minimizes caloric consumption, and depends on a some magic drops to strip pounds off your body with little effort. What’s my take on it?
From as far back as record goes, we’ve understood a correlation between diet, physical activity, and health. With modern medical and exercise physiology research, we now know even more about the human body, and it’s a wonder that diets such as this become popular with the evidence that supports healthy eating and regular physical activity. I find that it speaks to the issue of the obesity epidemic as a whole, and our over-marketed, quick fix society. Everything can be marketed to you, and it’s up to you as an educated consumer to understand what’s actually healthy and what are questionable practices and products. Unfortunately, many people go through life trying diet after diet, coupled with irregular exercise, and don’t make the lifestyle changes required to see true results. Exercise is a reward to the body, and you need to reward yourself more. Not for aesthetics, but for your health. A combination of strength training, anaerobic and aerobic interval training, and increased physical activity, are an important part of a healthy lifestyle. A healthy diet means eating well, it doesn’t mean eating less food just to get skinny. When you consider your health after you focus on aesthetics, you’re detracting from your overall wellness and quality of life.