HCG for weight loss: Are you sure?

I do not prescribe HCG for weight loss and here’s why. HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) is a normal pregnancy hormone that was first used in a European health spa about 50 years ago for weight loss. The HCG plan involves injecting this hormone into the muscle and going on a 500 calorie per day diet.

In response to inquiries stirred up by the diet’s popularity, the FDA warned in January that “homeopathic” forms of hCG, like lozenges and sprays, sold over the Internet and in some health food stores, are fraudulent and illegal if they claim weight-loss powers. The injectable, prescription form of hCG, is approved only as a treatment for infertility and other uses, and it is legal (but not recommended) for doctors to prescribe it “off-label” for weight loss.

The F.D.A. has also reiterated a warning, first issued in the mid-1970s, that is required on hCG packaging: It has not been shown to increase weight loss, to cause a more “attractive” distribution of fat or to “decrease hunger and discomfort” from low-calorie diets. The F.D.A. recently received a report of a patient on the hCG diet who had a pulmonary embolism, said Christopher Kelly, a spokesman for the agency. He said the hormone carried risks of blood clots, depression, headaches and breast tenderness or enlargement.

Pieter Cohen M.D., an assistant professor at Harvard medical school who researches weight-loss supplements, said that aside from the issue of side effects, the use of hCG as a diet tool was “manipulating people to give them the sense that they’re receiving something that’s powerful and potent and effective, and in fact they’re receiving something that’s nothing better than a placebo.”

Both the Journal of the American Medical Association and the American Journal of Clinical Nutritionsay that hCG is neither safe nor effective as a weight-loss aid. There have been no credible medical studies to prove HCG is safe and effective for weight loss and there are not likely to be any in the future.

Our weight loss program is supported by many years of research in major medical journals in lifestyle medicine, the Mediterranean Diet, exercise and stress reduction. Please see our success story video and weight loss pages. Call our office today to start your lifelong weight loss plan.