Ever taken a pregnancy test? If so, human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) might ring a bell. Naturally produced to support the placenta in pregnant women, HCG is the hormone pregnancy tests detect to give you that plus or minus sign. HCG is also used as a drug to treat infertility.
But what does all this have to do with weight loss? That’s the problem – not much. If you’ve followed diet trends over the years, you may have noticed the HCG diet crop up from time to time, and it’s made yet another comeback of late. The Internet is rife with ads for HCG products claiming to be a homeopathic method for rapid weight loss.
The idea behind homeopathy is that a very small amount of a substance can have the same effect in a healthy person as the regular dose does in someone who is ill. However, the FDA does not recognize HCG as a homeopathic drug, so these weight loss products are actually illegal.
HCG weight loss programs usually prescribe a 500-calorie diet in combination with the hormone to supposedly adjust your body’s normal fat composition, or “set point.” The set point theory is the idea that each person has a set body composition that your body’s metabolism works to maintain within a small range; some people have a higher set point and some lower. HCG claims to recalibrate your metabolism to a lower set point thereby encouraging weight loss.
Obviously, a 500-calorie diet will certainly lead to weight loss for most people, but HCG is an extraneous part of the weight loss formula. Studies have shown the hormone has no benefit for weight loss and such a restrictive diet may lead to nutritional deficiencies.
Diet pills, weight loss shakes, and fad diets — the allure of an easy and fast way to slim down is undeniable. But the effectiveness of these methods is often questionable, and in a case of HCG, also illegal. So unless you’re looking to lose weight in your wallet, don’t buy into the hype.