Those who watch my @sceptiguy twitter feed or follow this blog will know that one of my recurrent themes is the HCG diet. This page explains why.
Miracle diet scams
Miracle diet scams are one of the more pervasive forms of health fraud. Many countries recognise this and specifically address it within their regulation of health claims. The reason why these scams are pervasive is complex in one way but simple in another: in the end, people want to be thinner but are lazy. Even me, a regular cyclist. I don’t take enough exercise, I wish I was thinner and fitter, but I like food, I like beer, and I am lazy so sit on my hindquarters typing rather than getting on the crosstrainer.
Dieting is a multi million dollar business. Weight Watchers is a household name. And just as people wanting to lose weight are lazy, people wanting to make money are often lazy too (though I am sure some are also True Believers).
So you have a perfect storm: people eager to spend money, but well aware that the true answer – eat less and exercise more – is one they don’t want to hear.
The HCG diet
The HCG diet is a 500 calorie per day diet first proposed by British endocrinologist Albert T W Simeons in the 1950s. It was based on a set of observations of overweight boys with a pituitary problem ([W:Froelich’s syndrome]) and his work seemed to suggest that when treated with [W:human chorionic gonadotropin], a pregnancy hormone, and an extremely low calorie diet, the boys lost fat rather than muscle.
He published a book and opened a popular weight loss clinic, but attempts by others to duplicate his findings resulted in failure and the consensus is that, in the words of the American Society of Bariatric Physicians:
Numerous clinical trials have shown HCG to be ineffectual in producing weight loss. HCG injections can induce a slight increase in muscle mass in androgen-deficient males. The diet used in the Simeons method provides a lower protein intake than is advisable in view of current knowledge and practice. There are few medical literature reports favorable to the Simeons method; the overwhelming majority of medical reports are critical of it. Physicians employing either the HCG or the diet recommended by Simeons may expose themselves to criticism from other physicians, from insurers, or from government bodies The hCG diet is dangerous on two counts: it’s an off-label use of a controlled drug, and it involves dangerously low calorie intake.
And that should have been an end to it, but then along came [W:Kevin Trudeau]. Trudeau is a convicted fraudster who has used [W:infomercials] to sell a number of scams, including the HCG diet. With Trudeau’s assiduous promotion the “miracle diet” re-entered the public consciousness and is now firmly planted there despite the lack of empirical evidence that it works, and despite the obvious dangers of using extremely low calorie diets and off-label pharmaceuticals.
How sure can we be that the HCG diet is wrong?
Pretty sure. A lot of authoritative sources are in agreement on this.
- Does the HCG diet work – and is it safe? The answer is no to both ([W:Mayo Clinic])
- Fraudulent HCG products for weight loss, HCG diet products are illegal ([W:Food and Drug Administration])
- “I would not only recommend stopping this kind of practice, but I think it is very important for the federal agencies to consider to prohibit the use of HCG injections or hCG in the treatment of weight loss” – Dr. David Lau, president of Obesity Canada (source).
- “Although it may sound like a plausible weight loss plan, the scientific evidence for using hCG is lacking”. WebMD
- “Numerous clinical trials have shown HCG to be ineffectual in producing weight loss.” – American Society of Bariatric Physicians
Significantly, I can find no evidence of any authoritative source that contradicts this view. All promotion of HCG for weight loss appears at this time to originate with those selling the HCG diet, and none with credible independent sources.
HCG is not approved for weight loss in any jurisdiction I have found to date.
Posts discussing the HCG diet
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