Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), a hormone glycoprotein that has been touted for its ability to promote weight loss since about the mid-1950's, has suddenly been given the cold shoulder by the FDA. The FDA says that numerous studies have confirmed that “homeopathic” hCG weight loss products are fraudulent and illegal. A number of mostly online sources have been selling so-called homeopathic hCG, claiming that a person can lose a pound of weight each day or reset their metabolism using hCG. The FDA says that this isn't true and seven hCG manufacturers have been asked to stop making the products.
What is hCG?
Human chorionic gonadotropin or hCG is produced in large quantities during pregnancy. It is also produced in smaller quantities by the pituitary gland in both men and women. It is responsible for maintaining the corpus luteum during the early stages or pregancy. The corpus luteum produces the hormone progesterone, which is important to sustain the pregnancy. Research has also indicated that hCG helps prevent women's immune systems from rejecting a fetus. The hormone hCG is used as a legitimate treatment to induce ovulation in fertility treatments for women as well as to facilitate the production of testosterone in the testes.
Hormone Hype and Weight Loss
There has been a lot of media about the role of hormones in promoting weight loss recently. Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy has become more popular as people like Suzanne Somers and Oprah sing it's praises for slowing the aging process and helping people with hormone imbalances lose weight. But do-it-yourself hormone therapy seems to be littered with fraudulent claims and sometimes dangerous risks. Bioidentical hormone doctors specialize in working with the complexities and eccentricities of hormones in the human body and are able to achieve success at promoting weight loss for patients because of their expertise in balancing these important chemical messengers. There is no scaled-down, DIY drug or treatment that can take the place of hormone therapy administered by an actual medical doctor.
Each individual has a different hormonal milieu to work with. It isn't as simple as just popping a pill or spreading some cream on your wrists. The hype about hormones has lead some people to try to do a quick weight loss fix by ordering homeopathic hCG and following the ultra-low-calorie diet recommended on the product labels. Unfortunately, experts agree that following an ultra-low-calorie diet does nothing to promote the development of healthy eating and lifestyle habits, which means that as soon as the diet ends, most people gain back all their weight. In addition, hCG has limited value by itself, particularly as a “homeopathic” remedy to promote weight loss.
Origins and Propagation of the hCG Fad
The FDA has finally outlawed hCG as a weight loss product because it seems that the weight loss that some people experience taking hCG and following the low-calorie diet has to do entirely with caloric restriction, not the hCG itself. A man named Albert T.W. Simeons originally developed the low-dose hCG weight loss strategy that included an ultra-low-calorie diet because he noted that a low-dose hCG injection in conjunction with an ultra-low-calorie diet promoted a loss of adipose tissues without a corresponding loss of muscle tissue. Recently, a study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism actually demonstrated this phenomenon in older men with androgen deficiency, but a meta-analysis discounted the results due to methodological problems with the research.
Most homeopathic remedies contain only trace amounts of the substances that purportedly have healing properties. In fact, some homeopathic remedies don't contain any of the healing substance at all. This, of course, is somewhat counter-intuitive to the way most Westerners think about medicine and how drugs work, but homeopathies are said to have their impact on our etheric body and must exist in miniscule trace amounts in order to be effective.
Whether you know anything about homeopathics or believe in their effectiveness or not, the reality is, hCG does not qualify as a homeopathic drug. When Simeons experimented with low doses (125 I.U.) of hCG, he wasn't trying to make the claim that hCG has homeopathic properties because hCG is a hormone and its function is to interact with other hormones in a way that produces a noticeable effect on the body; in this case, weight loss.
Nonetheless, people who were in the dark about what “homeopathic” means were bamboozled into thinking they were purchasing a legitimate weight loss product when they ordered hCG. Though the hormone itself, when present in sufficient quantities, may promote the loss of fat tissue while helping to maintain lean tissue in the body, it hasn't ever been shown to actually cause people to shed pounds.
Part Fad, Part Fraud, and Part Scam: The Truth Behind the hCG Diet
The hCG diet is an ultra-low-calorie diet of 500 to 550 calories per day. This is about a quarter of the number of calories recommended for an average adult male. Eating only 500 calories a day is risky and can cause malnutrition, electrolyte imbalances, cardiac problems, and gallstone formation. Most importantly, however, if you're only consuming 500 calories per day, any weight loss that you experience would be the result of caloric restriction, according to the FDA because over-the-counter homeopathic hCG has failed time and again to prove itself in laboratory studies as a component in weight loss.
Sadly, sticking to an ultra-low-calorie diet can actually be detrimental to your weight loss efforts. If you're restricting calories and you don't consume enough during the day, your body can start to become conservative about expending calories and start holding on to fat stores. Eating too few calories can actually cause your body to activate a stress response causing a host of real hormonal imbalances to manifest if none were initially present.
In particular, your body may start to release cortisol which causes a number of problems that counteract weight loss efforts, especially once you go off the diet. High cortisol levels over an extended period of time can promote the development of fatigue that can make it difficult to find the energy to exercise. High cortisol levels can also cause you store excess fat in your abdomen around your visceral organs (the worst place in your body to store fat).
Though the FDA certainly isn't right about everything, homeopathic hCG treatments for weight loss do seem to have a strikingly fraudulent flavor to them. When dieting, it's usually wise to stay away from fads that promise results too quickly and instead work on developing healthy habits that can last a lifetime.
About the Author: Jennifer is a content producer currently doing work for The PhysioAge Medical Group. If you are looking for ways to balance your hormones to help keep your body in perfect working order and slow the aging process, they can help.
Gever, J. (2011). FDA Yanks HCG Weight Loss Agents from Market. Retrieved December 6, 2011
Wikipedia (2011). Human Chorionic Gonadotropin. Retrieved December 6, 2011