Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG) And Weight Loss: Fact Or Fiction?

[contentblock id=1 img=gcb.png]Over the past few years, we’ve seen a flurry of renewed interest in human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) for weight loss.

Even Dr. Oz has offered his (qualified) support for the program.

Not surprising, really.

I suspect this had something to do with Kevin Trudeau’s book, “The Weight Loss Cure ‘They’ Don’t Want You to Know About,”  which promoted a period of daily hCG injections for weight loss. The book received huge exposure and was a top seller in just about every market.

Anything Mr. Trudeau “recommends” should be approached with a great deal of skepticism. This guy is a con man with a long track record of fleecing the public of its hard earned cash.

He’s been fined by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for making false and unsubstantiated claims (apparently, he claimed his coral calcium supplement could cure cancer) and banned from making further infomercials (click here for info!).

He is now being targeted by the FTC for his “weight loss” book — for violating the previous court order that banned him for making infomercials for any other product other than books. This would be allowed provided he would not misrepresent the content of the books. The FTC claims his diet — which is advertised as “easy and simple” is anything but. Click here to read the FTC press release!

Some people believe Mr. Trudeau is the victim of some sort of conspiracy orchestrated at the behest of the pharmaceutical industry. Those folks should check out any of the over 400 customer complaints posted at Infomercialscams.com.

If he truly were the victim he claims to be, it seems unlikely he would insist on perpetuating the deceptive billing practices his customers accuse him of (most complaints are related to his “Natural Cures” publication, but I’m sure you’ll see similar ones related to his new book soon).

Before discussing human chorionic gonadotropin’s “place” in any weight loss strategy, let’s discuss what it is…

Human chorionic gonadotropin is a hormone produced during pregnancy. The hormone is present in the urine, and it’s the presence of hCG that home pregnancy kits are “checking” for when such a test is performed. In a nutshell, if hCG is present, you’re pregnant, if it’s not… you’re not.

Because it can also be created by some kinds of cancer, hCG can serve as an important tumor marker as well.

When human chorionic gonadotropin is prescribed in a medical scenario, it is either as a fertility medication (can be for both men or women), or to restore testosterone production in men.

But what about hCG’s role in weight loss?

In 1954, Dr. Albert T. Simeons, a British-physician claimed hCG injections would allow dieters to manage easily on a 500 calorie per day diet.

He claimed that hCG could suppress appetite, burn stored fat as well as redistribute fat from the hips, thighs and waist. Unfortunately, he had no clinical evidence to validate any of these claims.

But that’s not to say that hCG’s role in weight loss hasn’t been studied. It has. Quite extensively.

And guess what?

Not a single study indicates hCG has any benefit for weight loss (see JAMA 236:2495–2497, 1976, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 29:940–948, 1976, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 12:230–234, 1963, S Afr Med J. 1990 Feb 17;77(4):185-9, West Journal of Medicine 127:461–463, 1977, Archives of Internal Medicine 137:151-155, 1977).

Well, that’s not entirely true.

One study, the Asher-Harper study (performed in 1973), found that the combination of the 500 calorie per day diet and hCG injections offered a significant benefit to dieters, offering increased weight loss and a decrease in hunger.

It is this study that many of the advocates of the hCG protocol regularly cite when promoting this diet.

What they don’t do however, is cite this study (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol 29, 940-948), which was designed to…

“… retest the hypothesis of the efficacy of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) on weight reduction in obese women in a clinic setting. We sought to duplicate the Asher-Harper study (1973) which had found that the combination of 500 cal diet and HCG had a statistically significant benefit…”

In other words, these researchers attempted to duplicate the results of the Asher-Harper study. The result of their findings?

“HCG does not appear to enhance the effectiveness of a rigidly imposed regimen for weight reduction.”

A more recent study echoed this conclusion. “The effect of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) in the treatment of obesity by means of the Simeons therapy: a criteria-based meta-analysis” (see Br J Clin Pharmacol. 1995 Sep;40(3):237-43) concluded…

“… that there is no scientific evidence that hCG is effective in the treatment of obesity; it does not bring about weight-loss of fat-redistribution, nor does it reduce hunger or induce a feeling of well-being.”

This seems to be the general consensus for hCG’s role in weight loss—taking it simply makes no difference. Some go further—like Dr. Stephen Barret of Diet Scam Watch, who calls hCG “worthless as a weight loss aid.”

It’s important to note, however, that hCG is administered under the supervision of a physician (hCG is considered a drug and requires a prescription) along with a Very Low Calorie Diet (a diet providing 800 or less calories per day—also known as a “VLCD”). It is often accompanied by intensive one-to-one support.

This is often referred to as the “hCG protocol.”

We received a lot of angry comments from people (over at Real-Customer-Comments.com) who had used the hCG protocol to what they felt was a positive effect (these led to some interesting blog posts, viewable here, and here!). They felt we were “bashing” hCG, neglecting to recognize its role in weight loss.

Not so.

When hCG was tested, it was compared to a placebo which included the Very Low Calorie Diet. And yes, VLCDs work. You will lose weight on one.

Guidance and support can also be very helpful for weight loss; that’s why programs like Weight Watchers have regular meetings and weigh ins. Frankly, if you have to be accountable to someone for your successes and failures, you tend to be a little more serious about making an effort.

[contentblock id=2 img=gcb.png]But what the clinical data shows is that when you compare the results of people on a medically-supervised VLCD and those on a VLCD and hCG, there is no perceptible difference—in weight loss, in perceived hunger, in anything (while this may come as a surprise to many people, VLCDs themselves have appetite-suppressing effects).

In other words, it is the low calorie diet, possibly in conjunction with the regular support and guidance, that is responsible for the weight loss.

Not the hCG shots.

And that’s not the only problem…

In the old days, hCG was difficult to obtain, and prohibitively expensive. Now, hCG clinics are popping up all over the place. It is becoming relatively easy to obtain.

In fact, it’s very likely desperate individuals will have no qualms about turning to their credit cards to finance the protocol, figuring it is worth any price if it works.

But the hCG protocol is not a “quick fix” solution for weight loss. Even physicians who actively prescribe the protocol (like Dr. Ben Gonzalez, with whom our scientific and technical advisor Elissa had an interesting and spirited discussion here!) are quick to point this out.

Nonetheless, it is in danger of becoming so, especially as more and more people see the amount of money that can be made from exploiting a desperate segment of the population.

If you’re reading this review because you are considering the hCG protocol, we would strongly recommend doing some research on the better “conventional diets, especially if you have less than 50 pounds to lose (the top online diet programs are reviewed here, and we have an entire section dedicated to diets here!).

It’s very likely there is a practical solution our there that does meet your needs—perhaps you just haven’t come across it yet?

In the end, keeping the weight off requires significant lifestyle changes. This is why we prefer these programs… we feel they are far better solutions for long-term fat loss, health, and well-being.

Given what we know about the hCG protocol to date, there is no valid reason to recommend experimenting with it.

Related articles: hCG Diet Drops For Weight Loss

HCG Summary
 
  • Most people will lose weight on the protocol.
  • Protocol offers support and reinforcement.
 
  • Results due to VLCD – there is no proof that HCG is better than placebo.
  • Quality of clinics (and clinicians) vary.
  • Like other “quick fix” programs, prospects for long-term maintenance are murky.
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123 Comments

  1. To the editors:
    You can say 1,000 times that there is no clinical evidence to substantiate the claims of the hCG protocol and that anecdotal claims are not “evidence.” But none of that really matters. It doesn’t matter to ME whether clinical studies indicate that it helps weight loss or not. All that matters to ME is that hCG helped me lose the weight when nothing else could.

    I think that most people out there care more about how much hCG actually helps them rather than the conclusions of some “clinical studies.” And that’s where you’re meeting so much resistance. People come to this site to see consumer comments, which are inherently going to contain anecdotes. It’s hypocritical that you invite people to write comments on a topic and then continuously undermine those comments by adding your notes saying their experiences don’t count since they are merely anecdotal. That kind of thing tends to irritate people. But you don’t have to listen to me; this is just another anecdote so it has no value at all.

    Editor’s comments:
    It’s not hypocritical to point this out, when the mandate of this site is as much to educate as it is a place to provide comments. Obviously, you have not bothered to take the time to discover the mandate of this site.

    Second, neither of us have any way to authenticate ANY of the comments on this site – which means they could be completely manufactured by people with a financial conflict of interest in the sale or promotion of hCG. That’s another reason why it’s important to point why the clinical data is entirely consistent in its conclusion that hCG does not outperform a placebo.

    At least you’re correct about one thing; your comments and testimonials are entirely anecdotal.

    Post a Reply
  2. Hello I’m starting the HCG diet on Friday.

    I have been reading through the comments and see some talk about lost muscle mass.

    Does anyone know if weight training would help with that problem?

    Editor’s comments: On a 500 calorie per day diet. it’s unlikely you can do much about this, regardless of whether you weight train or not.

    Post a Reply
  3. I’ve just finished my second course of HCG. The first time, I started at 97kg and finished on 87kg 6 weeks later. I stuck to the programme religiously and felt great. I used HCG homeopathic drops, btw.

    The second course didn’t go as well. My family and I moved from Ireland to Germany (maybe not the best time to do a weightloss programme…) and I started cheating in week3. Added another week of low cal eating, but eventually caved in completely – still lost 6kg, but it was a real struggle. My verdict: HCG is amazing, I’m the lowest I’ve been for over 10 years. BUT – you have to take it seriously and stick with it properly!! It’s a lot of hard work and dedication BUT ONLY FOR SIX WEEKS, not months!!

    Editor’s comments: Your results are attributable to the low calorie diet only; hCG drops are a scam – they do not contain any hCG, which is a prescription drug administered via intramuscular injection. See the hCG homeopathic diet drops article for more info.

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  4. I am on day 10 of taking physician prescribed HCG injections and have lost 10 pounds so far. My question is how much of that weight is actual fat vs water vs muscle loss? My goal is to lose fat but not muscle (if that is possible on the 500 cal a day diet phase). I am following the program/diet plan to the T and some days are easier for me than others. I do not feel hungry, but am somewhat sluggish at times. I don’t have a lot of energy to workout vigorously like I usually do; so I try to go for daily walks instead. I’m really hoping that at the end of my 28 day program of taking the injections, I will see signifcant weight loss in inches as well as on the scale. My ultimate goal is for my clothes to fit bigger (right now they really don’t feel that big on me) than when I started. I have a lot of muscle so I want to be able to maintain that but lose the fat. I also am very concerned about not gaining the weight back after the 28 injections are finished. Any information would be appreciative. Thanks

    Editor’s comments: There’s no set rule on this – it’s largely an individual thing. That said, you will probably lose a lot of lean muscle mass on a calorie level this low. From the body’s point of view, muscle (which is metabolically active, meaning it in needs calories to sustain it) is the greatest liability in times of starvation – which for all your body knows is what you’re enduring now.

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  5. I have successfully completed Phase 1 of the HCG Diet and lost 20 lbs with a 40 day supply of physician prescribed injections. I am so close to my goal weight, and am very nervous and concerned about going into Phase 2 of the HCG plan because I do not want to gain any of the weight back. I have read Dr. Simeons Pounds and Inches guide and he mentions that once you are in Phase 2, you should start to resume eating normally (minus sugars and starches) when hungry and that you shouldn’t try and lose more weight and restrict calories. I am just 10 pounds shy of my goal weight and I want to lose those last 10 pounds but I don’t want to hinder my new set point by limiting calories that I won’t be able to maintain in the long run. Any advice would be appreciated. I want to thank the Editor’s comments in my post above. It was very informative and I definitely agree that I probably have lost a lot of lean muscle mass, which isn’t good. Thanks

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  6. I have been doing HCG drops for the past several months, following the phases as described in the information received with the drops. At first, I bought the more expensive drops thinking they would work better, but the last time I have been on the program I have bought the less expensive drops with the same amino acids (if not more) and they work the same.

    When I first went on the diet, I stayed on it the entire 6 week period and lost 37 pounds, then did the 6 weeks maintenance required to re-target the metabolism. Now when I use the drops, I stay on them approximately 2 weeks and go back on the maintenance for the required amount of time.

    The entire diet has to be read to understand how it works. I read several of the testimonials and did not see any of them explain why the diet works. Yes, when you consume 500 calories, you will lose weight, but what the HCG does is keep your body from going into the starvation mode. When your body uses the calorie intake, it then goes into the brown fat and starts burning it, thus the continued weight loss. I have now lost a total of 47 pounds and feel and look so much better. I would still like to lose 10 more pounds and with the drops I know I can do it. It works the same for me each time I start the program.

    It seems like I have more energy when on the drops. I do have low blood sugar and realize that a low carb diet is what works best for my body, and this could be the reason for my boost of energy. The only side effect of the low caloric intake I have found is that my stamina is not very high….so I sit down a few minutes and get up and go again. Bottom line is this diet works over, and over for me.

    Editor’s comments: Real hCG is a prescription medication that is applied via intramuscular injection (and there’s no evidence that it prevents your body from going into starvation mode). hCG drops are a scam; they do NOT contain hCG – even if you could buy the drug legally in drop form, without a prescription, there’s no evidence it can be delivered effectively via sublingual administration. Sorry, but you’ve been had.

    See the article on hCG drops for more.

    Post a Reply
  7. my third day . in breakfast i drink one of tea with one soon milk and little bit tofu. in lunch i drank tomato soup. i did not eat no snack yet but thinking to eat cottage cheese in dinner. i am vegetarian . please suggest if i am doing right or not. i am not hungary but i am feeling like eating. i am taking 15 drops three times.

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  8. I’m not a doctor or even someone that has had a weight issue all my life. Gained a few when pregnant, and over the last 20+ years have put on about a pound a year. With that being said i also had a hysterectomy last november 2011. Hormones out of whack and hotflashes like there was no tomorrow. So I tried HGC and besides the weight loss I experienced a few other AWESOME side effects:better sleep,no hot flashes (and I mean NO hatflashes), silkier skin, less hair loss,increased energy and a feeling of being balanced. Now , all I ever expected was the weightloss. I have no idea why or how it works but i wasnt hungry and the only negative side effect was when I went from a high carb diet to no carbs, for some reason i got headaches, but a melba toast later was feeling better. I think our bodies are so unique. I work at a school and i KNOW of at least 15 people at our school that have lost and kept off the weight by using the HGC protocal.being overweight is killing millions in this country, your body cant survive with this kind of weight. what I NEVER see in all of these review sites is someone stating how the loss of lean muscle is killing millions, or how ANYTHING that works for you that has so few side effects is killing millions.I spent hours and hours researching HGC and it just seems like the time,effort,side effects and results can come out to anything but a win win. I mean I can’t even eat McDonalds anymore because it just taste so bad after not eating high calorie/carbs for just a short time.Yes that is the diet not the drops but, Really,its cheaper than a gym, diet pills, weight watchers, and a plethora of other options and when you are done you are eating healthier and feel better. so I guess my question or comment would be… WHAT’S THE DOWNSIDE AGAIN? I went in for my post op appointment with a strong will to tell my doctor that i was going in the diet (just so she would know) and low and behold they were starting to prescribe it the following week. I guess i just cant see the downside to thinner healthier living, I cant expain faith,love,hate or jealousy but i know they all have lasting effects on our lives. people find what works for them. we live in a country that is riddled with pesticides and chemicals that are in EVERYTHING we eat and touch, we are an “instant” based world. This protocal calls for nitrate free protiens,fruits,vegatables,no sodas,sugars. So I’ve been had, fell for it,dooped, been ripped off, could have taken a placebo for all i know, WHO cares? I’m thirty pounds lighter,feel great, healthier than I’ve been in decades….. once again…. DOWNSIDE please?

    Editor’s comments: “…How the loss of lean muscle is killing millions.” Really? First, we’ve heard about it. Provide some clinical references to substantiate this statement, please.

    Regarding your comments on the “downsides”; apparently you think it’s OK for people to lie to you and take your money, as long as you obtain the results you were hoping for. Here’s the thing; we don’t know what’s in hCG drops, but one thing we know that is not in them is hCG. In our book, that makes the people who sell hCG drops scam artists, an no – it is not OK. And yes, the diet protocol will work just fine on its own.

    Post a Reply
  9. I myself have used the HCG and am getting ready for round 2. When I started I was 100 pounds over weight. I now have 77 pounds to go. I have went over the plan with my doctor and he uped my callorie intake from 500 to 1200 a day only because I exercise and I need more calories then what the diet calls for. Also be careful if you are taking any othe medications. My sister is on other medications while doing the HCG diet and her hair started falling out. So her doctor had to readjust her meds and that seemed to help. She lost over 60 pounds on HCG. If she can do it anyone can

    Post a Reply
  10. Love it . I’ve been looking for this info . Good info I’ll check back for information in regards to 1200 calorie diet.

    Post a Reply
  11. I did one round of HCG. I lost 25 lb s. I went off HCG and gained it back just as fast. I don’t want to have to take it forever. I need a diet that you can live with not a quick fix.

    Post a Reply
  12. today is my first day on hcg drops…i am using the homeopathic drops…i weight 164.2 and i need to be 145…i will keep updating here, i cannot stick to any diet, but will see how it works with the drops. i am prepared that its not easy but we will see

    Post a Reply
  13. I don’t know where to begin…I have read every
    comment and loved them; disliked the editor’s comments.

    I have atrial fibrillation, HBP, and was about 50 lbs. overweight. I have tried everything.
    I went on the hcg pellets through a doctor at a
    weight loss clinic. I lost 23 pounds on the 30-day “first round” and will begin another next week.

    Best thing I have ever done. I feel wonderful,
    have been eating up to 850 cals a day (which our clinic recommended – 750-850). They pointed out that at the time Dr. Simeon was
    developing the protocal he was giving it to overweight patients who did not work during the treatment. I am a busy realtor. I do about 30 mins. housework each day — which I love and sometimes some stretches. I am not doing my bike or treadmill right now.

    I would be so hungry on a regular 1400 cal a day diet and would lose and gain back. Two of my close friends have done this plan and have kept all of their weight off for over a year.

    As I said at first, it is the BEST. Probably saved my life. I am in my late 60’s, by the way.

    My doctor is “over the moon” with my improvement but doesn’t know I did the hcg.

    One more thing: I am the most dedicated of
    “skeptics” and did not believe this would work or that I would feel well. I admit I was
    wrong.

    Post a Reply
    • Editor’s comments: Sorry you disliked our comments, Phyllis, but we’re not here to lead a cheering section for hCG. Our job is to ensure our visitors know what the clinical evidence says for this diet. The fact that it is unequivocally unanimous in the fact that the hCG protocol does not outperform a placebo isn’t something you have to like, it simply is. And unfortunately, personal experiences to the contrary do not constitute evidence of effectiveness.

      Post a Reply
  14. I am 33 years old and been on hcg diet and shots for 11 days, lost 2 pounds so far! Is it normal?

    Post a Reply
  15. There are a couple of points that I would add to this, that – I believe – make the HCG protocol a more attractive prospect than a VLCD.

    1. The HCG program is “medicalized” – this is strong stuff, from the perspective of the placebo effect. Going into a clinic, seeing a clinician, getting an injection – these are incredibly reinforcing. As noted in this summary:

    “Patient expectations are important in determining the placebo effect. Treatments that are perceived as being more powerful tend to have a stronger placebo effect than those that are perceived to be less so. Thus, placebo injections have more effect than oral placebos, capsules are perceived as being stronger than tablets, bright-coloured placebos are more effective than light-coloured ones larger placebos have more effect than smaller ones, and two placebos have more effect than one. Also, the status of the treating professional is directly related to the placebo effect.”

    2. The daily nature of the injections means that patients are in regular contact with clinicians – thus, they’re given a lot of positive human reinforcement and approval. Human contact and support is vital for the success of many weight loss efforts, yet so many people go it alone. Via the HCG protocol, people are placed in a one-on-one, supportive environment, with professionals who are invested in their success. This is quite different than the usual distant/disinterested doctor-patient relationship. And it’s one that can be quite conducive to good results, as patients are motivated to meet the clinician’s expectations.

    Thus, I’m somewhat sympathetic, and can understand why certain people get defensive about our “attacks” on HCG. They feel they’ve been helped, and indeed they have. That doesn’t make it any less of a lie (or “unproven therapy” if you prefer), which is why we’re telling it like it is.

    Post a Reply
  16. I’ve taken the hcg drops and they do work. I live in New Zealand and doctors here don’t give hcg injections. My first round I lost 10kgs and I’ve just started again to lose another 10-15kgs. The drops are effective and I have energy, motivation and although I do feel hungry sometimes, I’m not absolutely ravenous. I would highly recommend hcg to anyone who wants to lose weight and wants something that will actually do what its claimed to do.

    Post a Reply
    • Editor’s comments: Unfortunately, the fact that you experienced positive results with hCG drops does not mean that they “work.” There are a million reasons why you may have experienced beneficial results and they have absolutely nothing to do with the amazing fat burning powers of the hCG drops. hCG drops are a scam, and quite possibly illegal. Real hCG is a prescription drug administered by intramuscular injection. So whatever it is you’re getting in the drops, it is not hCG. In addition, the fact that you have made another post on this web site in a transparent attempt to link to the provider of bogus homeopathic drops calls the authenticity of your testimonial into question.

      Post a Reply
  17. My boyfriend is a ‘quick fix dieter.’ I lost 80 pounds in less than a year, by not changing my lifestyle drastically at all. You think he would take my advice? Nah. So I said he could pick one quick fix product without me saying anything about it for one month. After that he had to listen to me to keep it off(which I have.) He picked an hcg supplement found at as seen on tv. Right on the front it says hormone free. Then proceeds to suggest you cut down your diet to less than what an anorexic eats at a mere 400 calories. Of course you’ll lose weight. Either way hcg should be prescribed by a doctor as it is a hormone. But if you insist on spending 100 dollars, cut out the middle man n make that your grocery bill for the month.

    My story ends with my boyfriend finally figuring out that its a hormone and starting yo listen to me, being already 30 pounds lighter in 1.2 months without hating me. Thank you as seen on tv hcg for letting my boyfriend know I’m always right:).

    Post a Reply
  18. This is the second time I have used the HCG injections. You loose inches very quickly – it seem that you quickly loose body fat in the place you carry the most fat. I don’t think anything is a miracle answer – but it’s a quick jump start and if you follow the metabolic program, they don’t tell you the HCG stops appetite. You buy a pil called Phentratrim that almost makes it difficult to eat – your not hungry at all. I lost 20 poinds and gained it back in 4 months because I didn’t follow the maintenance program! once you stop taking HCG and the appetite pill it seems like your body wants to add weight because it thinks you were starving yourself. If I Follow the mainentance program and continue taking Phentratrim – I think I will get used to eating less and maybe keep the weight off. We’ll See. Good luck to everybody trying sooo hard to loose weight.

    Post a Reply

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