Is the HCG Diet a Successful Means to Permanent Weight Loss?
By: Dr. Sherman C. Smith, MD, FACS
“The negative effects of obesity on good health have long been appreciated, and the list of medical conditions associated with obesity is lengthy. It is not surprising that many types of cancer seem to be associated with the problem of obesity.”
Human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) is produced by the placenta signaling the hypothalamus to mobilize fat stores in the pregnant woman. This helps bring appropriate energy to the developing fetus for growth and development. There are some cancers from the reproductive cells in the men and women which also can secrete this hormone.
The recent resurgence of interest in this hormone has raised questions about the validity of relying on HCG to help people tolerate an extremely low caloric intake of 500 Kcal/day. While the first attempts at using this approach date back to the 1950’s, strong surges of interest have resurfaced about every ten years.
In 1975 during a similar flurry of curiosity in this weigh loss method, the FDA stated, “HCG has not been demonstrated to be effective adjunctive therapy in the treatment of obesity. There is no substantial evidence that it increases weight loss beyond that resulting from caloric restriction, that is causes a more attractive or ‘normal’ distribution of fat, or that it decreases the hunger and discomfort associated with calorie-restricted diets.”
Many individuals claim to have had success with this regimen; however, several scientific studies using a placebo control group in a prospective fashion have proven that there is no discernible difference in weight loss outcomes. Nor is there an improvement in the tolerance of such a restrictive diet with the help of HCG.
While we all hope for that magic pill or injection which will make weight loss successful and durable, there remains a paucity of proof that the HCG diet fulfills that hope. Any diet which includes only 500 Kcal/day will lead to dramatic weight loss in the normal adult. Eventually, returning to normal caloric intake is inevitable to survive, and weight regain is likely to occur.
The good news in the world of treating severe clinical obesity is that certain surgical procedures do that proven value. They have stood the test of time and the scrutiny of science. They include Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass, Adjustable Gastric Band, Biliopancreatic Diversion (Duodenal Switch), and Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy. These procedures all help people to adapt to a lower caloric intake. These procedures are successful and durable.
Many comorbid conditions of obesity including sleep apnea, hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes and heart failure have all been shown to improve or even disappear following weight loss surgery. We recommend these procedures for patients with a Body Mass Index (BMI) equal to or greater than 35.
About the Author:
Dr. Sherman C. Smith, MD, FACS, had practiced general and bariatric surgery in Salt Lake City for the past 25 years. He was a graduate of Brigham Young University and received his Doctorate Degree at the University of Utah School of Medicine in 1972. He served in the US Army Medical Corps for eight years before beginning private practice at Rocky Mountain Associated Physicians.
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