An In-depth Look at the HCG Diet: Fad or Fantastic?
Discovered in the 1920’s, HCG is a hormone produced by women only during early pregnancy which peeks at 14 weeks1 to sequester calories and nutrients for the fetus regardless of how much or how little the mother eats. How does this work? HCG is reported to selectively metabolize calories from areas with high fat stores, such as the abdomen, hips, and thighs.
This hormone was first used for dietary support in the 1950’s2 and has recently become very popular for its effectiveness. The diet consist of a small amount of HCG given via injection or sublingual tablet daily along with following a strict very low calorie diet (800-1000 per day recommended by our clinic) for a period of 23 days. During that period, your body will go into a fat burning, or ketotic, state which will shrink your fat stores from “problem areas” such as the abdomen or thighs. Your body will then use the calories from the fat to sustain your energy, giving you the ability to adhere to the VLC diet. Most patients report losing between ½ to 2 pounds a day. The maximum weight allowed to lose in a 23 day period is between 35-40 pounds. If the desired weight is not reached, another round can be completed after a 6 week resting period.
As with any prescription medication, HCG has side effects which may include headaches, mood swings, depression, anxiety, insomnia, sluggishness, and weight rebounding. HCG should not be used during menstruation due to the potential for ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS)3, a possible complication in in-vitro fertilization. People with serious medical issues such as severe heart disease and uncontrolled diabetes would not be a candidate for this treatment. Also, HCG is not FDA approved for weight loss. HCG is only approved as a fertility aide due to the increased number of cases of women on HCG getting pregnant. This being said, there have been very few reports of any adverse reactions to the HCG diet and many success stories.
The HCG diet, along with naturopathic stress management, diet modification, and detoxification of toxins and pesticides, is a potentially powerful tool for people struggling with weight loss. Incorporating a stress management routine can also decrease the abdominal “pouch” created by chronic elevations of cortisol (stress hormone) in your body.4 Gentle detoxification before the start of an HCG diet can minimize side effects of the pesticides and toxins being released from the fat stores.5 Using the HCG diet in addition to a complete naturopathic stress reduction and detoxification program can be a jump start for effective, lasting weight loss and optimal health.
Dr. Sonja Fung is a naturopathic doctor at the Live Well Clinic. If you are interested in HCG treatments and weight loss, go to www.livewellclinic.org or call 760-771-5970. Live Well Clinic is located at 78370 Hwy 111, Ste 100 at Point Happy Plaza in La Quinta.
Sources: 1) Stenchever, Droegemueller, Herbst, Mishell. Comprehensive Gynecology, 4th Ed. St. Louis, MO, 2001. 2) Simeons ATW. The action of chorionic gonadotrophin in the obese. Lancet 2:946-947, 1954. 3) Identification of the high-risk patient for ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome. Semin Reprod Med. 2010 Nov;28(6):458-62. Epub 2010 Nov 16. 4) Femke Rutters; Arie G. Nieuwenhuizen; Sofie G. T. Lemmens. Hypothalamic–Pituitary–Adrenal (HPA) Axis Functioning in Relation to Body Fat Distribution. Clin Endocrinol. 2010;72(6):738-743. 5) Jandacek RJ, Tso P. Factors affecting the storage and excretion of toxic lipophilic xenobiotics. Lipids. 2001 Dec;36(12):1289-305.
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