You may have just discovered the hCG diet, a hormone-based weight loss program that involves eating less and taking a hormone created from the urine of pregnant women.
It has been around since the 1950s, but has grown in recent times.
Here’s how it works: A pregnant woman produces a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin, which makes body fat available to nourish the fetus.
In the weight loss program, hCG, taken as daily injections or oral drops, is said to decrease appetite in men and women and burn existing fat. This would reduce problem areas like the hips, thighs, hindquarters, and stomach, and shed one to two pounds per day.
Oh yes, and dieters are limited to 500 calories per day. That’s about a third of the recommended daily calories for the average inactive woman.
Science does not confirm the supposed effect of hCG on weight loss. Over a dozen studies have shown that injections of hCG and a placebo are about as effective.
“Every time you give someone an injection, it has a huge placebo effect,” said Dr. Louis Arrone, director of the comprehensive weight control program at Weill-Cornell Presbyterian Hospital in New York.
In other words, weight loss is not a miracle.
“For starters, it’s the 500 calorie diet that makes people lose weight,” said CNN Food and Fitness Expert Dr Melina Jampolis. And subsisting on so few calories per day is frankly dangerous, she said, because the dieter is not getting the necessary nutrients.
“When you diet improperly, your body responds,” Arrone said. “It produces adrenaline; it produces other hormones that invigorate you. Now, that might sound great at first, but the problem is your body is getting the extra protein it needs from your own muscle and therefore you end up losing muscle.
HCG fans point to enthusiastic testimonials.
Published in Marie Claire magazine, an artistic director for a London fashion magazine recalled breathlessly how she lost 25 pounds on the diet, lost her “post-pregnancy stomach” and how her “long forgotten pants fit her perfectly.”
With such anecdotal evidence, people are happy to try it – even if it requires a daily injection that costs up to $ 1,500 per month.
“I think that underlines how difficult it is, that people are going to jump at anything,” Arrone said. “They are desperately looking for solutions.
The hormone has appropriate uses in treating fertility issues, but weight loss is not one of them, he said.