If you were overweight, would you take a weight-loss supplement formulated from the urine of pregnant women?

The supplement in question is HCG (Human Chorionic Gonadotropin). This hormone has been utilized as a medical solution since the 1950s. It was originally administered to boys in India to reverse their female physical traits, such as breasts.

In recent years, due in part to celebrity-authored diet books heralding the hormone, the HCG Diet has become quite popular.

Perhaps not a household name like Atkins, South Beach and the Zone Diet, the HCG diet has also experienced a resurgence because of laissez-faire supplement regulations on the Internet, fueling an explosion of companies hawking HCG online.

How does HCG Work?

Proponents of the HCG diet claim that the hormone resets the body back to its natural healthy fat metabolizing capability. The hormone influences your body to draw all of its energy only from your abnormal and excess fat, yet leaving your muscles and organs functioning healthily.

People pushing HCG also purport that the hormone helps your body reach a state where it can more effectively control hunger while burning fat quickly.

Claims of one to three pounds of weight loss per day are common on the HCG diet.

HCG signals the hypothalamus (area of the brain that affects metabolism) to mobilize fat stores. In pregnancy, this helps the body bring nutrients into the placenta, nourishing the fetus with the energy to grow.

Although the hormone is commonly associated with pregnant women, men are also able to supplement with the hormone and have naturally occurring levels in their system.

HCG supplements are most often sold in sublingual drops, although most dieticians would recommend being supervised by a doctor, who would most likely prescribe injections rather than drops or pills.

Because injections and doctors visits are often more costly than ordering a bottle online, the resurgence of the HCG diet has sparked controversy.

What are HCG diet dangers?

For starters, HCG is only licensed as a fertility drug. But diluted, unregulated forms are found all over the Internet.

The hormone is also used by some bodybuilders to increase testosterone production and counter the effects of diminishing testicle size during an anabolic steroid cycle.

The main kicker is that the HCG diet is severely calorie-restricted: 500 calories maximum per day.

Conventional wisdom recommends that adults consume at least 2,000 calories per day.

Consuming only 500 calories per day would make most dieticians’ hair fall out.

Under normal circumstances, that’s precisely what would happen if someone ate 500 calories a day. In addition, they would experience muscle loss, bone density loss and organ dysfunction.

What do proponents of HCG say about the dangerously low caloric intake?

The case for HCG supplementation is that it actively suppresses food cravings, and energy requirements are completely fulfilled thanks to rapid fat metabolism.

Although HCG dieters eat similar to the caloric intake of an anorexic, their bodies are acting as if they’re consuming much more.

“Even though you’re only consuming 500 calories while on the diet, your body actually receives thousands of calories to meet its energy requirements from the fat that is being broken down,” claims one website that sells the hormone.

“Once the diet ends this status quo remains because your body has been re-tuned to take its energy from excess fat rather than store it,” the website adds.

How long do you have to be on the HCG diet?

Most businesses that sell HCG online claim that if you have up to 25 pounds of weight to lose, it will take about 25 days to achieve the weight loss. A cycle of approximately 40 days is the norm for people with more than 25 pounds to lose.

Some on the HCG diet have failed to lose all the desired weight on their first cycle. They are advised to repeat the cycle after a period of three weeks; six weeks if on the 42-day program.

The Verdict on HCG

Testimonials of people losing dozens of unwanted pounds number in the thousands, but it’s probably best to consult a doctor, dietician, or naturopath before starting the HCG diet.

Judd Handler is a wellness consultant and freelance health writer based in Encinitas, CA. He can be reached at CoachJudd@gmail.com.

See also:

What is the paleo diet?