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HCG: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Truth

  • March 29, 2011
  • RPh on the Go

HCG is the latest magic bullet in the weight-loss battle, and like all those that came before, it has its ups and downs. Dieters desperate for anything that seems like a solution are jumping on the bandwagon in droves, but is it healthy?

The claims are startling. Lose a pound a day, every day. Is it even possible that this is healthy? HCG is a hormone produced naturally by women’s bodies during pregnancy. In fact, it’s what those OTC pregnancy tests measure to determine pregnancy. The controversy centers around the 500 calorie diet recommended when using the diet – half of the daily calorie requirement recommended by conventional wisdom. The theory behind the diet is as simple as it is startling. HCG is thought to suppress appetite, making those measly 500 calories satisfying. In addition, the HCG is supposed to mobilize fat stores, burning off fat that may have accumulated by years.

Sounds great, and there’s a tremendous buzz. However, the American Medical Association and the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition have asserted that HCG is neither effective nor safe as a diet product. And even though this idea has been in circulation for about 50 years, there is no reliable scientific evidence that supports appetite suppression.

This is not the first magic bullet to hit the weight loss market. Remember ephedrine? Fen-phen? Look at how those turned out. Sure, people lost weight, lots of people. And lots of those thin people walked away with permanent heart damage and other problems.

One very significant argument is that it’s just not healthy for people to lose weight that quickly. While being significantly overweight is a health risk on its own, rushing weight loss usually results in a post-diet yo-yo effect. I’d venture to guess that most of the people touting the benefits of HCG today will gain the lost weight back in two years…and more.

Another thing to consider about the OTC products that recently hit the shelves is that, in order to be considered homeopathic – and as such unregulated by the FDA – the products on the store shelves claiming to be HCG can, by law, contain only trace amounts of the HCG hormone. There is no possible way these products could live up to the hype aside from power of suggestion. True HCG, administered by subcutaneous drops or injections, can only be prescribed by a doctor. The customers buying the OTC products are investing their dreams in a placebo.

My advice, if customers ask about this diet product, is to be cautiously honest. Let them know about the controversy and advise them to ask a doctor. Don’t go so far as to recommend or discourage use. As for me, I could stand to lose a few pounds, but I’m waiting for the jury to come in, just as I did when everyone was raving about fen-phen. I was glad I waited to see the results then, and I will be glad in a few years that I’m waiting now, even if HCG turns out to be the miracle we’ve all been waiting for. I’m content to plod along slowly with a healthy diet and exercise.

How about you? What does your crystal ball say about the latest in miracle cure for weight loss? Are you chomping at the bit to try it or content to let others be the guinea pigs while you wait and see, like me?

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