Misguided and reckless. That’s the only way to describe the nature of the weight-loss industry today. Now many doctors are jumping on the bandwagonby promoting “Doctor Prescribed hCG Diets” to their patients. The fact remains, if you ask any of these doctors just how hCG – Human Chorionic Gonadotropin – works, they can’t tell you.
HCG was first discovered in the urine of pregnant women in the 1920’s. It wasn’t until the 1950’s that Dr. Simeons started to promote the notion that supplementing with the protein peptide could aid in weight loss when combined with an ultra-low calorie intake of six hundred calories a day. It was touted that Dr. Simeons was the physician who helped Hollywood movie producers get their female leading ladies into shape for their upcoming movie roles. Hence the mystique and allure of his diet.
There is some evidence that hCG can cause an advanced utilization of energy in the face of caloric deficit. The way it does it however, is NOT healthy as I will illustrate.
There is plenty of research in humans using hCG due to its efficacy as a fertility drug as well as its effect on woman during pregnancy. A cursory review of research points to hCG’s potential to both modulate and stimulate Thyroid Stimulating Hormone production and thus metabolism. It most likely does this in an effort to alter the mother’s metabolic rate to divert more of the available energy, nutrients and minerals to the growing fetus. Keep this in mind. hCG most likely causes you to sacrifice important nutrients, vitamins, minerals and macronutrients.
So what does all of this mean to the person who has been lured into thinking the hCG diet is the magic bullet in weight loss and weight management? First, we have to establish an important fact. In simple terms, weight loss is the change in gravity’s effect on the body of mass being weighed. If you have a person who is 180 pounds (81 Kilograms) and they lose 30 pounds (13 Kilograms), when they step on the scale they will weigh 150 pounds (68 Kilograms). This would appear to be a huge victory in weight loss right? Not necessarily.
The only thing that burns calories at a large and continuous rate is muscle. Muscle is metabolic currency. The more you have the more energy you expend, even sitting still at rest. This is called your Metabolic Rate. Let’s say that your Metabolic Rate when you start the hCG Diet is “X”. You lose your requisite 30 pounds in 30 days.. yippee.. you’re going to look so good at your high school reunion! Not all of what you’ve lost is fat. On a typical hypo caloric diet like the one proposed in the hCG Diet of six hundred calories a day, you are normally going to lose a large percentage of your weight in muscle. On the hCG Diet you have the potential to lose even more muscle because the protein peptide hCG is working in a way that makes your body think it has a fetus to protect. Your physical protection and conservation is of less importance.
On a hypo caloric diet of six hundred calories a day, your body turns to both fat and protein to produce the required glucose to run the body’s functions and systems. The process of gluconeogenesis takes ketones from fat and amino acids from protein to make glucose. Under normal conditions, when a diet is low in energy intake from food, the body cannibalizes its fat stores and muscle mass to supply the ketones and amino acids. Add to that a hormone messenger like hCG that tells the body the growing fetus is more important. The scales are tipped even further for muscle loss, bone loss, energy deprivation and vitamin diversion. All of this equals a state that puts your body at great risk.
So you’ve lost your goal weight of 30 pounds. But now your Metabolic Rate is minus “X”. It’s less than it was before going on the starvation diet because you’ve lost much of the machinery than burns calories in the first place. This means that when you come off the hCG diet you are most likely going to put more weight back on than your 30 pound loss once you start eating a normal diet again. This is what happens to almost every person who does the hCG starvation diet. It happens even if you eat “sensibly” because your new body requires far less energy due to its new, lower, Metabolic Rate. The weight you will put back on will almost exclusively be fat accumulation. Fat does not burn calories.
Now, you can keep doing the hCG diet on and off for some time, and I’m sure the doctor prescribing it will be happy to take your money. Each time you will whittle down the body’s metabolic currency of muscle until you can do it no longer. But this is not the worst part.
Every week I have a person who contacts me with complaints of one or more of the following sleeplessness, anxiety, night sweats, racing heart, brain fog, lethargy or weakness in the lower limbs. When queried about their eating habits they almost always say that they eat infrequently and very little food as a rule. The first thing I suggest is to buy a cheap Glucometer at their local pharmacy and take a fasted blood sugar reading the following morning. The following conversation is almost always the same. Them “my blood sugar is 113 (or some similar number above 100)”. Me “you’re pre-diabetic and your symptoms are most likely a result of varying periods of hypoglycemia / hyperglycemia because your body is having trouble regulating blood sugar”. Them “that can’t be… I’m skinny. I can’t have diabetes”.
Loss of muscle will result in the body’s inability to manage blood sugar due to the onset of insulin resistance regardless of if you can fit into a size four dress or a pair of twenty four inch waist jeans. So each time you whittle your body’s metabolic machinery down in pursuit of changing your gravitational effects on a scale you tip the scale toward metabolic syndrome.
Doctors who lure uninformed patients to this reckless style of weight loss should be ashamed. Losing weight is never a good idea when muscle is at risk. Sensible eating plans that allow you to lose one to two pounds per week have been shown to spare more muscle than extreme diets like the hCG Diet. They also don’t because the rebound effect of greater weight re-gained.
In summary you should pay far less attention to the scale and more attention to the mirror. If the scale is moving slowly, but you see signs of leanness - like being able to see muscle separation, blood vessels and smooth skin where dimples once were – this should be the benchmark for progress. Weight loss for the sake of ANY weight loss is not advisable.
Next time you see one of those ads hawking a Doctor Prescribed hCG Diet steer clear of it. Doctors get approximately 25 hours of nutritional study while in medical school. Doctors know little to nothing about diets and foods effects on weight loss.