Have you heard of the HCG diet? It’s been around for over 60 years. I first heard of this diet in 2007 in a book called “The Weight Loss Cure They Don’t Want You to Know About”. What I would like to do here is review the scientific studies that have been performed on the HCG diet protocol and let you draw your own conclusions about whether HCG injections help weight loss or not. This review will focus on the original version of HCG diet – the version that uses injections of the hormone HCG. Also see the review of HCG drops (homeopathic version) for more insights.
What Is The HCG Diet?
HCG stands for human chorionic gonadotropin. This is a hormone that women make when they are pregnant. In fact the most natural way to raise HCG levels is to get pregnant.
The HCG diet dates back to about 1954 when a doctor named Albert Simeons started giving HCG injections to obese people. He published his study in the Lancet, a well known medical journal.
The HCG diet basically consists of daily HCG injections coupled with a 500 calorie diet. In addition people are also told to refrain from using hardly any fat. Even the fats in cosmetics are to be avoided during the HCG diet. There are many HCG diet books to help people with
the food portion of the program.
According to Simeons, giving HCG along with the 500 calorie diet was better for weight loss than just giving them 500 calories. He claimed that his technique achieved fast weight loss without people being hungry. This he said was because HCG suppressed the appetite and enhanced people’s moods.
HCG injections also were alleged to burn fat from specific areas of the body. Today we would call this claim “spot reduction” – ridding fat from only certain locations like troublesome areas of the thighs for example.
It’s my understandings that in the Kevin Trudeau’s weight loss book, he speculated that HCG stimulated the hypothalamus of the brain to get the body to start burning fat. Whether that's true or not I cannot say.
For more on Kevin Trudeau, see my review of Herpes Cure Report.
What matters is that Dr. Simeons claimed that the HCG injections could result in weight loss of between ½ lb and almost 2 lbs per day on average.
Is there any proof this is true? Let's look at the clinical studies on HCG and weight loss and see what we can discover.
HCG Diet Research
There is HCG weight loss research. From what I can discover, scientists have looked this diet several times since the early 1960s. I want to summarize this diet research because the HCG diet books probably won't tell you about it.
Where possible I have also linked to the actual scientific studies so you can read them for yourself if you like. Let’s now briefly summarize the HCG research:
In 1963 Craig and associates tested the Simeons diet in 20 overweight women. The study lasted 45 days. Women were split into 2 groups:
- one group received daily shots of HCG (125 units)
- the other received shots of a placebo
All women ate only 550 calories a day contained in 2 meals. Women could drink as much water, tea or coffee they liked (no sugar in tea or coffee).
Results: Women getting HCG injections did not lose more weight.
In 1973, Asher and Harper tested the HCG diet in 40 overweight women for 6 weeks. The study was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Women either received either
- daily HCG injections (125 units)
- or a saline placebo.
All women consumed a 500 calorie diet.
Results. Asher and Harper found that women getting HCG injections lost more weight than those who received a placebo.
In the study, it was stated that Harper, who did the “clinical work” also “has an active practice using HCG for weight reduction”. In science, this is technically a no no. Some might see this as possible bias (even unconscious bias) on the part of the researcher.
However, the connection of the researcher to the HCG diet was clearly disclosed at the beginning of the study. They were not trying to hide this and I will call this study a “win” for the HCG diet.
It was because of the findings by Asher and Harper that in 1976, Stein and colleagues decided to test the HCG diet. In their investigation, they used a similar protocol as Asher and Harper (Asher provided Stein with their research design).
They tested the HCG diet in 51 young women (ave age 33). The study lasted 32 days. Women were split into 2 groups:
- One group received daily injections of HGC (125 units)
- The other group received injections of a saline placebo
All women were put on the identical 500 calorie diet as in the Asher and Harper study. Women were also instructed to drink 8-10 glasses of water per day.
Results. This study found that the HCG diet did not help weight loss.
Women getting HCG did not lose any more weight than those getting the placebo. In addition, women getting HCG injections did not lose
more weight in specific areas of the body (as the HCG diet proponents often say will happen).
Also in 1976, another HCG study was performed by Young and colleagues. In this study, there were 202 people.
For 6 days a week, people received either
- injections of HCG (125 units a day)
- or saline injections (placebo)
In addition people also ate 500 calories a day and received lectures on diet and behavior modification twice a week for the length of the study.
All fat was excluded from the diet except for the fat that was associated with the protein that people ate from food.
This study also tested whether HCG treatment helped people maintain their weight loss better. This was accomplished by giving people 6 weeks of no HCG injections coupled with education about how to eat properly.
Results. At the end of the study, researchers found that HCG injections did not lead to any greater weight loss or weight maintenance than those who did not get HCG injections. In the words of the researchers:
“… we could not demonstrate by any objective indicator that HCG was beneficial in promoting weight loss, nor was there any significant difference in fat loss or body circumference measurements”
In 1977, Shetty and Kalkhoff did a small study of HCG in 6 hospitalized obese women. The women were only given 500 calories a day and injected daily with 125 unites of HCG for 30 days. Another 5 women were given the exact same diet yet injected with a placebo.
Results. According to the authors, weight loss between groups was “nearly identical”. Measurements of the circumferences of the chest, waist, hips or thighs also showed no differences between the HCG and placebo groups. Any changes observed, the authors noted, was consistent with “semi starvation” and weight loss”.
Also in 1977 Greenway and associates, tested the HCG diet for 6 weeks in 40 healthy women (age 20-40) who were randomly divided into 2 groups:
- One group received HCG
- The other group got a placebo
Both groups received injections 6 days a week for 6 weeks. Greenway did not specify how much HCG women received in their investigation (I’ll assume it was 125 units but I cannot prove this).
Results. People getting daily HCG injections did not lose any more weight than women who received a placebo. Likewise, there were no differences in body circumferences or mood in those who received HCG injections. The Greenway study was concluded with these words (note these words were written in 1977):
“We feel that the 20 year history of the use of HCG in the treatment of obesity should come to an end because injections of placebo appear to be equally effective in all respects.”
In 1983 Birmingham and Smith reviewed 6 of double blind studies of the HCG diet conducted at that time.
Results. They concluded that only one study (the Asher and Harper study mentioned above) found that HCG injections caused weight loss more than placebo. The other 5 studies found that HCG injections do not cause weight loss.
In 1990, Venter and associates tested the HCG diet in 40 obese women for 6 weeks. In this double blind placebo controlled study, women were either given daily HCG injections or injections of a placebo. All women were put on the same diet that supplied 1200 calories a day.
Before and after the study, they tested body weight body circumferences and hunger level.
Results. The HCG diet “showed no advantages over those on placebo in respect any of the variables recorded”. So HCG didn’t work.
In 1995, Lijesen and colleagues performed a meta-analysis of 24 previously published HCG diet studies.
A meta analysis basically means that the researchers added together the results of a bunch of studies, to see if they could find “the big picture”.
Results. They concluded that “there is no scientific evidence that HCG is effective in the treatment of obesity”
“it [HCG] does not bring about weigh loss or fat redistribution nor does it reduce hunger or induce a feeling of well being.”
Summary Of HCG Weight Loss Studies
|Study||People in study||Study design||Results|
|Craig (1963)||20||Double blind placebo controlled||HCG doesn’t work|
|Asher/Harper (1973)||40||Randomized double blind||HCG works|
|Stein (1976)||51||Randomized double blind||HCG doesn't work|
|Young (1976)||202||Randomized double blind cross over||HCG doesn't work|
|Sheety (1977)||6||Randomized double blind||HCG doesn't work|
|Greenway (1977)||40||Randomized double blind||HCG doesn't work|
|Birmingham (1983)||358||Meta analysis of 6 HCG studies||HCG doesn't work|
|Lijesen (1995)||?||Meta analysis of 24 HCG studies||HCG doesn’t work|
Note. This is just a sample of the HCG weight loss studies. There are several others.
HCG Diet And The Thyroid
Some ask if this diet can help the metabolism or thyroid or improve hypothyroidism. I am not aware of any research that looked at the HCG diet protocol and checked to see if it altered the level of thyroid or TSH levels. As people lose weight -though any diet – metabolism does tend to decrease.
This is why its often easier to lose the first 50 pounds than the last 10 pounds of weight. Whether or not HCG can change this drop in metabolic rate needs more research.
Some say that HCG shots (and HCG drops) help people preserve muscle during weight loss. Again, I have not seen any scientific proof that the protocol reduces muscle loos when dieting. Theoretically, eating only 500 calories per day would eventually cause the body to start cannibalizing itself to maintain adequate energy.
Whether HCG injections can reduce/reverse this process is unknown as far as I can tell and is likewise deserving of better research. These 2 aspects of the HCG diet would make for very interesting topics for graduate students to research (hint, hint to the grad students reading this).
HCG Injection Side Effects
Most of the human HCG injection weight loss studies did not report anything bad happening but its also true many did not last long enough either. That said here are some things to consider if you embark on trying this yourself.
If you do HCG injections, you really should do it under a doctors supervision. Don't buy the HCG hormone on the internet and inject it yourself. Don't listen to any “internet expert” who makes claims about how much to use or anything like that. There are doctors who will prescribe HCG for “off label” use. While I have been critical of doctors who do this (see the HCG drops review), it's likely safer when used in conjunction with a physician who knows about this stuff than using a do-it-yourself approach.
Do not share needles to reduce cost. That is a sure fire way of getting a disease.
Realize that weight loss may not be so great without also reducing calorie intake. That said, I could not recommend only 500 calories per day. Instead, why not try a safer amount, such as 1500 calories per day. If HCG really does work, then it should even work – albeit slower – when a more rational reduction in calories are consumed. Slow weight loss help stabilize metabolic rate better than fast weight loss.
See the review at Dr.BillSukala.com for more insights.
HCG And Cancer
In a 2016 paper titled Evidence for, and Associated Risks with, the Human Chorionic Gonadotropin Supplemented Diet, published in the Journal of Dietary Supplements, the authors call attention to the possibility that the use of HCG hormone may promote and spread the growth of cancer.
In their paper, the authors point out that there are different variations of the HGC molecule and two of these types, called:
- Hyperglycosylated HCG (hCGh)
- hCG free beta-subunit (hCGb)
appear to be linked to cancer promotion. I have yet to see clinical studies published that directly link HCG to cancer in humans, although the authors mention they have people online speculating that HCG may have caused their cancer. I have seen these websites myself. Performing an online search for “Did HCG injections cause my cancer?” should reveal websites where this topic is discussed.
Does The HCG Diet Work?
Some say that HCG needs to be used soon after being prepared or it becomes useless. Could this be why all the other HCG studies show it doesn't work? Could all the other researchers have made a critical mistake? Maybe. In theory there may be something to this- if HCG really does break down as fast as they say.
Could there be a conspiracy by the medical community to prevent people from knowing the truth about HCG? I don’t think so. Here’s why.
Covering up proof that the HCG diet works would be very difficult because EVERYBODY can read the HCG diet studies. ANYBODY can replicate the studies today using the very same procedures and see if it works. So why don’t the sellers of the HCG diet protocol – instead of invoking the name of Alebert Simeons– do their own HCG diet research, publish that research and prove to the world that the HCG diet really works?
Here's HCG supplements on Amazon if you want to see what others are saying.
What do you think?