Understanding the HCG Diet
It seems there’s always a hot, new diet program that claims to help you shed pounds fast. Often, these diet trends are controversial, particularly those that involve medications. Like Fen-Phen did in the 90s, the Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG) diet has many skeptics, but as the years pass and the dramatic results hold steady, many patients and providers are reconsidering this protocol. The HCG diet comes in a few different forms, all of which include a very low calorie diet and supplementation with a form of HCG. The program typically delivers significant weight loss, on average about a pound per day during the course of treatment.
What is HCG?
HCG is an acronym for human chorionic gonadotropin, a hormone produced in both men and women, but is found in its highest levels in women during pregnancy. In fact, it is the presence of HCG in urine that turns a home pregnancy test positive. During pregnancy, the hormone is primarily responsible for controlling the woman’s metabolic functions.
HCG Diet Protocol
While some still consider the protocol to be radical, the original research was published by A.T.W. Simeons, a British medical doctor, in 1954. Dr. Simeons spent many years studying obesity, and was impressed that the treatment protocol could be used in conjunction with a very low calorie diet, without experiencing the symptoms commonly associated with drastically-reduced caloric intake. While the protocol has been in use for decades, a recent book published by Kevin Trudeau thrust the diet plan into the spotlight.
Edmond pharmacist Melissa Bolek dispenses the drug component and counsels patients on the proper use of the HCG protocol. The drug is typically dispensed in an injectable form, and patients are instructed on how to administer a daily shot of the hormone each morning. The dose is small, and allergy syringes, which are similar in size to insulin syringes, can be used to administer the injection. Patients are then asked to follow a specific diet protocol.
“When I first began seeing prescriptions come in, I was very skeptical, because I was unfamiliar with it and knew it was an off-label use of the drug,” says Bolek. That means that although the drug is available by prescription at a physician’s discretion, the drug is not FDA-approved for this specific purpose. The practice is more common than many people realize, as many medications are not FDA-approved for their most common use. “A good example of that is using antidepressants as a smoking-cessation aid,” she explains.
“After I did some research, I realized that the protocol had been around for years. HCG basically targets fat cells. It then allows your body to use those fat cells as fuel, which results in weight loss and establishes a new metabolic rate,” explains Bolek. “In addition, the patient is eating a very specific, low-calorie diet of around 500 calories per day. While that may sound scary, the hormone allows the body to metabolize those fat cells, which provide an extra 2000-4000 calories per day. When you combine this fat metabolism with a 500 calorie diet, you get a total of 2500-4500 calories per day [for the body to actually use]. The very low calorie phase ONLY works with the HCG hormone on board,” explains Bolek. “Some physicians feel that a 500-calorie diet is too drastic, and that ANY patient will lose weight with such a small caloric intake. However, trying a 500-calorie diet without HCG would likely ultimately result in weight gain, because the metabolism would slow down so much,” says Bolek.
Typical patients are looking to lose anywhere from 10–30 pounds. “The prescription-based program can last for either 20 or 40 days. For patients looking to lose 10–15 pounds, the 20 day protocol is the appropriate option. Those looking to lose more typically go with the 40 day regimen,” says Bolek.
Lisa is a 30-year-old HCG patient. She decided to try the protocol after the birth of her first son, who is now two. Last May, she had a daughter, and after she stopped breastfeeding, she decided to try HCG again.
She is nearing the end of her 40 day program, and is down about 30 pounds. “After my son, I lost about 20, so I’m doing better this time,” she says. In addition, a body composition analysis was done halfway through the program, revealing that she had reduced her body fat by approximately seven percent and had increased her muscle mass.
After seeing the success of so many patients, Bolek herself decided to try the program despite her initial misgivings. “In school, we are taught that calories in equal calories out, and the more you eat without adequate exercise, the more weight you will gain. As I learned more about the program, and read the literature behind it, I was interested to learn how the body’s metabolism could be reset with this hormone and diet combination and decided to see my doctor about it. We agreed that I was a good candidate, as I had struggled with my weight for several years, and tried many different methods to lose weight without lasting results. The HCG program allowed me to lose over 40 pounds of fat, and it kick-started my journey to better health. I learned a lot about eating a clean diet, free of processed foods. No more sodas, fast food, cookies or cakes…and I discovered a wide variety of healthier food choices. I feel so much better without those foods in my diet, and I might never have learned these habits without the HCG protocol,” she notes.
Both Lisa and Melissa are feeling well and eating healthy and report more energy. Bolek has maintained her weight loss for over six months. “Some doctors are still skeptical, and I understand that,” says Bolek. “But I’m seeing more and more doctors write for it, because people are getting results.”
While the program is growing in popularity, it is important to remember that HCG is a prescription medication and is only to be used under a physician’s supervision. If you have questions or concerns or feel you may be a candidate for this treatment, contact your healthcare provider for more information.
Editor’s note: While we strive to provide our readers with a wide variety of health and wellness information, MetroFamily neither endorses nor recommends the HCG diet. All diet and exercise programs should always be discussed with your health care provider.
Shannon Fields is a freelance writer from Edmond and a Certified Pharmacy Technician at Innovative Pharmacy Solutions.