The Dangers of the hCG Diet

Posted: August 3, 2011 in Diet & Nutrition, Myths

hCG stands for “human chorionic gonadotropin.”  It is a hormonal substance derived from human placenta.  And it’s being marketed as a dietary supplement.

I’ll wait while you finish retching.

Now, here’s the problem.  It’s being sold/marketed as a revolutionary diet aid.  During my time on Yahoo!Answers as a Top Contributor in the diet & fitness section, I ran across many teen and tween girls desperate for weight loss such that hCG became almost a perverse profanity to me (that, and “pro-ana,” but that’s a different post for a different time).  Curious, I researched what hCG was.

And I was horrified.

In essence, an obscure British endocrinologist made some leaps of conclusions about the effect of hCG on the human body, and those leaps were taken to even further ridiculous heights by crackpot scam artist and author Kevin Trudeau (a noted fraudster who spent time in prison on Federal charges relating to fraud, so take that as you will) when he started selling the “hCG Diet.”  This, like all diet myths, are designed to prey upon the unsuspecting consumer’s desperation for weight loss by making wild claims of efficacy in conjunction with promises of it being easy.

The essence of the hCG Diet is this.  With either a pill or injection of supposed hCG, hunger is allegedly suppressed enough to where the person can subsist on no more than 500 calories per day.

The average human adult female has a base metabolic rate of about 1,200 calories per day required to keep all the body parts running — heart, lungs, brain, liver, etc.  The average human male burns about 1,500 calories to do the same.  That base metabolic rate assumes a sort of lab condition where the person is kept at absolute minimum activity.  Any additional activity, like walking around, requires more energy, which raises the required rate above the 1,200/1,500.

So mathematically, how does a person subsist on 500 calories?

The scam marketing will then imply that the body will simply burn off the fat deposits for extra energy beyond those 500 calories that one consumes.  Unfortunately, what that doesn’t take into account is that the body doesn’t work that way.  The science behind weight loss is a little more complex than that, which is why it’s actually more difficult (and therefore, to many people, more discouraging) than just popping a pill and hoping for the best.

If it was ineffective at worst, I wouldn’t have a problem with this whole thing.  I’d just shake my head in pity for the money you just wasted.  But the problem is that relying on eating only 500 calories per day treads the line into “life threatening,” and it’s even worse when the rationale is vanity.

Sure, we all want to lose weight and look hot.  But when that desperation kicks in, reason and logic get tossed out the window in favor of doing everything and anything under the sun to get a bikini body in time for Spring Break when one only has 2 weeks to do it.

In short, hCG Diet is ineffective, a waste of money, completely flips the middle finger at science, and is dangerous.  The fact that it’s promoted by an infomercial king is more reason to be suspicious.

And as a post script, I have to criticize the Better Health grocery store in Novi on Grand River Rd.  Not only are their prices for allegedly organic and natural products exorbitant (especially when most of those exact same products are available for much, much less at Kroger or Meijer), we discovered that we could not take them seriously nor ever spend money there again when they were unabashedly promoting the hCG diet at their registers and at the front door. That told me that Better Health is simply trying to cash in on an uneducated public’s perceptions about health and nutrition.

In short, Better Health is taking advantage of its customers.  And that’s just shameful.


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