Bogus HCG drops are still on store shelves – even after the recent FTC and FDA warnings. In today’s post, you’ll understand why these products are the biggest scam in the weight loss industry. Real HCG (Human Chorionic Gonadatropin) is also still being promoted for weight loss – by medical doctors no less. It too is a scam – an even more expensive one. A recent issue of the International Journal of Obesity explained that not only does the HCG plan have no weight loss effects outside the 500-calorie per day starvation diet it comes with, it also has some serious safety concerns. The authors urged professionals in the health community to “speak out strongly against HCG use.” Gladly, I say…
I’ve spoken out against HCG use before and it has always been amusing to see the number of people who show up and defend their weight loss results on the HCG diet. Some are real “characters,” while others appear sincere, intelligent and willing to engage in a logical debate.
It’s not that I question whether they lost weight while taking HCG. What none of the HCG supporters have ever been able to explain with a grain of critical thinking is why they believe the HCG injections produced their weight loss and not the massive caloric deficit from the diet that comes with it.
They have also not been able to explain the 9 peer reviewed studies which all say HCG does not enhance weight loss and is no more effective than placebo.
It’s frustrating and difficult for legitimate health educators to get through to people about HCG when we’re up against 7.54 million google search results, national TV show coverage and MD’s that are still out to make an easy buck by prescribing this stuff.
But it gets worse than that…
I was just in a pharmacy store in New Jersey yesterday where they have vastly expanded the nutritional supplements and weight loss pills section – it’s like a mini health food store in there – and I saw “HCG” products still on the shelves.
This was not the drug – real HCG is an injection that must be obtained by prescription from a doctor (it’s a fertility drug that is extracted from the urine of pregnant women).
Nevertheless, this product was labeled as HCG and being sold with other over the counter weight loss pills. There was no way for someone uneducated to know the difference. It reminded me very much of the muscle building supplements that are named and marketed to sound like steroids.
For example, “Dianabel – anabolic activator” might be seen on a bottle in the health food store – sounds like the steroid dianabol – and the similarity in name is intentional. Common sense alone should tell you that you can’t buy a steroid in a health food store right over the counter, but skinny teenagers buy this stuff all the time, thinking they are getting steroids. (They’ve heard of dianabol and other steroids in online forums, etc).
So here we have on the same store shelves, boxes of “HCG.” Never mind that the box contains pills or homeopathic drops and that real HCG is a prescription drug administered by injection; people heard about it on a talk show or on the internet and just buy the fraudulent / fake stuff right off the shelf.
This comes even after last year’s Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warnings. Given the FTC and FDA actions, aren’t you SHOCKED that these supplement companies and retail stores are still getting away with this? What are they doing? Just waiting around until the legal notice arrives at every last store?
This is doubly frustrating because the HCG diet for some bizarre reason has created such true believers out of many people. I simply don’t understand it…
The dieter goes on a 500 calorie starvation diet while simultaneously taking a product with no evidence of effectiveness (At least nine studies showing the opposite – that HCG is totally ineffective) and yet rather than attribute the weight loss to the 500 calories per day diet, they attribute it to the bogus HCG.
Think about this for a minute. Any less-than-ethical entrepreneur could create a diet scam like this by combining a 500-calorie diet with ANYTHING! How about this: fat burning lip balm. Set aside your usual chap stick and put on the Fat burning lip balm twice a day along with following the 500-calorie lip balm diet, and you’ll lose 4 to 7 pounds a week! Guaranteed!
Silly? Not ANY sillier than what people believe about HCG… and spend MILLIONS on!
Avoid these products. HCG injections don’t work for weight loss, they come with a starvation diet and the injections are potentially dangerous. Also remember that sales of OTC versions of HCG (whether homeopathic or otherwise) are both fraudulent and illegal.
Oh the irony: A bogus version of a product that doesn’t work in the first place.
Please look at the journal summary below. You’ll see an abstract and highlights of the recent warning that was published in the International Journal Of Obesity. Remember, this is one of the most respected peer reviewed journals in the field, not some fear-mongering alternative health website.
Maybe, finally, seeing a warning that includes the mention of carcinoma might be the tipping point that will make people think twice and cause this scam to finally go away. I hope so.
Author of Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle
Founder & CEO, Burn the Fat Inner Circle
PS. You’ll also see below, a review of the previous scientific literature about HCG, which concludes that HCG, independent of the 500 calorie diet, is not effective for weight loss (no more effective than placebo).
An unfortunate resurgence of human chorionic gonadotropin use for weight loss, JC Lovejoy and M Sasagawa, International Journal of Obesity, 36: 385-386
“Some 55 years ago, English physician ATW Simeons proposed to treat obesity by administering human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG). Simeons’ protocol involves a combination of up to 6 weeks of daily low-dose HCG injections and a very low calorie diet (500 kcal per day). In recent decades, several randomized controlled trials demonstrated that HCG was no better than placebo and experts concluded that HCG has no merit for weight loss. Thus the use of HCG for weight loss is discouraged by legitimate clinicians who treat obese patients.
However, since the publication of a 2007 popular book, and most recently the promotion of HCG for weight loss on the Dr. Oz television show, some conventional and many alternative medicine clinics have been offering HCG weight loss programs because it is a lucrative business for a prevalent health issue, obesity.
Anecdotal stories indicate that many patients are satisfied with these programs because of the success of weight loss, although any weight loss that occurs is very likely due to the hypocaloric diet that accompanies the injections rather than any effect of HCG per se and; as there is usually no maintenance program provided, weight is quickly regained after the end of the program.
In addition to its lack of efficacy, it is concerning that the HCG dosage administered to obese patients is sufficiently high to cause certain physiological responses and the quality of the HCG used by many “obesity clinics” is unknown. A typical dosage used for weight loss programs is the daily dosage of 150 US for six times per week or a weekly dosage of 1000IU. In a clinical trial of oocyte production, a daily dose of 200IU has been successfully used for maintaining late follicular phase as a gonadotropin-releasing hormone antagonist.
The likelihood that HCG administered for weight loss is having reproductive effects is further suggested by the finding of luteinizing hormone/HCG receptors on various tissues. Preliminary studies showed that HCG facilitated decidualization of stromal cells of human endometrium, which raises concern of possible leimyoma formation and exacerbation of endometriosis.
For males, animal prostate cells expressed HCG receptor gene upon stimulation, and the authors concluded that luteinizing hormone/HCG receptors are linked to the development of prostatic hyperplasia and prostate carcinomas.
Carlson et al, report that luteinizing hormone/HCG receptor mRNA was found from autopsy archival samples of benign gynecomastica and male breast carcinoma, and suggested that luteinizing hormone and HCG might have a role in the pathogenesis of male breast disorders at sufficiently high dosage.
Given that HCG has no demonstrated weight loss effects and has potential safety concerns, it is incumbent upon the scientific and clinical community in the obesity field to educate their patients about the lack of efficacy and potential risk of off -label HCG use and to speak out strongly against its use.”
HCG RESEARCH REVIEW
NOTE: This is the one controlled study (Asher 1973) which showed that the HCG group lost more weight. Ironically, if you read into the text of the study, the same paper says that the use of HCG in a casual program of weight reduction is of no value and suggested that injections given by a physician can provide a placebo effect. All the rest of the research that followed found that HCG was not effective for weight loss. The underlined passages are my emphasis so you can quickly skim the abstracts and see the conclusions.
Effect of Human Chorionic Gonadotrophin on weight loss, hunger and feeling of well being, Asher, et al. Am J Clin Nutr. 1973.
Twenty female patients on 500- to 550-kcal diets receiving daily injections of 125 lu of human chorionic gonadotrophin (HCG) were compared with 20 female patients on 500- to 550-kcal diets receiving placebo injections. Patients in both groups were instructed to return for daily injections 6 days each week for a total of 36 injections (unless desired weight was achieved prior to this). The HCG group lost significantly more mean weight, had a significantly greater mean weight loss per injection, and lost a significantly greater mean percentage of their starting weight. The percentage of affirmative daily patient responses indicating “little or no hunger” and “feeling good to excellent” was significantly greater in the HCG group than in the placebo group. Additional investigation 0′ the influence of HCG on weight loss, hunger, and well-being seems indicated.
It is interesting to note that HH’s patients who were given a placebo lost more on the average than either the HCG or placebo patients of the other four practitioners (11.05 lb versus 6.8 and 6.5 lb, respectively). It therefore appears that HCG used in a casual program of weight reduction, as it often is in a general practice, is of no value. The fact that HH’s placebo patients lost more weight in a 6-week period than most physicians’ patients do on other diets and/or medications is in itself interesting. Certainly, the psychological impact of receiving a daily injection which the patient believes in is important.
Risk-benefit analysis of a hCG-500 kcal reducing diet (cura romana) in females. Rabe T, Richter S, Kiesel L, Runnebaum B. Geburtshilfe Frauenheilkd. 1987 May;47(5):297-307.
The British physician A.T.W. Simeons described in 1954 a new method for dieting. He combined a reduction diet (500 kcal per day) with daily injections of the pregnancy hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) (125 IU i.m.). According to Simeons the patient should not lose more weight during a 4-to-6 weeks’ diet than without hCG, but the injections should facilitate to maintain the diet and to lose body weight at specific parts of the body (e.g. hip, belly, thigh). After the first publication various studies conducted with male and female patients analysed the efficacy of the “Cura romana”. 10 of these studies showed positive and another 10 studies negative results with regard to hCG-related weight reduction. Two of these studies with positive results were double-blind studies (hCG vs. placebo). Most of them were reports on therapeutical experiences and were not controlled studies. According to these reports the body proportions normalized and the feeling of hunger was tolerable. Four out of 10 studies with negative results were controlled studies (hCG vs. control without hCG), whereas 6 were double-blind studies. These studies showed a significant weight reduction during dieting, but no differences between treatment groups in respect of body weight, body proportions and feeling of hunger. One of them is the only German study conducted by Rabe et al. in 1981 in which 82 randomised premenopausal volunteers had been dieting either with hCG or without hCG injections. In recent publications describing mostly well-documented double-blind studies authors largely reject hCG administration in dieting. Supporters of the hCG diet must prove the efficacy of this method in controlled studies according to the German Drug Law. Until then the opinion of the German steroid toxicology panel is still valid, that hCG is ineffective in dieting and should not be used
Human chorionic gonadotrophin and weight loss. A double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Bosch B, et al. S Afr Med J. 1990 Feb 17;77(4):185-9 . Department of Medical Physiology and Biochemistry, University of Stellenbosch, Parowvallei, CP.
Low-dose human chorionic gonadotrophin (HCG) combined with a severe diet remains a popular treatment for obesity, despite equivocal evidence of its effectiveness. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, the effects of HCG on weight loss were compared with placebo injections. Forty obese women (body mass index greater than 30 kg/m2) were placed on the same diet supplying 5,000 kJ per day and received daily intramuscular injections of saline or HCG, 6 days a week for 6 weeks. A psychological profile, hunger level, body circumferences, a fasting blood sample and food records were obtained at the start and end of the study, while body weight was measured weekly. Subjects receiving HCG injections showed no advantages over those on placebo in respect of any of the variables recorded. Furthermore, weight loss on our diet was similar to that on severely restricted intake. We conclude that there is no rationale for the use of HCG injections in the treatment of obesity.
Human chorionic gonadotropin is of no value in the management of obesity.C. L. Birmingham and K. C. Smith. Can Med Assoc J. 1983 May 15; 128(10): 1156–1157.
It has recently come to our attention that a number of practitioners are still using daily deep intramuscular injections of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) as an adjunct in the management of obesity. We condemn, in terms that cannot possibly be misconstrued, such use of HCG. Six double blind studies have been conducted since 1973 in an attempt to validate the claims that injections of HCG are beneficial in obese patients. With the exception of the 1973 study by Asher and Harper, whose methods have been severely criticized, treatment with HCG was found to be of no benefit in terms of weight loss, the patient’s feeling of well-being or a more esthetic distribution of fat.
The effect of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) in the treatment of obesity by means of the Simeons therapy: a criteria-based meta-analysis. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 1995 Sep;40(3):237-43. Lijesen GK, et al. Institute for Research in Extramural Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
1. A meta-analysis was conducted to assess if there is scientific ground for the use of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) as adjunctive therapy in the treatment of obesity.
2. Published papers relating to eight controlled and 16 uncontrolled trials that measured the effect of HCG in the treatment of obesity were traced by computer-aided search and citation tracking.
3. The trials were scored for the quality of the methods (based on four main categories: study population, interventions, measurement of effect, and data presentation and analysis) and the main conclusion of author(s) with regard to weight-loss, fat-redistribution, hunger, and feeling of well-being.
4. Methodological scores ranged from 16 to 73 points (maximum score 100), suggesting that most studies were of poor methodological quality. Of the 12 studies scoring 50 or more points, one reported that HCG was a useful adjunct. The studies scoring 50 or more points were all controlled.
5. We conclude that there is no scientific evidence that HCG is effective in the treatment of obesity; it does not bring about weight-loss of fat-redistribution, nor does it reduce hunger or induce a feeling of well-being.
Ineffectiveness of human chorionic gonadotropin in weight reduction: a double-blind study.Stein MR, Julis RE, Peck CC, Hinshaw W, Sawicki JE, Deller JJ Jr.Am J Clin Nutr. 1976 Sep;29(9):940-8.
Our investigation was designed to retest the hypothesis of the efficacy of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) on weight reduction in obese women in a clinic setting. We sought to duplicate the Asher-Harper study (1973) which had found that the combination of 500 cal diet and HCG had a statistically significant benefit over the diet and placebo combination as evidenced by greater weight loss and decrease in hunger. Fifty-one women between the ages of 18 and 60 participated in our 32-day prospective, randomized, double-blind comparison of HCG versus placebo. Each patient was given the same diet (the one prescribed in the Asher-Harper study), was weighed daily Monday through Saturday and was counselled by one of the investigators who administered the injections. Laboratory studies were performed at the time of initial physical examinations and at the end of the study. Twenty of 25 in the HCG and 21 of 26 patients in the placebo groups completed 28 injections. There was no statistically significant difference in the means of the two groups in number of injections received, weight loss, percent of weight loss, hip and waist circumference, weight loss per injections, or in hunger ratings. HCG does not appear to enhance the effectiveness of a rigidly imposed regimen for weight reduction.
Chorionic gonadotropin in weight control. A double-blind crossover study.Young RL, Fuchs RJ, Woltjen MJ.JAMA. 1976 Nov 29;236(22):2495-7.
Two hundred two patients participated in a double-blind random cross-over study of the effectiveness of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) vs placebo in a wieght reduction program. Serial measurements were made of weight, skin-fold thickness, dropout rates, reasons for dropping out, and patient subjective response. There was no statistically significant difference between those receiving HCG vs placebo during any phase of this study
A clinical study of the use of human chorionic gonadotrophin in weight reduction.Miller R, Schneiderman LJ.1: J Fam Pract. 1977 Mar;4(3):445-8.
Treatment of obesity with human chorionic gonadotrophin was shown to be of no better value than saline in a double-blind crossover study of weight reduction in obese subjects. There was also no significant difference in mood, hunger, or missed injections, and no apparent difference in adherence to diet when the two agents were compared. In contrast, a significant difference was found in the ability of subjects to lose weight in the first four weeks of the study in contrast with the second four weeks, no matter which agent was used. Thus, the initiation of a new therapeutic program, even using an inert agent, has a temporary benefit–a manifestation both of placebo effect and the Hawthorne effect.
Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG) in the Treatment of Obesity. A Critical Assessment of the Simeons Method. Frank Greenway and George Bray. West J Med. 1977 December; 127(6): 461–463.
Injections of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) have been claimed to aid in weight reduction by reducing hunger, and affecting mood as well as aiding in localized (spot) reduction. We have tested these claims in a double-blind randomized trial using injections of HCG or placebo. Weight loss was identical between the two groups, and there was no evidence for differential effects on hunger, mood or localized body measurements. Placebo injections, therefore, appear to be as effective as HCG in the treatment of obesity.
About Tom Venuto
Tom Venuto is a lifetime natural (steroid-free) bodybuilder, fitness writer and author of Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle: Fat Burning Secrets of Bodybuilders and Fitness Models and the national bestseller, The Body Fat Solution, which was an Oprah Magazine and Men’s Fitness Magazine pick. Tom has appeared in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, Oprah Magazine, Muscle and Fitness Magazine, Ironman Magazine and Men’s Fitness Magazine, as well as on dozens of radio shows including Sirius Satellite Radio, ESPN-1250 and WCBS. Tom is also the founder and CEO of Burn The Fat Inner Circle – a fitness support community for inspiration and transformation