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HCG Diet – The Key to Easy Weight Loss or a Pipe Dream?

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The statistics about Americans and obesity are alarming. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 34 percent of American adults over age 20 are obese or overweight. Thirty-eight percent of American children and adolescents between the ages of 2 and 19 are obese or overweight.

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Considering the statistics, it’s no surprise that dieters want a weight-loss miracle. Perhaps that miracle is here in the form of the HCG Diet.

The HCG Diet is a 500-calorie per-day diet created by Dr. A.T.W Simeon in the 1950s. Kevin Trudeau sparked interest in the diet with his 2007 book "The Weight Loss Cure They Don’t Want You to Know About."

Controversy surrounds the diet for two reasons. First, the daily 500-calorie restriction is less than the daily 2000 – 2500 calories healthcare professional recommend. Second, dieters must receive daily injections or orally consume a pregnancy hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG).

HCG stimulates the hypothalamus during pregnancy. The hypothalamus is the area of the brain that produces hormones to control things such as hunger and mood.

When a woman is pregnant, the hypothalamus nourishes the fetus by moving fats and nutrients into the placenta. The theory is that when a non-pregnant person ingests HCG, the body absorbs fewer fats and calories because it thinks it’s nourishing a fetus. Since there is no fetus, the excess fats and calories aren’t absorbed by the body at all. Supporters also say HCG is a powerful appetite suppressant.

On an episode of the Dr. Oz Show, HCG dieters commented about their fast weight loss. One dieter claims to have lost 15 pounds in two weeks, while another says she dropped 30 pounds during six weeks on the diet.

In spite of success stories, most healthcare professionals agree that the diet’s strict calorie restriction is akin to starvation. Healthcare professional also note research shows HCG is not an appetite suppressant. Several HCG studies, some from as far back as the 1970s, suggest the hormone is a placebo.

In 1995, the Institute for Research in Extramural Medicine conducted a study where one group of dieters received pure HCG and another group received a placebo. Both groups experienced the same weight loss results, which researchers attribute to calorie restriction and the power of suggestion. Dieters in both groups believed HCG would suppress the appetite, and that is exactly what happened – even for dieters receiving the placebo.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says the HCG hormone is a successful fertility treatment. The FDA contends the hormone does not suppress appetite or cause weight loss. HCG diet supplements must contain a disclaimer stating that the hormone isn’t a proven weight loss supplement. In fact, it’s illegal to sell pure HCG to consumers.

To avoid persecution, manufacturers sell diluted, homeopathic HCG products instead. Some products claim to reset the metabolism, flush out toxic fat, eliminate emotional eating or help dieters lose 2-pounds per day. These miraculous claims are unfounded. According to USA Today, the FDA states HCG weight loss supplements are fraudulent and possibly dangerous.

In spite of warnings, the diet is a lucrative business. Dieters pay anywhere from $400 to $1000 for a complete treatment of HCG shots when administered by a doctor. It’s legal for doctors to obtain HCG, although they’re not supposed to use it for weight loss. Dieters without a doctor’s help purchase HCG powder, liquid, pills and shakes over the counter or Internet. The powder form of the product becomes a liquid when mixed with sterile bacteriostatic water.

The debate about HCG’s legitimacy as an appetite suppressant rages on. In spite of research to the contrary, HCG is still a weight loss miracle according to some dieters.

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