- There is no scientific evidence that HCG hormone administration on its own causes weight-loss
- Studies show the weight loss occurring on this plan results only from the restricted calorie intake that accompanies it
- In Australia, the use of HCG has not been approved by the Therapeutic Goods Association (TGA) as safe or effective for weight loss
- The most effective approach to weight loss is eating regular nutritious meals, incorporating regular exercise and approaching any psychological barriers to incorporating healthy changes
The current popularity of the HCG diet is based around claims that it boosts metabolism and helps lose large amounts of fat without feeling hungry. So, what is the evidence around using HCG for weight-loss?
What is it?
Human Chorionic Gonadotropin, otherwise known as HCG, is a hormone primarily produced in high levels during early pregnancy by the placenta, otherwise in smaller doses by the pituitary gland and helps maintain production of progesterone and estrogen hormones (1). HCG can be used as a fertility prescription drug particularly administered for women and men, and for other medical conditions (2).In 1954, a British doctor named Simeons created a weight loss program (The Simeons therapy) in which a patient was on a low calorie diet of 500 calories (kcal) a day and received daily injections of 125 IU of HCG over a period of 3.5 to 6 weeks in order to achieve weight loss quickly, not feel weak, not be hungry and lose fat from hard to lose weight areas (such as stomach, hips, things and upper arms) (3).
The HCG weight loss diet generally includes:
1. Loading Phase – start taking HCG, eat plenty of high-fat, high-calorie foods for two days
2. Weight loss phase – continue taking HCG, eat only 500cals/day for 3-6wks with only 2 meals a day
3. Maintenance phase – stop taking HCG, increase food intake gradually, avoid sugar and starch for 3wks.
The evidence for use
While there is not a lot of recent research literature in the use of HCG for weight-loss, existing studies concluded that weight loss achieved by the HCG diet was likely from the low calorie intake (500 cal/day) that was used with HCG hormone administration (3-7) as there was no evidence that HCG itself caused weight loss. This was shown by the relatively same weight loss between the two groups in studies, the group taking the HCG injections and the placebo group. So overall the literature consensus thus far is that there is no scientific evidence that HCG on its own causes weight-loss, reduces hunger or redistributes fat. Therefore, there is no reason to recommend taking HCG injections for the purpose of weight loss.
What are the benefits/limitations for weight loss?
As already identified, most of the weight loss seen from research literature on HCG was from the accompanying low calorie diet that participants were on. However, such severe calorie restriction usually includes a loss of lean muscle mass which can compromise the metabolism. Overall, the HCG diet would be considered a short term fix like any other fad diet with the main component for weight loss being a very low calorie diet (500 calories a day) which is unlikely to have a successful and beneficial long term impact on weight and overall health as it does not address lifestyle behaviour changes.
Known clinical outcomes
Real HCG in the form of injections is only available through a doctor’s prescription and only this form can raise blood levels of HCG, not homeopathic products sold online. In America, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved HCG as a weight loss drug and are in fact illegal. In Australia, the use of HCG has not been approved by the Therapeutic Goods Association (TGA) as safe and effective for weight loss which means the products and ingredients of HCG for weight loss are unregulated. Companies selling HCG for nutrition and weight loss purposes will generally include this medical disclaimer on this product. As HCG for weight loss is not FDA or TGA approved, there are no known side effects when used for weight loss purposes. However, the accompanying very low calorie HCG diet of 500 calories/day should only ever be used under proper medical supervision (sometimes used as part of medical treatment to lessen health conditions) to monitor any side effects and ensure nutritional requirements are met.
Our LifeShape clinical recommendations for weight loss
The LifeShape Clinic recommendations for weight loss is focused on utilising the combined expertise of our team of health care professionals that include Dietitians, Exercise Physiologist, Psychologists and Medical Doctor so that we take care of your overall health status. Our team can help individualise a plan to help you achieve your weight loss goals while building sustainable long term changes that add to your health such as eating regular nutritious meals, incorporating regular exercise and approaching any psychological barriers to incorporating healthy changes.
- 1. Betz D, Fane K. Human Chorionic Gonadotropic (HCG). February 2020. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK532950/
- 2. Lee JA, Ramasamy R. Indications for the use of human chorionic gonadotropic hormone for the management of infertility in hypogonadal men. Trans Androl Urol. 2018;7(3):348. Doi: 10.21037/tau.2018.04.11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6087849/
- 3. Lijesen GK, Theeuwen I, Assendelft WJ, Van Der Wal G. 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; 40(3):237-243. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2125.1995.tb05779.x. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1365103/?page=1
- 4. Bosch B, Venter I, Stewart RI, Bertram SR. Human chorionic gonadotropin and weight loss. A double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. S Afr Med J. 1990;77(4):185-9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2405506
- 5. Stein MR, Julis RE, Peck CC, Hinshaw W, Sawicki JE, Deller JJ Jr. Ineffectiveness of human chorionic gonadotropin in weight reduction: a double-blind study. Am J Clin Nutr. 1976;29(9):940-8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/786001
- 6. Greenway F.L, Bray GA. Human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) in the treatment of obesity: a critical assessment of the Simeons method. West J Med. 1977; 127(6):461-3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/595585
- 7. Shetty KR, Kalkhoff RK. Human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) treatment of obesity. Arch Intern Med. 1977;137(2):151-2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/836112