Courtesy National Library of Medicine

What’s old is new again.

In the 1950’s Dr. Albert Simeons published the hCG diet: 500 calories a day combined with injections of human chorionic gonadotrophin or hCG (the hormone secreted by the placenta during pregnancy). The hCG shots supposedly curbed hunger as well as helped shed fat in those oh so hard spots (stomach, hips, and thighs).

Several well-done studies in the 1970, 80’s, and 90’s evaluated the hCG diet. They compared people on the diet who received the hCG shot with those on the same diet who got a placebo shot. There was no difference in weight loss. These findings have been replicated in 24 studies. Yes, you read that right, 24 studies say that adding hCG injections to a 500 calorie a day diet does nothing to change the weight loss results.

There were also reports that the hCG injection caused blood clots, headaches, restlessness, depression, and dizziness.

Despite the overwhelming medical evidence that hCG doesn’t aid in weight loss (and that 500 calories/day is too restrictive), as hCG is now available in an oral form some doctors are finding is easier to offer the hCG diet. Many amp up the bad medicine by closely following their patients with “metabolic screening.” A completely unnecessary endeavor designed to generate lab billing. Doctors also make money by selling the hCG in addition to billing for their time.

So if 24 well-done studies say the hCG diet doesn’t work, why are some doctors offering it? I suspect there are two reasons. Either they have been swayed by the hype and are practicing tabloid medicine (not investigating the medical evidence for themselves) or are aware the diet is a scam and are just honest to goodness snake oil salesmen and saleswomen. Either way, it should give you cause to think.

24 studies tell us that the hCG does not help you lose weight. In addition, 500 calories a day is too restrictive and the diet does nothing to teach healthy lifestyles, essential to keep the weight off.

The verdict? The hCG diet is nothing more than snake oil. If your doctor offers it, get another doctor. And if you want evidenced based information (meaning what really works) about weight loss, check out the National Library of Medicine’s web site.

Join the Conversation


  1. I was as skeptical about the claim as anyone. Who wouldn’t be? 30lbs in 30 days? I decided to try it, sort of do my own “study.” After 2 load / 10 VLCD days, I’ve lost almost 16lbs, about 12lbs when you exclude the load “gain.” The typical BMR formula says I should have only lost 4.5 lbs. I keep a running calculation of projected loss given my caloric intake, age, weight, and activities, versus actual scale loss. I logged all of my daily data, food journals, charts, photos, and so on here: I keep thinking it has to be a fluke – maybe it’s the HCG, maybe it’s not. But if it’s not do me a favor and LOOK AT MY DATA. Then, you tell me what it is.

  2. Sadly, hcG did give me a dangerous femoral vein blood clot. Did I lose weight? Yes but isn’t that a given with a 500 calorie/day diet.

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