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What Are the Dangers of the HCG Diet?

HCG is usually produced by woman during pregnancy, and it is the hormone measured by home pregnancy tests.
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  • Written By: Marty Paule
  • Edited By: E. E. Hubbard
  • Last Modified Date: 29 August 2014
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The HCG diet is a controversial part of HCG weight-loss therapy, a process in which the patient receives injections of a hormone called human chorionic gonadtrophin (HCG)to reduce weight in conjunction with a strict diet. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved HCG for this purpose, and the extremely low-calorie diet prescribed along with the injections has been criticized by healthcare professionals as being inadequate to maintain health. In considering the dangers of the HCG diet versus its potential benefits, patients should discuss the use of HCG with their primary healthcare provider.

The hormone HCG is normally produced by women during pregnancy, while a manufactured form of the hormone is administered to women as an aid in conception. Used as a weight-loss product in non-pregnant people, HCG is said to mimic the conditions of pregnancy, stimulating the endocrine system into producing hormones and redeploying the body's stores of glycogen, fat, and protein to support fetal development. It should be noted that the FDA along with the National Institutes of Health and manufacturers of HCG have stated that there is no evidence to support its use for weight-loss purposes.

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In response to the dangers of the HCG diet, the FDA requires that all packaging and marketing for HCG include the statement: “HCG has not been demonstrated to be effective adjunctive therapy in the treatment of obesity. There is no substantial evidence that it increases weight loss beyond that resulting from caloric restriction, that it causes a more attractive or "normal" distribution of fat, or that it decreases the hunger and discomfort associated with calorie-restricted diets.” Other dangers of the HCG diet include the appearance of numerous weight-loss clinics that prescribe and administer HCG without having trained medical personnel, as well as the illicit sale of this prescription drug.

In weight-loss therapy, HCG is usually administered in daily injections over the course of 26 days. As a part of the regimen, patients are given a strict 500-calorie-per-day diet to follow that is claimed to reduce weight by one to three pounds (0.45-0.136 kg) per day. In addressing the dangers of the HCG diet, most healthcare professionals agree that 500 calories per day is insufficient to maintain basic body functions and growth. Such a diet is likely to result in dizziness and irritability, and is difficult for most individuals to maintain.

Some of the side effects that have been recorded in HCG therapy weight loss patients include blood clots, emotional swings, dizziness, confusion, and depression. A condition known as Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS), which produces swelling of the extremities, pain in the pelvis and abdomen, breathlessness, diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea, is among the documented dangers of the HCG diet. Patients considering using this therapy to deal with obesity are urged to discuss the HCG diet with their physician.

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