An hCG diet plan is a weight loss program that consists of a low calorie diet of 500 calories daily combined with daily injections (125 IU) of synthetic human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), a hormone secreted by the placenta during human pregnancy. Proponents of the diet plan believe that hCG causes weight loss of 1 to 3 pounds per day of body fat while maintaining lean muscle.
The diet plan calls for a strict diet of coffee or tea with stevia or saccharine for breakfast, and a choice between lean meat, a vegetable, bread stick, and a piece of fruit for lunch. Dinner consists of the same choices as lunch, although it is recommended the dieter choose different foods for lunch and dinner. There are many food restrictions on the hCG diet plan. Dieters are also required to avoid all cosmetics, lotions, oils, and medicines, with a few exceptions. The hCG diet is usually maintained for a set period of time, typically a maximum of 40 shots or when 34 pounds (15 kg) is lost.
Proponents of the hCG diet plan claim that combining hCG injections with a low calorie diet causes weight loss without hunger pangs or discomfort, unlike caloric restriction alone. Weight loss associated with the diet plan is claimed to be due to a permanent adjustment of the metabolic rate, so that the dieter does not regain weight lost after the diet is discontinued. Refraining from exercise is also recommended during the diet. It is not needed because the hCG injections keep dieters from losing muscle tone during the course of treatment.
Most scientists, dieticians, and researchers claim that hCG injections are no more effective on weight loss than a placebo, however. Many studies support this view. Many doctors claim that any weight loss experienced on the hCG diet plan is due solely to the extremely low caloric intake during the diet, and that such low levels of caloric intake are unsafe.
A primary purpose of hCG is to maintain progesterone levels required to sustain a healthy pregnancy. Scientists have been studying hCG since the 1950s, but the hormone’s possible effects on weight loss were introduced to the general public by Dr. Albert T. Simeons, a British endocrinologist who had theorized that hCG protects the developing fetus by causing the mother’s body to release fat stores during times of starvation.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has only approved the use of hCG as a fertility drug. It has not approved hCG as a weight loss drug. Nevertheless, the sale and use of hCG is legal in most countries.