April 15, 2011

hCG/HGH Diet - Dangerous or Delightful?

I, along with many colleagues from Bastyr University, have been appalled lately as we learn more about the fad that is "HCG" aka "HGH" (human chorionic gonadotropin/human growth hormone). While I understand they are not identical, the foundation is the same - hormone replacement for those who don't need it in an effort to lose fat. HCG is a pregnancy growth hormone that you inject into your body and HGH is a pill you can take orally. This diet is often prescribed and condoned by medical professionals, and there are claims that when on this formula, a person can lose pounds of fat and feel energetic and not hungry. If your doctor says its ok, is it? Can you trust this diet for safe and permanent weight loss?

Please see my friend Rebecca's blog for more great details about this product, but in a nutshell, on this diet you inject yourself with(or take orally)growth hormones produced during pregnancy while you consume only 500 calories a day. Because of the presence of this growth hormone, supposedly it blocks those pesky classic hunger/starvation side-effects (dizziness, irritability, low energy, hunger). You lose a lot of weight apparently. Are you surprised by that? If I ate 500 calories a day for any period of time, I would expect to lose a lot of weight. That part is obvious.

Further, there have been studies done comparing two groups: one on a 500 calorie diet and another on a 500 calorie diet plus HCG injections and guess what - surprise! - they lost the same amount of weight.

I am probably making some people mad right now. There are folks who swear by this diet. There is "scientific evidence"...it "changed my life"...However, you won't ever catch this Bastyr nutrition student supporting a very-low-calorie-diet that includes injections of a hormone you buy off the internet. Sorry.

Time for a little "Media-Literacy"
One more thing that inspired this post is an advertisement I found in a popular magazine on an airplane. I ripped it out and have been saving it for you. Instead of HCG injections, this is "HGH" pills. This is one of my favorite parts:

"It is now thought that HGH is so comprehensive in its healing and regenerative powers that it is today, where the computer industry was twenty years ago, that it will displace so many prescription and non-prescription drugs and health remedies that is staggering to think of"

First of all, this isn't even well written. Second of all, when you see something advertised as "The Reverse Aging Miracle" and will help you enjoy:

improved sleep and emotional stability, loss of body fat, increased bone density, controlled cholesterol, wrinkle disappearance, and heightened five senses awareness

Sound to good to be true? It likely is. Please run the other way, call you local RD to make an appointment, and ask how you can incorporate fresh, sustainably produced food with vitality into your life and balance it with physical activity and mindful practices.


  1. Also, it ruined baseball for more than a decade.

  2. being a fellow nutrition student I totally agree, never would any dietitian or nutrition professional suggest a diet as low as 500 kcals a day. Yes there will be rapid weigh loss, but the potential health risks are so not worth it. I enjoyed reading your post because I just saw on Discovery Health and Fit a show on a lady who used HGH. It is like a steroid with the type of side effects in causes, like lowering of the voice in females. She did not look attractive either. She looked sick for lack of a better word. Great post. Can't wait to read more!

  3. Follow-up:

    "Escalating abuse of HGH may eventually pose significant health problems, iven the evidence that long-term supraphysiologic levels of HGH may be associated with elevated morbidity and mortality" (American Journal on Addictions- 2010; 20, 9-13)

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  12. Having high intensity workouts on a regular basis is another great way to boost natural HGH production. Go burst training that helps you speed up your heart rate above the anaerobic threshold. The anaerobic threshold is the point during workout at which the body has to switch from aerobic to anaerobic metabolism. It is used to determine the intensity of exercises.

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