You've seen it in magazine columns, on the morning news and it's the diet being whispered about in women's locker rooms. Inject yourself with a pregnancy hormone called hCG and eat about 500 calories a day and you will shed lots of pounds, pretty quickly. Well, gosh gee - if you are only eating 500 calories a day, what's the big surprise here? It's the promise that you won't be hungry on 500 calories a day.......really??
Let's start with the history of this plan. It originates from a clinic in Rome that a number of years ago dispensed this hCG as a dieting aid. The injections and syringe supplies will currently cost about $1000 a month. In addition to keeping you from feeling hungry, individuals dispensing this plan suggest that the hormone may also help to "melt away fat" more quickly, especially in resistant areas like women's arms, bellies and thighs. The FDA already tackled issues with this diet, back in the 1970s, requiring that the hCG carry warnings including the facts that it had not been shown to clinically cause more attractive fat distribution, more weight loss or decrease hunger.
According to a past LA Times article, the FDA recently received an adverse reaction report to hCG, with the suggestion that the dieter had developed a pulmonary embolism. Other critics have suggested a raised risk of blood clots, depression, breast tenderness and enlargement.
Other experts say this is an expensive placebo and con job. The hormone is derived from the urine of pregnant women and is only available by prescription. Some doctors acknowledge the dramatic weight loss women are experiencing and feel that the trend can't simply be ignored. Some experts surmise that the ritual of a daily injection and the instant gratification of immediate weight loss right after you start the diet is the key to motivating people to stay on the diet. Certain sports figures, including Manny Ramirez, have been linked to using hCG shots for weight loss. In the NY Times article, one doctor was quoted as being concerned about cardiovascular risks associated with this rigid and very low calorie diet plan.
The true danger is having a diet like this spiral into long term anorexia or another type of eating disorder. Any person who has fasted for a day has experienced the initial hunger and emptiness and often times the subsequent euphoria and lightness you feel as you reach the 24 hour mark. People often feel so good they consider extending the fast a bit. But a daily total of 500 calories means you can be missing out on adequate nutrition, and it would be impossible for the average person to support any meaningful physical activity or exercise on a plan like this. Morbidly obese patients have been placed on very low calorie diets but these are often in-patient programs with daily doctor supervision. Most of the people attracted to this diet are women who want to quickly shed about 10-20 pounds.