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HCG diet: Is it safe and effective?

Answer Section

No. The HCG diet isn't safe, and it doesn't lead to long-term weight loss. HCG stands for human chorionic gonadotropin. It's a hormone made in the body during pregnancy. Lab-made HCG is added to some weight-loss products that are sold without a prescription. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns against using these products. The HCG diet combines these weight-loss products with a very low-calorie eating plan.

There's no proof that HCG weight-loss products alone help you lose weight. Any weight loss likely comes from getting very few calories as part of the HCG diet. Most often, the HCG diet involves taking in 500 to 800 calories a day. People who follow diets so low in calories are likely to lose weight in the short term. But these diets come with risks such as:

  • Hardened buildups of digestive fluid called gallstones that can form in the gallbladder.
  • Irregular heartbeat.
  • A lack of vitamins and minerals.
  • Levels of minerals called electrolytes that become too high or low.

HCG weight-loss products are linked with making some cancers worse, including prostate cancer. The HCG in these products may prompt the body to make hormones called androgens. These hormones help prostate cancer cells grow.

The most common side effects of the HCG diet include:

  • Depression.
  • Extreme tiredness, also called fatigue.
  • Swelling called edema that is caused by too much fluid trapped in the body's tissues.
  • Enlarged breasts in men, also called gynecomastia.
  • Headache.
  • Trouble getting rest.

Rare side effects include blood clots, testicle tumors, and sacs called cysts in an ovary or on its surface.

HCG weight-loss products are sold at some retail stores, weight-loss clinics and online. Some of these products are labeled "homeopathic" to suggest that they're healthy. But the FDA says that these products aren't safe and that the homeopathic claim is illegal. The FDA has approved HCG as a prescription medicine for some uses, such as to help people get pregnant. Prescription HCG isn't used for weight loss, and it comes with a label that says so.

If weight loss is your goal, choose safer ways to lose weight. Talk with your healthcare professional about making healthy changes that lead to lasting weight loss. These changes include eating a balanced diet and getting regular exercise.

Content Last Updated: 04-Jun-2024
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