Magic Bullet or Weight Loss Fraud? The hCG Diet

hCGMagic Bullet or Weight Loss Fraud? The hCG Diet.

It seems that hCG is one diet craze that refuses to die. At, we’ve addressed the hCG issue before, but since it is still regularly hyped in the press, we wanted to give you more info.  Human Chorionic Gonadotrophin (hCG), a hormone produced by pregnant women, has been touted by some as being as close as it comes to a weight loss magic bullet, supposedly helping dieters cut calories and shed pounds without feeling hungry.

Wondering what hCG is all about or if you should try it?
Here are some important things you should know:

1) What is The hCG Diet?

Most hCG diet programs follow the same regimen established by Dr. A.T.W. Simeons, the physician who began promoting hCG as a weight loss aid in the 1950s. That’s right — while hCG may sound revolutionary, it has been in use as a diet drug for over 50 years. A round of treatment with hCG consists of a minimum of 23 consecutive days of daily hCG injections.  In addition to receiving shots, dieters are advised to cut food intake to as little as 500 calories per day.  (Note: not all hCG diets use this 500 calorie per day rule, but it is fairly common.)  Some dieters undergo multiple rounds of treatment with hCG.

HCG is only available (legally) by physician prescription, so theoretically a medical professional oversees all hCG diets.  Still, many ‘homeopathic’ forms of hCG are popping up in over-the-counter products like sprays and lozenges.  These are illegal.

2) What does the FDA say about hCG?
HCG is approved by the FDA only as a treatment for infertility.  HCG is not approved for any other use, however some physicians prescribe hCG ‘off-label’ as a diet aid.

3) What are the potential side effects of hCG?
Risks of hCG include blood clots, headaches, restlessness and depression.  Not surprisingly, since hCG is a pregnancy hormone, some users also report swelling, breast tenderness, and water retention.  HCG has also been associated with a serious condition called ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome.  The FDA recently received a report of a patient on the hCG diet who had a pulmonary embolism.

4) What does the scientific research say about the effectiveness of hCG as a weight loss aid?
Most credible, peer-reviewed studies of the hCG diet have found no difference in weight loss between dieters on a low calorie diet with hCG and dieters on a low calorie diet with a placebo.  In addition, although one of the purported advantages of hCG is to reduce hunger, some studies show that hunger pangs are still a problem for those on the hCG diet.

The Bottom Line: As exciting as The hCG Diet may sound, it is no magic bullet for permanent weight loss.  And there are many drawbacks.

First, it is relatively expensive, with some physicians charging over $1,000 for a round of treatment. Second, it does NOT do anything to change diet and exercise habits in the long-term.  As soon as a month long course of treatment is over, you will have to adopt a regular eating and physical activity pattern.  Third, there are some potentially serious physical side effects of taking hCG – and consuming under 1200 calories per day can lead to nutritional deficits and health issues. Finally, while anecdotal evidence of the efficacy of the hCG diet abounds, there is little scientific data to show that it can help people lose weight in the medium to long term.

— Katherine


  1. Jonathan Buffington says

    My sister brought this hormone diet up this morning, I looked it up and went and went “here we go again”. I just can’t get it through her thick head that there is no magic bullet, it’s all about self control and eating right! Guess we will have more crap for the yard sale soon!

  2. Aimee says

    I personally think it has nothing to do with the hCG, but more with the fact that it limits you to almost no carbs and your diet is only 500 calories per day. So dangerous….

  3. Kristie Bash says

    I have lost over 30 lbs on the hcg diet and have been able to keep it all off for 8 months without much effort. I don’t think it is a long term solution but it gave me a nice jump start. I’m proud to say that after two babies in two years, I am almost at pre-baby weight.

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