The HCG diet

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The HCG diet which is popular now, is really an older program which has had a makeover. The fact that it has been selected by some bariatric medical providers, has given it a semblance of medical approval and the fact that those selling it, assure us that the "older parts of Dr Simeon's original HCG program" have been dropped, makes the consumer feel it's really been "updated".

HCG is a hormone manufactured during pregnancy which is thought to encourage the fetus to obtain nutrition from the mother's fat tissue (instead of the body taking only a low percentage of its needed daily calories from fat, the rest taken from muscle, bone and even (depending on how drastically the calories are cut) organ tissue. It is synthesized from the urine of pregnant mammals.

It was a "protocol" first invented by Dr Simeon, a UK physician, in the 1950's who was  criticized for "false promises" by the FDA which eventually shut his business down.  It apparently has been taken up by some bariatric physicians today who claim to have modernized the program.  HCG, the hormone itself, originally only injectable, is now offered in many forms including an oral form.

The Protocol still includes an extremely low calorie diet (500 calories a day) and most medical providers suggest patients only stay on it for 25-30 days after which a weight loss of 25-35 lbs is expected.  Those giving the diet to their patients often suggest modifications in types of food selected including selecting low carb foods, abstaining from foods with sugar in them etc. thus giving the program a "healthy appearance".  We are assured that this diet is only for folks who are "unable" to lose weight through the more conventional programs like Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig.

We are further told that the addition of the HCG hormone "makes" the very low calorie diet healthy because it forces the body to use only body fat for nutrition.

Trouble is, the reason the body cannibalizes muscle and bone during any diet is because it can only get simple sugar from body fat.  The thought that "you can get a hamburger from the fat in your thigh" i.e. fat, protein and other nutrients, (something Gwen Shamblin of the "WeighDown" program has written) was the prevalent theory before 1970, but modern research has disproven this.

Even sensible diets do some cannibalization -for example, when I lost 112 lbs on Weight Watchers, following the healthy guidelines, I lost some of my glute muscle and it took almost a year of focused exercise to restore it.

The scientific committee of Weight Watchers states it takes about 1400 calories a day to have enough intake of protein, calcium and other nutritients the body requires. Obviously you are not going to be able to fulfill this in the 500 calories a day called for in the HCG protocol.

The updated HCG protocol provides for following the diet no more than a month at a time. Doctors offering this diet, also say they help their patients to switch to a more conventional nutritional program in order to maintain the weight loss.

Some studies suggested that Dr Simeon's protocol was neither safe nor effective in losing weight.

Modern providers of this diet, have tried to address some of the early criticisms by lowering the dosage of HCG, emphasizing healthy food choices and putting a time limit (usually 25-30 days) on the duration of the diet.

People who take HCG, sometimes complain about suffering headache, restlessness, blood clot problems and depression. You can also experience the signs of pregnancy like swelling of hands and feet, water retention and breast tenderness. One rare but life-threatening HCG diet dangers for women is manifestation of Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS). Under such a case, the patient experiences nausea, vomiting, breathing difficulty, excess urination and weight gain.

Obtaining HCG has gotten much less difficult due to the large GNC chain selling it (for one). It's pricey though.  The starter kit is $59 and the "Free trial" offer requires in "small print" that you sign up for the program and if you don't send back your trial supply within 30 days, you will be billed for $89, consumers say (not very happy about that).

Infomercial czar, Kevin Trudeau publicized the HCG diet, making all kinds of promises about it burning only the fat on the stomach or butt, "resetting the appetite" and more, which got the attention of the FCC and eventually got him banned from selling HCG over the airways.

But apparently Pandora's box had been opened and marketeers saw a large profit margin among the weight loss hungry public, in HCG, thus launching what might be called - the second generation type of HCG marketing.

Critics say that having 500 calories a day will cause a quick weight loss without HCG however, mainstream medicine admits that this may not be without repercussions. That is, a starvation diet can do serious damage to your body, brain and organs, lowering your metabolism, challenging your immunity and even making you more susceptible to heart disease!

Never-the-less, the seductive attraction of losing weight "fast and easy" has made diets like the HCG diet popular.

Most in mainstream medicine consider any "quick weight loss diet", neither safe nor effective in maintaining weight loss.  And as diets go, the regain rate from quick weight loss, is high. Dr Rudy Leibel's studies suggested that individuals can significantly lower their metabolism even from a few weeks of very low calorie dieting.

"Going on a crash diet," wrote Neil Solomon, MD, in his book THE TRUTH ABOUT WEIGHT CONTROL in 1972,"is like trying to run your car on French perfume. It might run a short time but the perfume will soon, clog up the engine."

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