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The HCG diet, which combines an extremely low calorie diet with hormone injections, promises rapid weight loss for vegans and meat eaters. HCG stands for human chorionic gonadotropin, a hormone produced by women in early stages of pregnancy. Proponents say you can lose a pound a day on the plan, but critics say the weight loss claims are excessive and the diet poses health risks.
Restricted Diet for Meat Eaters
The original HCG diet was designed by British physician A. T. W. Simeons with meat eaters in mind. The protocol, first reported by Dr. Simeons in 1954, includes 3.5 oz. of meat at lunch and dinner. Permitted meat choices include:
- boiled or grilled veal
- chicken breast
- fresh white fish
Meat is to be weighed raw, all visible fat is to be removed, and chicken breast must be removed from the bone. Pickled fish, herring, ell, salmon and tuna are not permitted.
- The original HCG diet was designed by British physician A. T. W. Simeons with meat eaters in mind.
Daily Hormone Injections
HCG Diet and Constipation
Until the third day—the third injection of HCG—dieters are instructed to eat excessively. On the third day and for the next three weeks, the protocol includes daily injections, unlimited amounts of plain tea or coffee, but no starches or sugars, including those in sweet fruits.include:
- On the third day
- for the next three weeks
- the protocol includes daily injections
- unlimited amounts of plain tea or coffee
- but no starches or sugars
- including those in sweet fruits
A minimal amount of starch is permitted after the first three weeks and up to a tablespoon of milk daily is permitted throughout.
Diet Amended for Vegans
Followers of Dr. Simeons have amended the protocol for vegans. Vegans are to drink 1 to 2 quarts of water before consuming any food throughout the day. For the first three weeks of the HCG diet, vegans can choose any raw vegan foods they want 1. Lunch includes another quart of water and more raw food. Dinner is a repeat of lunch. One website devoted to the HCG diet recommends that vegans make green smoothies as a convenient food choice. Vegans in the second phase of the protocol are permitted extra fruit at breakfast and for snacks.
- Followers of Dr. Simeons have amended the protocol for vegans.
- Vegans in the second phase of the protocol are permitted extra fruit at breakfast and for snacks.
Restricted Use of Cosmetics
What Foods Can You Eat on the hCG Diet?
For both meat eaters and vegans, the protocol includes abstention from medicines and most cosmetics, which proponents say interfere with weight loss 2. Dietitians and nutritionists say that any low calorie diet will produce weight loss, but that there is no evidence that the HCG hormone or the restrictions on the use of cosmetics helps dieters shed pounds. The average woman needs 2,000 calories to sustain her weight. With a daily calorie deficit of 1,500, you could expect to lose 3 lbs. a week, since it takes 3,500 calories to support a pound of fat. Proponents of the diet suggest you can lose a pound a day and attribute the additional weight loss effects to the HCG injections—the hormone also is available as drops—and the diet’s strict guidelines.
- For both meat eaters and vegans, the protocol includes abstention from medicines and most cosmetics, which proponents say interfere with weight loss 2.
- Dietitians and nutritionists say that any low calorie diet will produce weight loss, but that there is no evidence that the HCG hormone or the restrictions on the use of cosmetics helps dieters shed pounds.
Clinical Support Lacking
The HCG diet has been studied for more than 50 years, but reliable clinical studies have not proven the hormone to be effective in weight loss, says Jennifer K. Nelson, a registered dietitian. She says side effects of the HCG diet include:
- headaches and
- in men
- breast enlargement
Low calorie diets of all kinds make it difficult for people on them to meet their nutritional needs and might lead to gallstones, Nelson says. Weight lost rapidly also is more likely to be regained than weight that is lost gradually. Anyone interested in the HCG diet should seek medical advice.
- The HCG diet has been studied for more than 50 years, but reliable clinical studies have not proven the hormone to be effective in weight loss, says Jennifer K. Nelson, a registered dietitian.
HCG Diet and Constipation
What Foods Can You Eat on the hCG Diet?
Vegetables for Phase 2 of the HCG Diet
hCG Diet & the Menstrual Cycle
What Happens After 1 Week of the HCG Diet?
Vegetarian HCG Diet
Candida Diet for Vegans
Can You Eat Regular Cottage Cheese on the HCG Diet?
HCG Pills for Weight Loss
HCG Diet & Nausea
- HCG Fat Loss: Vegan Diet Protocol
- HCG Fat Loss; HCG Protocol
- Mayo Clinic: HCG Diet: Is It Safe and Effective?
- U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Questions and Answers on HCG Products for Weight Loss. Updated May 4, 2016.
- Simeons AT. The action of chorionic gonadotrophin in the obese. Lancet. 1954;267(6845):946-7. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(54)92556-8
- Pandey SK. HCG: Yet another fraudulence. J Pharm Bioallied Sci. 2012;4(3):255-6. doi:10.4103/0975-7406.99068
- Butler SA, Cole LA. Evidence for, and Associated Risks with, the Human Chorionic Gonadotropin Supplemented Diet. J Diet Suppl. 2016;13(6):694-9. doi:10.3109/19390211.2016.1156208
- Goodbar NH, Foushee JA, Eagerton DH, Haynes KB, Johnson AA. Effect of the human chorionic gonadotropin diet on patient outcomes. Ann Pharmacother. 2013;47(5):e23. doi:10.1345/aph.1R755
- Dr. Richard Lipman, M.D. HCG Foods New for the 800 Calorie HCG Diet in Miami, Fl.
- Chan, A. HCG Diet is Dangerous, Experts Say. Live Science. Published May 30, 2013.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. Appendix 2. Estimated Calorie Needs per Day, by Age, Sex, and Physical Activity Level. Published December 2015.
Since 2005, Milo Dakota has ghostwritten articles and book manuscripts for doctors, lawyers, psychologists, nutritionists, diet experts, fitness instructors, acupuncturists, chiropractors and others in the medical and health profession. Her work for others has appeared in the "Journal of the American Medical Society" and earned accolades in "The New York Times." She holds a Master of Art in journalism from the University of Michigan.