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HCG Hormone Shots for Weight Loss

By Lisa Sefcik paralegal ; Updated August 14, 2017

Aspiring pound shedders have been getting hCG shots for weight loss since the 1950s, according to a May 2010 news report aired on Salt Lake City's ABC Channel 4. The popular hCG diet couples injections of the pregnancy hormone, human chorionic gonadotropin, with a diet that's very low in calories. Mayo Clinic medical doctors and other experts say that hCG hormone shots don't give dieters any special advantage.

The hCG Hormone

HCG, a hormone produced during pregnancy, is usually used to treat infertility in women, says Mayo Clinic nutritionist Jennifer K. Nelson. However, hCG shots are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a way to lose weight. As part of an overall weight loss plan, dieters also restrict their caloric intake to between 500 and 800 each day. Nelson says that hCG shots are offered by weight loss clinics, which also provide medical supervision.

Purported Benefits

Advocates of the hCH diet claim that the shots melt away specific pockets of "abnormal fat" that's distributed on the belly, back, buttocks and arms, according to the Channel 4 report. Another purported benefit of getting hCG injections is that dieters shed pounds rapidly. However, critics of hCG injections for weight loss point out that restricted caloric intake makes you lose weight on this diet. Nelson points out that eating so few calories--between one-fourth to a half of your recommended intake--is likely to result in weight loss with or without hCG shots.

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Clinical Studies

There aren't many studies that examine the efficacy of hCG hormone shots for weight loss, Nelson points out, and available research is dated. A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in February 1977 examined the effects of hCG on six hospitalized obese women who received the injections for 30 days in conjunction with a 500-calorie daily diet. Compared to five obese women who received placebo injections and the same diet, mean weight loss between the two groups was practically identical, the study concluded. Another study published in the South African Medical Journal in February 1990 yielded similar findings. University of Stellenbosch researchers conducted a double-blind, placebo-controlled study comparing the effects of hCG shots to those of a placebo shot in 40 obese women. After six weeks, researchers determined: "Subjects receiving hCG injections showed no advantages over those on placebo ... We conclude that there is no rationale for the use of hCG injections in the treatment of obesity."

hCG Diet Safety

HCG hormone shots come with certain side effects. These may include fatigue, irritability and headaches. Men talking the shots may notice breast enlargement. Additionally, the restricted-calorie diet that goes along with the hCG diet makes it difficult for users to get adequate nutrition. Rapid weight loss may also cause gallstones, Nelson warns.

Bottom Line

HCG shots for weight loss work not because of the hormone, but because you consume so few calories, Nelson says. After you stop taking the shots and go off the diet, your pounds return immediately unless you monitor your caloric intake carefully. The best way to lose weight and keep it off is to adopt better eating habits and incorporate exercise into your lifestyle.

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