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Risks and Benefits of the HCG Diet

By Rick Rockwell ; Updated July 18, 2017

The HCG diet consists of consuming the hCG hormone, also known as human chorionic gonadotropin, in liquid supplement drops or via injections. Participants of this diet are on a severely restricted intake of calories. HCG dieters are to consume roughly 500 calories per day. In addition to the rapid weight loss, there are several dangers and health risks associated with the HCG Diet.

HCG Diet History

The HCG diet can be traced back to a British doctor by the name of A.T.W. Simeons. During the 1950s, Simeon would inject hCG into children suffering from Frohlich's syndrome, a condition where kids suffered from slow developing reproductive organs and obesity. The kids began to develop lean muscle and lose body fat. Over the next few decades, Simeon would inject hCG into obese men and women. Additionally, he would place these men and women on a 500-calorie diet which consisted of lean meats, fruits, a piece of bread and leafy vegetables. In the 2000s, the HCG diet saw a resurgence, as dieters seek the best way to lose weight fast.

Weight Loss

HCG dieters experience a dramatic loss in weight when on the diet. However, the weight loss is due to the low amount of calories and not because of the hCG hormone, according to Mayo Clinic nutritionist Jennifer K. Nelson. Additionally, a 1995 study published in the "British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology," stated that there is no scientific evidence that hCG can or does treat obesity. Due to the overwhelming scientific evidence against the claim that hCG leads to weight loss, The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has made it illegal for HCG diet manufacturers to list on the label that HCG products cause weight loss. The FDA only approves hCG as a fertility treatment.

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Short-Term Side Effects

Low-calorie diets might be effective over a few weeks but can lead to various side effects. Diets below 800 calories are considered VLCD diets -- very low-calorie diets. These VLCD diets can present the following short term side effects: fatigue and gastrointestinal problems like diarrhea or nausea. Additionally, once you get off of a VLCD and back to a healthier caloric intake, you gain most of the weight back. Low-calorie diets like the HCG diet do not promote sustained weight loss.

Long-Term Side Effects

VLCD diets like the HCG diet can also cause the following long-term side effects: anemia, decrease in thyroid function, bone loss and a decrease in the immune system. Additionally, VLCD can lead to malnutrition, as these diets aren't well balanced and do not provide enough calories, severely depriving individuals of the nutrients that the body needs.


In addition to fatigue and gastrointestinal problems, the HCG diet can also cause gall stones. The rapid weight loss, and subsequent weight gain after getting off the HCG diet, can increase chances of developing gallstones, which are small clumps of solid material that form in the gall bladder and typically consist of cholesterol. Gallstones can cause various symptoms like pain and indigestion.

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