You may have heard of HCG injections— they contain a hormone that is used for weight loss purposes. But while a lot of modern medical offices and health food stores do carry HCG for various purposes, a lot of doubt on its weight loss efficacy has been cast by authoritative sources.
In spite of this, many people still get HCG injections in hopes that it will help them shed excess pounds quickly and easily. Whether or not it is actually an effective method is one issue, but today we’re here to talk about whether or not HCG is safe.
What Exactly is HCG?
Human Chorionic Gonadotropin or HCG is a hormone that is naturally produced in the placenta and is found in high levels during early pregnancy (it is in fact the “pregnancy hormone” that is tested for in at-home pregnancy tests). In some cases, elevated levels of the hormone may also be indicative of certain types of cancer.
HCG was “discovered” for weight loss purposes in the 1950s by British endocrinologist A.T.W. Simeons, who was studying teens in India with glandular disorders. Many glandular disorders cause obesity (the main focus of the study), and Simeons found what he believed to be sufficient evidence that high levels of HCG resulted in weight loss. Simeons eventually promoted a weight loss treatment that consisted regular HCG injections combined with a low-calorie diet of about 500 calories a day.
What the Studies Say About HCG
There was a widely read study in the 1970s that established HCG had no affect on weight loss. Any weight loss that had been reported among patients following the “HCG diet” with injections and extremely low calorie intake only experienced weight loss as a result of their caloric restrictions rather than as a result of the added HCG hormone.
Multiple authoritative sources agreed with the study at the time of its publication, and its claims of helping with weight loss were then dismissed by physicians and the U.S. government. Because of its dismissal, however, there has not been much further research on the subject. Accordingly, there are no established studies on the long-term effects of HCG injections and whether or not there are dangerous future complications.
That said, HCG is known to influence both estrogen and progesterone. Some physicians believe this could result in significant metabolic consequences over time.
Over-the-Counter HCG vs. Prescription HCG
Today, HCG is carried both in medical offices (or as a prescription from a pharmacist) and health food stores. The medical version is actually FDA-approved, but not for weight loss purposes. Its use is approved for fertility treatments, but this does not mean doctors cannot prescribe it for off-label usages. There have been reports that some cosmetic surgeons are prescribing it to patients, though many doctors believe HCG puts patients at higher risk of blood clots, headaches, pulmonary embolism and depression. It has also been reported that some medical professionals monitor a patient’s heart health before agreeing to administer HCG injections.
When it comes to health stores, HCG comes in a wide variety of forms, including pills and even foods. It is considered a “homeopathic” treatment in these cases, so the amounts of HCG being put into these products is not well monitored.
Further research is required to determine whether or not an HCG injection itself can be considered safe. That said, there may be associated risks as a result of the extreme low-calorie diet that HCG injection recipients often follow (the vast majority of people should get around 1,200 calories or more in a day). Furthermore, HCG is available these days in numerous edible forms that may contain harmful ingredients, but again, very little research has been done in this area.