the amazing hCG ‘diet’, redux

A while back, I wrote about the so-called hCG ‘diet’ drops: homeopathic drops that might just possibly (depending on dilution) contain a molecule of human chorionic gonadotropin (or maybe not), and which supposedly help one to lose weight. 

Ooops, nearly forgot to mention that you need to accompany your daily dose of magic water with the greatly reduced food intake that is all you get on a 500 calories/day diet…

My attention was originally drawn to this… um… creative bit of marketing by spam emails, but these days you can buy the drops in New Zealand, as noted in the NZ Herald:

Government agencies are assessing the legality of a diet that promises people they will lose up to half a kilogram a day by using a homeopathic fertility hormone banned in the United States.

The diet, which is gaining popularity in New Zealand, involves taking a substance known as hCG and restricting food to 500 calories a day for up to 40 days.

The Herald article is reasonably sceptical – apart from the comment about taking "a substance known as hCG": if this is truly a homeopathic preparation then all the purchaser is swallowing is water**. They would not be taking biologically-active quantities of the actual hormone (which is licensed in the US only as an injectable prescription drug). 

And that amazing weight loss is pretty much what you’d expect on a diet that provides well below the calorie intake recommended for the average person.

** and remarkably expensive water, at that. According to the Herald, the NZ purveyor 

sells a 23-day suppoly of hCG – human chorionic gonadotropin – for $135 and a 40-day supply for $180. Her cheapest option is an eight- to 10-day supply for $55.

You get 60ml for that $180

But wait, there’s more: I notice they’re into ‘alkalising’ the body as well (another idea with no biological plausibility).

4 thoughts on “the amazing hCG ‘diet’, redux”

  • I also particularly liked this bit:
    “The first phase is two days of eating a very high fat diet and taking hCG drops three times a day – this is supposed to reset the body’s fat-regulating system.”
    No idea what that’s even supposed to mean – clearly I’m not intelligent enough to benefit from these drops… 😉

  • herr doktor bimler says:

    From your earlier “no biological plausibility” post:

    I’m sure the alchemists of mediaeval times would have loved to meet with Young, but in the real world – where ‘cold fusion’ doesn’t really happen

    This is where I cite the authority of Isaac Asimov to prove you wrong.

  • Hi Alison,
    Way outside “my patch”, so just loose thoughts:
    Putting aside the nonsense of pseudo-scientific “remedies” (!), one thing bothers me a little about medical assistance for weight loss is that they seem “only” give a short-term reduction in weight (you can’t keep taking the pills, etc.) and the long-term success seems to rest on people maintaining their lowered weight. I recall seeing stats for Xenical showing that, sure, the patients had great improvements at 6 weeks (or whatever date it was) as the company advertises but if you kept following the patients’ progress about 50% had returned to close to their original weight after 12 weeks (or whatever it was). Further inspection suggested that those that the treatment succeeded was due to their maintaining the weight loss and that there was a continual “loss” of patients back to their original weight, so that after a long period of time relatively few had a low weight. It seems to me that, in principle at least, doctors might screen patients: if they can’t maintain a diet+exercise program, you could argue there’d be little point in offering them medical assistance as they’d be unlikely to maintain the loss. If they did maintain a diet+exercise program successfully, you could point out that if they just kept that up they’ll get there, even if it takes longer.
    Just loose thoughts. (I accept there will be a few exceptional cases who are too obese to exercise that might need medical assistance.)

  • Alison Campbell says:

    Yes, I rather think that the very rapid weight loss one would expect in someone with a 500-cal/day diet would go back on just as quickly once they went back to eating normally. As you say, for most people wanting to lose weight, eating sensibly & taking moderate exercise would probably do the trick just fine; no need for all the fancy add-ons.

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