HCG Diet

Posted 6 February 2013

My colleague, Professor Roy Jobson, asked me the other day if I knew of any South African public statements from the Department of Health or other authorities about the use of the “HCG diet.” This diet is advertised extensively, including in South Africa, as an effective way to lose weight.

HCG is  an abbreviation for human chorionic gonadotropin – a hormone that is made in pregnancy and is measured in diagnostic tests of pregnancy.

The diet is based on the theory of an endocrinologist, Dr Albert TW Simeons, who in 1954 published a booklet called “Pounds and Inches” and a paper in the Lancet on his theories. He was the leading promoter of a weight-loss scheme based on human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG).

Scientific consensus does not support Simeons’s claims, finding no weight loss attributable to the use of HCG. [1, 2] The HCG is used in conjunction with a “very low calorie diet.” This would be similar to the diet that Prof Tim Noakes has recently been recommending.

Indeed, even “homeopathic” HCG products have been advertised internationally – this is likely to be a scam for there is no active ingredient in most homeopathic preparations.

Is it possible that individuals will lose weight if on the HCG diet? Yes, simply because in ALL studies where individuals are involved, the mere fact that they are part of the diet results in some individuals adhering to a food-restricted diet, and this itself will result in weight-loss. It is not because of some biochemical “magic” from the HCG. Therefore those losing weight on the diet being tested will be similar to those on the placebo, and often not more than 10% of the study group will benefit from this “placebo” response. And these very low calorie diets are highly problematic for they are unsustainable, and do not change one’s behaviour, which means that when they are discontinued, excess weight is rapidly regained.

Therefore do not waste your money on this diet! Some of the South African versions are actually quite expensive.

Below is an extract from a good synopsis written by Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD and published on WebMD:

[quote]Weight of the Evidence

Although it may sound like a plausible weight loss plan, the scientific evidence for using hCG is lacking.

In 1995, the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology published an analysis of research showing no benefit of hCG in promoting weight loss. A December 2009 position paper of the American Society of Bariatric Physicians concluded they did not recommend hCG as a weight loss aid.

Quack director Stephen Barrett, MD tells WebMD that “scientific studies have demonstrated that hCG injections do not cause weight loss.”

He describes the protocol as extreme, nearly impossible to adhere to, and senseless, especially because the clinical trials have demonstrated that hCG is ineffective as a weight loss aid.

There are no FDA-approved hCG weight loss products, and the FDA and Federal Trade Commission have cracked down on several companies marketing hCG weight loss products.

Not only will you waste your money on hCG, but there are also potential consequences — from side effects of the product and self-injections to nutritional deficiencies.[/quote]



The USA Food and Drug Administration has stated that over the counter hCG products marketed as weight loss aids are unproven and illegal [3] in the USA,  including alleged hCG products marked as “homeopathic” [4] and the FDA, FTC have acted to remove “homeopathic” HCG weight loss products from the US market. [5, 6] I could find no similar statements or actions by the South African Medicines Control Council (MCC).

The USA Endocrine Society (hormone experts) agree that the hCG diet is unproven and potentially harmful.


  1. Stein, Mark R.; Julis, Ronald E.; Peck, Carl C.; Hinshaw, W; Sawicki, JE; Hinshaw, William; Sawicki, John E.; Deller, John J. (1976). “Ineffectiveness of human chorionic gonadotropin in weight reduction: A double-blind study“. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 29 (9): 940–8. PMID 786001.
  2. Lijesen, GK; Theeuwen, I; Assendelft, WJ; Van Der Wal, G (1995). “The effect of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) in the treatment of obesity by means of the Simeons therapy: A criteria-based meta-analysis“. British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology 40 (3): 237–43. PMC 1365103. PMID 8527285
  3. Fraudulent HCG Products for Weight Loss“. Food and Drug Administration. Retrieved 2012-09-13.
  4. HCG Diet Products Are Illegal“. Food and Drug Administration. Retrieved 2012-09-13.
  5. FDA, FTC act to remove “homeopathic” HCG weight loss products from the market
    Joint action is first step in halting sale of the products. December 6, 2011
  6. FDA. Questions and Answers on HCG Products for Weight Loss 24 October 2012

1 comment to HCG Diet

  • Lorette van Vuuren

    Around the year 2001, just before this injection was taken from the market, I received (paid for it myself as the medical aid will obviously not) from my docter. I wanted enough for 20 injection but he refused and gave me enough for only 10. I did not follow a diet or joined the gym. I injected every 2nd morning and WOW, I lost ±15-18kgs. It also stayed off. I was shocked to found it was not available anymore short after. I had a friend who wanted to get some.

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