To the outcry of several supplement companies manufacturing them, the FDA finally went and banned use of homeopathic HCG concoctions as a weight loss supplement. Let’s look at the reasons.
What Is HCG?
HCG stands for human chorionic gonadotropin and is a hormone women produce during pregnancy, where it helps sustaining growth of the fetus. In medicine, administration of HCG is used as a fertility aid for women and in men to increase the production of testosterone.
It’s difficult to see how this led over to it being used as a weight loss aid and the path it took to arrive there is nothing but astounding.
HCG And Weight Loss
In the 1930s, a British endocrinologist, Albert T. W. Simeons, studied pregnant Indian women who lived on a heavily calorie-deficient diet. At some point he also developed an interest in overweight boys suffering from Fröhlich’s syndrome, an illness where the pituitary gland is malfunctioning, making people very hungry, all the time.
Simeons claimed that those malnourished pregnant women he examined only lost fat mass, while muscle mass was spared. He reasoned that this is so because of their elevated level of HCG and that by injecting HCG into obese you could “reprogram” the hypothalamus (the brain’s control center for the pituitary gland) to protect muscle cells and only use fat cells for energy.
He tested his hypothesis by injecting those overweight boys with Fröhlich’s syndrome with HCG, gave them very little to eat and, indeed, they lost weight. Unfortunately, what he didn’t test was what would have happened if he had given them very little to eat without injecting them with HCG.
Real Science Steps In
A proper scientist would have taken his observations and have them tested in circumstances where errors such as these are accounted for, but Simeons thought his reasoning was just about self-evident. In 1954, he simply published a report in the medical journal Lancet, which he soon turned into a book titled Pounds & Inches – A New Approach to Obesity, where he advised people to get HCG injections and eat around 500 kcal / day.
But despite a few early studies indicating that there might be some truth to what Simeons claimed, evidence that it wasn’t so was soon overwhelming (PDF). Any well-designed study failed to find a connection and any weight loss people experienced on the HCG diet was simply due to eating very little. In 1975 and 1976 the FDA and FTC ordered the various companies with which Simeons marketed his HCG diet to put warning labels on their patient contracts and product labels.
After 40 Years Finally A Ban
If I told you that the best way to lose weight was to eat like a malnourished and pregnant woman in India, what would you reply to me?
Yet for the last decades, some people made a good bit of money with what about amounted to the same: a more than likely useless drug, where any weight loss that is taking place is due to an unhealthy caloric restriction. Just in 2007, Kevin Trudeau, of infomercial fame, reinvigorated and capitalized on HCG until the FDA stepped in. Maybe we actually have to thank Trudeau for now getting the FDA to look at homeopathic HCG supplements and finally at least banning those for good.
Because despite the outcry of various supplement manufacturers, the only two things wrong about the FDA banning them is that it comes about forty years too late and that doctors can still administer HCG shots for weight loss. In those forty years, numerous people going through with this diet may have already suffered the same fate as many pregnant Indian women in the 1930s: an untimely death.