The Hormone Diet

Why an hCG diet is a terrible idea

More than a dozen clinical trials have failed to find any evidence to support the hCG Diet, a weight loss craze from the 1970s that involves eating just 500 calories per day while injecting the hormone hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin). Still, Dr. Mehmet Oz recently told viewers of  “The Dr. Oz Show” that this strategy is “worth trying […] under a doctor’s supervision.”

Yeah. Can somebody page Dr. Oz back to sanity? Because as David Katz, MD, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center recently told ABC: “This diet is appalling. It takes irresponsible diets to new heights.” Obviously, not everybody (ahem, Dr. Oz) got that memo. So let’s go over some basics from Keeping Yourself Alive 101:

#1: No matter what you’re injecting, women need to consume a minimum of 1200 calories per day to ensure your body gets enough nutrients to keep all systems functioning, says the National Institutes of Health. Got that? And they say 1200 calories at the very least. Frankly, depending on your size and activity level, you’ll probably still be pretty hungry on that plan. Most of us can safely lose a pound per week by eating around 1500 to 1800 calories per day.

#2: Getting injections of hormones is a special kind of stupid when more than a dozen studies have failed to prove they’ll do you any good. That’s why the Food & Drug Administration has banned direct-to-consumer sale of the hCG supplements. The compound was originally found to aid weight loss because they directed calories to fetuses in pregnant women, so how they might help or hurt you if you aren’t feeding a fetus with your body is anybody’s best guess.

"We're so desperate to have good solutions for weight control that a lot of people with good common sense literally suspend it when it they confront weight-loss claims," says Dr. Katz. And I understand why: Our culture puts so much emphasis on the whole “thinner is better” idea that it’s easy to lose the plot when it comes to weight loss and think any method that works is worth it.

So consider this your common sense wake up call: It’s not worth it. If you’re worried that your weight will endanger your health, following a diet that will definitely endanger your health is not a good solution.

If Dr. Oz wants to go on a quest for the weight loss holy grail by funding yet more clinical trials on hCG, more power to him. But until he gets a shred of evidence, I suggest we all leave him to it and go back to eating real food.

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