I’m a skeptic by nature. I want hard facts before I’m convinced that something is real. This especially true if that something sounds “too good to be true.” For example, I believe any quick fix weight loss program should be approached with a healthy dash of skepticism. Marketers will use one gimmick after another to separate you from your money but, if you’re not careful, in the end you’re likely to be disappointed with the results. Even worse than throwing your money away you can, all too easily, leave yourself with a health problem brought on by dangerous stimulants and wacky diets.
Years ago when patients started asking me to prescribe hormone human chorionic gonadotrophin (HCG) and a low calorie diet I resisted. After all, I need to be sure that what I prescribe for my patients is safe and effective. I needed more information. So I started my research to find out what the HCG protocol was all about. I sought out credible doctors and nutritionists and asked them what kinds of results they were seeing with the protocol. The feedback was positive.
Next, I read the book Pounds and Inches (available on the Internet) which was written by British endocrinologist A.T.W. Simeons, the original developer of the HCG method. I also reviewed the available studies on these types of programs. In the case of Simeons HCG weight loss program the results were mixed with some positive results and some less than impressive findings. But the positive ones were enough to keep me intrigued.
Only then—with all the facts in, and convinced of its safety—did I decide it was okay to try the program with patients. The first was a fifty-year-old patient I had seen for several years for general health issues including hormone balancing protocols. She was very health conscious. Even though she exercised for an hour 5 to 6 days a week and consumed a 1300 calorie diet she could not lose a stubborn extra 20 pounds.
I started her on daily HCG injections and a 500 calorie diet. She returned to the clinic once a week to follow up with me. Every visit when I asked her if she was hungry she always assured me that she wasn’t. She reported that her energy levels were fine. Yet, she was losing, on average, a half-pound to a pound a day. At the end of her thirty-day program she had lost twenty pounds and two inches off her waistline. And, needless to say, she was thrilled! She went back to her original diet and exercise program and now, several years later, has kept the weight off…even during a diet-sabotaging cruise.
HCG is a hormone that’s produced naturally by the placenta in pregnant women. Doctor A.T.M. Simeons is credited with being the first person to realize the hormones potential for use in weight loss. While some in the weight management arena want to treat Dr. Simeons as a heretic—and his HCG protocol as fringe medicine—the truth is he was no academic slouch.
Simeons was born in London, and like many of his American and British peers pursuing a career in medicine he chose to attend a German university. He graduated from the University of Heidelberg and completed his postgraduate studies in Germany and Switzerland. Simeon then worked at a surgical hospital near Dresden, Germany. Eventually he became interested in tropical diseases and joined the School of Tropical Medicine in Hamburg. After completing two years of work in Africa, Dr. Simeons headed to India where he continued to practice medicine for the next 18 years… from 1931 to 1949.
Simeons was a medical pioneer and even critics can’t dismiss his credibility as a researcher and clinician. During his years in India he developed a drug treatment for life threatening malaria. Malaria, which is transmitted to people through mosquito bites, affects over two hundred million people a year and hundreds of thousands die from the infection yearly. Simeons also pioneered a blood staining test to better identify the malaria parasite. For his work on medical advances for malaria he was awarded the prestigious “Order of Merit” by the Red Cross. In addition, he did extensive research on the bubonic plague and developed a model leper center for the treatment of leprosy. Later he maintained a private practice in Bombay India and was regularly consulted by the Government of India. In 1949 he moved to Rome and worked at the Salvador Mundi International Hospital until he passed away in 1970.
Simeons describes his first uses of HCG with young male patients in India who had large abdomens, buttocks, hips, and thighs along with undescended testicles. He referred to them as “fat boys.” He discovered that daily injections of the bio-identical hormone HCG, along with a restricted diet of 500 calories (high protein diet with little fat and lots of water) a day, resulted in a loss of fat around the midsection and a normalization of their appearance. Amazingly his patients were able to follow the extremely low-calorie diet without suffering from hunger. He comments:
“I found that as long as such patients were given small daily doses of HCG they could comfortably go about their usual occupations on a diet of only 500 calories daily and lose an average of about one pound per day. It was also perfectly evident that only abnormal fat was being consumed, as there were no signs of any depletion of normal fat. Their skin remained fresh and turgid, and gradually their figures became entirely normal. The daily administration of HCG appeared to have no side-effects other than beneficial ones.”1
In essence, Simeon discovered that HCG mobilizes fat away from undesired areas such as the waist, buttocks, and hips. My own experience using HCG with patients confirms Simeons’ findings. My patients lose fat around the midsection, yet their faces don’t become skinny or withdrawn. Simeons hypothesized that HCG and a very low calorie diet may somehow have a revitalizing effect on a metabolic center of the brain. However, the exact mechanisms of how HCG affects metabolism and fat distribution are still not completely understood.
The elephant in the room: If you’re like most people I talk to about HCG you’re likely wondering if it’s the very low calorie diet and not HGC that accounts for the weight loss seen in patients on this protocol. The answer is actually yes and no. Let me explain.
When people first hear the diet is 500 calories they often gasp and say that it is no wonder people lose weight. They also comment that it would be a difficult diet to follow. The reality is that a 500 calorie diet in conventional medicine is an accepted medically supervised diet. Plenty of large, well known conventional medical institutions have patients follow a 500 calorie liquid diet. In those programs patients typically drink calorie-controlled shakes throughout the treatment and never eat any solid foods.
So it’s important to understand that the 500 calories advocated by the Simeon diet is not particularly unusual and is regularly prescribed by conventional weight loss specialists. However, with the HCG program, unlike the liquid diets promoted by conventional weight loss programs, patients do eat real food. This alone makes HCG more attractive to many patients.
In addition, while it’s true that many people can lose a similar amount of weight on a very low calorie diet without HCG some…like my patient I spoke of earlier…many are unable to lose weight by lowering calories alone. Their metabolism is unbalanced and weight loss is difficult no matter how many calories they consume. The HCG component is often what’s needed in these cases to finally kick-start the loss.
The fact is HCG makes it easier for almost anyone to lose weight for several reasons. First, HCG is a surprisingly powerful appetite suppressant. It’s a great safe alternative to the common conventional appetite suppressant known as phentermine which can cause serious side effects including: Increased blood pressure, heart palpitations, restlessness, dizziness, tremor, insomnia, shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness, swelling of the legs and ankles, and difficulty doing exercise..2 HCG is not a stimulant and typically has none of the troubling side effects that you can expect to see with a stimulant appetite suppressant. Frankly, I’m still amazed when patients tell me they’re not overly hungry on my HCG program. But the proof is in the results.
Another advantage for the use of HCG along with a lower calorie diet is that the hormone appears to target fat in the typical problem areas including the abdomen, hips, thighs, and buttocks. A double-blind study with adults confirmed this unique ability when researchers found that HCG, plus a low calorie diet, significantly decreased waist and abdominal circumference compared to a low calorie diet alone.3 I can clearly see this occurring with my own patients as we measure the inches they have lost. HCG also has one other major benefit. The hormone combats the fatigue, mood swings, and irritability that often affect those on a very low calorie diet. In fact, there’s data suggesting that HCG acts like an endorphin (a mood benefiting and pain reducing chemical) in the brain. One study, done by Argentinian researchers, found those on a 500 calorie diet plus pharmaceutical grade sublingual HCG “improved their attitude towards their environment, in the sense of an enhanced well-being, less irritability and lack of fatigue.”4 A side benefit of HCG’s endorphin-like action is that patients with arthritis or other types of chronic pain often find a dramatic reduction in their pain levels.
Simeon’s program was ingenious. However, I found it necessary to modernize his program for today’s patient. Keep in mind he developed it over 50 years ago and we have learned a lot more about the body and nutrition since then. I have modified the HCG program to make it easier for people to follow, while still producing substantial weight loss.
The Simeon diet is a high protein diet consisting of 500 calories. I have found patients often do just as well starting at 660 calories. If you are prone to fatigue or low blood sugar 160 calories can make a big difference. If a patient still has any low blood sugar or fatigue issues I will increase their calorie intake. A small percentage of patients require 800 to 900 calories a day to feel good. Yet, even on this higher calorie protocol, they still lose weight and inches effectively.
The original diet includes only tea or coffee without sugar for breakfast. I have replaced this with a high protein, low sugar, meal replacement. Patients tend to feel better with this modification and it prevents mid-morning blood-sugar swings and the risk of burning muscle for energy. I prefer a protein meal replacement with added soluble fiber like glucomannan or chia seeds.
The original program calls for patients to fat load for the first two days. Simeon felt it was important to increase “fat reserves” before starting a very low calorie diet. On the original program patients would typically gain 4-5 pounds after eating the unhealthy fats for two days and then spend the next three days of the program losing the weight they just gained. This is psychologically unhealthy for people who already have a weight issue. Besides, I have found this step is unnecessary to safely lose the weight so I have patients skip the “fat loading” phase altogether.
Simeons’ original program doesn’t allow any fat in the menu. This means no fish or eggs (he did make an exception for an occasional boiled egg). However, during Simeons’ era they simply didn’t know the difference between good and bad fats. We now know how important good fats can be for our health. Totally avoiding good fats, like omega-3s, is not only not necessary to see results, it can leave your skin dry.
In my adapted program I allow lean fish such as salmon or trout, but I tell patients to avoid shellfish. I also encourage them to use egg whites instead of whole eggs while on my adapted program. Simeons’ program didn’t allow different vegetables to be mixed together. Since they are so low in calories (except for root vegetables) I have found this restriction is unnecessary. Instead I encourage patients to feel free to mix different vegetables and eat as much of them as they want, especially greens. This allows for more flexibility in meal planning.
My general HCG diet consists of a high protein meal replacement (preferably with added soluble fiber for additional blood sugar stabilization, appetite suppression, and binding of fat in the blood) for breakfast. A snack such as an apple with the skin is eaten mid-morning and again in the mid-afternoon. Lunch and dinner consist of a protein such as egg whites, poultry, or fish, along with a large salad and small portion of carbohydrate such as a gluten free piece of toast or brown rice.
Like on Simeons’ original program, I encourage patient’s to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Most patients drink 50 to 80 ounces daily. This helps maintain hydration, suppress appetite, and allows for detoxification as fat stores are being broken down and metabolized. Remember that many toxins are stored in fat tissue.
Although Simeon’s program has a strict policy against any topical agents including makeup and lotions being used while on his program my adapted version does not. My own informal studies on this restriction haven’t found that it makes any difference.
Simeon discouraged the internal use of medications such as hormones. I don’t recommend stopping meds while on my adapted version of the program. If a patient is to stop a medication before starting a HCG cycle I have them do this with medical supervision before starting the program to sidestep any potential withdrawal side effects.
Simeon advised against using vitamin supplements during his HCG program. I feel this is a mistake. A restricted calorie diet can put you at risk for nutrient deficiencies. Since nutrients have no caloric value they don’t block weight loss. Actually the opposite is true. Taking nutrients during a HCG cycle helps to optimize energy, promote detoxification, and helps with the metabolism of fat. I have patients take a multivitamin and a mineral supplement along with a calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D supplement. Many of my patients also receive a B12 shot once a week to maintain better energy levels.
I find that some of my patients require additional supplementation. For example, if you are prone to blood sugar swings…such as patients who are hypoglycemic, prediabetic, or diabetic…you will benefit from blood sugar balancing nutrients including, vanadium, soluble fiber, , and berberine. If you struggle with insomnia melatonin, passionflower, GABA, or other relaxing nutrients can help. For additional appetite suppression I use the non-stimulant supplement Caralluma Fimbriata. And, for stronger fat-burning support, green tea extract without caffeine and L-carnitine can both help burn fat as energy.
Only light exercise should be done during an HCG program. A light walk for 20 minutes is fine. Weight loss is achieved through the very low calorie diet and moderate to heavy exercise is not required. In fact, too much exercise while on the program can lead to fatigue and the loss of muscle mass since the body would need to burn muscle tissue in addition to fat. Too much exercise can also backfire by causing your metabolism to slow down.
I once had a patient on the program that ignored my exercise restriction. On a hot summer day in California she went on a four hour long fundraising walk. She called me the next day complaining of fatigue and a black tongue…a sign of severe dehydration! When I asked her what she had been doing for the last 24-hours the reason for her problem was immediately clear. Fortunately quick rehydration solved her problem.
I use a prescription form of HCG with my patients. Since it’s an off label use there’s no insurance coverage.
There are three ways to administer the HCG. Since it’s done daily the patient is responsible for taking the HCG on their own. The first method is the traditional Simeon method of injection into the buttocks or thigh. We show patients how to do this at our clinic before starting the program. The second option is sublingual liquid or tablet HCG taken under the tongue. The last method is a nasal spray.
The traditional dosage is an injection of 125 IU of HCG daily. But no matter if it’s an injection, sublingual, or a nasal spray I have found a higher dosage of 250 IU works better. If a patient is following the diet closely and they start to plateau I will have them increase the dosage of HCG to help with weight loss.
Before starting the program I give patients a physical exam and do blood work. For some patients I also have an EKG done to check on heart function. Balanced hormones helps with metabolism so it’s important to get them balanced before or during the program. Thyroid hormone balance is particularly important, but I test all the major hormones to make sure they are where they should be.
Patients follow up at the clinic once a week to get their vital signs and measurements checked to be sure they’re doing well on the program. Most patients follow the program for 30 days. I have found that after that period the weight loss plateaus and patients become sensitized to the HCG. If a repeat cycle is needed I will have you follow a healthy, higher calorie diet with exercise for at least thirty days first. Women who are fertile and sexually active are notified their fertility may be enhanced and birth control measures are implemented.
I have never seen any major side effects on this program. Some patients can feel tired. This is normally fixed by increasing the amount of calories they’re eating or by giving nutrient support such as B vitamins. With the decrease in calories constipation can occur. This can usually be overcome simply by drinking more water and taking extra fiber. More stubborn cases may require the temporary use of laxative herbs such as cascara. Women who have a menstrual cycle may notice a temporary change in their cycle length.
Patients often ask me if taking HCG is a cancer risk. Human data doesn’t show that it’s a risk and actually there’s some preliminary evidence that it may have a protective effect against breast cancer. A study published in Cancer, Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention found that women 40 years and younger who had used HCG injections for weight loss or fertility had significantly less breast cancer than a control group who did not use HCG.5
A report published in Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology found HCG therapy had an inhibitory effect on breast cancer for postmenopausal women who were newly diagnosed. Researchers found that HCG reduced the growth of breast cancer cells that were stimulated by estrogen and progesterone.6
I recommend anyone with a history of cancer consult with their physician before starting treatment with prescription HCG.
Ninety percent of people who try HCG will lose at least 15 pounds per cycle. Heavier patients…those with 60 or more pounds to lose…will often drop 30 pounds in the first cycle. The HCG program is a kick start to dropping the pounds and inches, improving insulin resistance, and boosting overall.
However HCG is not a magic bullet. After losing weight with the program you will still need to maintain a healthy diet and exercise program. Your goal should be to keep the weight off long term, otherwise there’s no point to doing the program. I do have some patients that repeat a round every couple of years to lose the extra pounds they have put back on due to things like “holiday weight gain.”
Regardless of HCG, a comprehensive analysis of your hormones and natural hormone balancing can do wonders for increasing your metabolism. In addition, I’ve found that food and environmental sensitivities can be a barrier to weight loss so I typically test patients for these and have them avoid any trigger sensitivities. Lastly, many patients benefit from occasional detoxification programs that cleanse out toxins and keep the bowels regular which prevents weight gain.
I have hundreds of success stories I could share with you, but for now let me tell you about just two more recent ones. The first is Bernice who is in her late sixties. When I first saw Bernice she was walking very slowly with the aid of a cane. She weighed 300 pounds and her hip had no cartilage left in it. Her surgeon refused to do surgery to help relieve the pain until she lost 100 pounds. So we started Bernice on my adapted HCG program. After four cycles she had lost 95 pounds and her surgeon was very pleased with her results. I recently just got word that her hip surgery went very well, mission accomplished.
The next success story is also a woman in her sixties. Joan had just been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes when she came to see me. She wanted to avoid having to take diabetes drugs. After losing 65 pounds on the HCG program Joan now has no sign of diabetes at all. She doesn’t take any diabetic medications. She has had a complete reversal of her disease! Most patients that come to see me need to lose a little less weight than Bernice and Joan did. Typically they’re struggling with losing 20 to 40 pounds and HCG allows them to do that. When they follow up that loss with a good diet and exercise program and I get their hormones balanced and their digestion and detoxification systems working properly—they have long term success.