Friday, October 28, 2011

The folly of the HCG diet by Jerry Brainum

Back in 1954, British physician A.T.W Simeons proposed in a book entitled Pounds and Inches: A new Approach to obesity that a more efficient way to lose excess body fat involves administering injections of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG). HCG is a glycoprotein hormone, composed of 244 amino acids attached to a sugar. It has two subunits, termed alpha and beta, with the alpha subunit being identical to luteinizing  hormone (LH), which is involved in pregnancy in women and control of testosterone synthesis in men.In fact, HCG is one of earliest hormones to rise during pregnancy, explaining why most over-the-counter pregnancy tests work by testing for the presence of HCG. During pregnancy, HCG helps to maintain the corpus luteum, which secretes progesterone required for pregnancy to continue.HCG also modifies immune response to protect against a woman's immune system rejecting the fetus. Morning sickness, an early indication of pregnancy is caused by the rise in HCG levels.
    The original drug forms of HCG, which are always injectable, were derived from pregnant women's urine. Typical names of such drugs were Pregnyl and Profasi. A newer form is made through recombinant DNA technology and is sold under the trade name "Ovidrel." Dr.Simeons came up with his HCG weight loss idea after treating young boys afflicted with Frolich's Syndrome, which is caused by damage to the hypothalamus in the brain. Among the symptoms of the disorder are obesity. Simeons found that providing HCG to the boys led to a rapid loss of body fat. Based on this, he believed that HCG would promote rapid fat loss. But to ensure the success of his new treatment, Simeons also prescribed a 500 calorie a day diet plan (see below). While anyone would lose weight eating only 500 calories a day, which is starvation level, the key to Simeons plan was the HCG. Simeons believed that HCG used with the diet not only resulted in a rapid loss of fat( 1-2 pounds a day!) but led to other beneficial effects, including a lack of feeling weak or hungry despite the low caloric intake. In contrast, the usual minimal recommended number of daily calories when dieting for fat loss purposes is 1,500 for men and 1,200 for women.
    Over the years, several studies have examined the HCG plan, and all have concluded that HCG has no advantages over a placebo, and it's only the 500 calories a day that leads to fat loss on the plan. This body of research includes 14 randomized, controlled studies in which HCG has been compared to a placebo (saline or salt water injections), which found no difference in relation to promoting fat loss. The studies have included over 600 patients.While that should have ended the HCG controversy, the idea of using HCG was resurrected with the publication of a 2007 book by Kevin Trudeau. In the book, Trudeau claims that the diet is safe and effective, but that doctors didn't want to let the public know "the truth about HCG." Trudeau's claims were bolstered by Dr.Oz, an  actual physician, on his TV show. Once again, the HCG diet rose in popularity.
     The amount of HCG suggested on the diet is 125 to 150 units daily. As noted, this must be injected and all Internet "HCG supplements" that involve oral intake are an outright fraud. But what isn't publicized is the possible adverse effects from using HCG. In men, HCG, because of its structural similarity to LH, promotes testosterone synthesis. HCG is, in fact, four-times more potent in this regard compared to LH itself. Bodybuilders often use HCG at the end of a steroid cycle to kick-start a lagging endogenous testosterone synthesis in the body that has become blunted by the use of anabolic steroid regimes. In a 2000 study of 40 men over age 60, three months of HCG at a dose of 5000 units, twice weekly resulted in an increase in lean body mass coupled with a significant loss of fat. But the men also showed no increase in strength. Both testosterone and estrogen levels rose by 150% in the men on HCG. Many bodybuilders are not aware that HCG besides boosting testosterone levels, also increases estrogen, too. The men in the study also showed decreased testicular volume. Taking too high a dose of HCG or using it  for too long a time actually has a paradoxical effect in shutting down testosterone due to a reverse feedback loop to the pituitary gland in the brain. This is caused by both elevated estrogen levels produced by the HCG, as well as from the constant bombardment of the Leydig cells of the testes, where testosterone is produced by HCG, which acts like LH. But since LH is normally released in pulsitile fashion, or intermittently, the Leydig cells become paradoxically insensitive to the effects of LH/HCG, so less testosterone is synthesized. Estrogen, however, continues to be produced, setting up possible estrogenic side effects, including water retention and gynecomastia or male breast formation.In addition, a recent study showed that large doses of HCG--meaning any dose higher than 350 units--induces a large degree of oxidation in the Leydig cells, leading to cell death. What this means in practical terms is that using large doses of HCG for more than 4 weeks will result in paradoxical destruction of Leydig cells and an accompanying lowering of testosterone production. A large amount of oxidation in the Leydig cells causes the cells to kill themselves, a process called apoptosis. This explains the lowering of testosterone, since testosterone is produced in the Leydig cells of the testes. The high degree of oxidation is caused by depletion of cellular glutathione, a major antioxidant in the body, and studies have shown that the suicidal oxidative effect of HCG on the Leydig cells can be blocked by ingesting N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) at least twice weekly.NAC works because it's a direct nutrient precursor of glutathione.
      In recent years, direct HCG cell receptors have been found at various sites in the body. What this means is that if you take a drug form of HCG, you will stimulate these receptors. Some of them are in the lining of a woman's uterus, called the endometrium. Overstimulating the endometrium results in endometriosis, a painful disease involving ectopic uterine tissue that responds to monthly hormonal changes in women. Or it could lead to a fibroid tumor forming in the uterus, called a leiomyoma. HCG receptors also exist in the prostate gland, with the implication that using HCG injections can lead to prostate gland enlargement or even prostate cancer.One study linked HCG to gynecomastia or male breast formation and male breast cancer.
      The only thing that isn't explained about the HCG diet  are the reports of those who've used the diet and claimed that they weren't hungry. On a 500 calorie a day diet, most people would be ravenously hungry. The lack of appetite could result from a rapid downgrade in resting metabolic rate. This would also explain the frequent observation that any weight lost while on the HCG plan more often than not is rapidly regained soon after the diet ends.There is also likely a placebo effect involved, which involves having so much faith in the "power"of HCG that dieters talk themselves in believing that they aren't hungry. Another overlooked problem of the HCG diet is the fact that it's impossible to get all required nutrients while consuming only 500 calories a day. Not to mention protein. The lack of protein will lead to catabolic muscle loss, which probably accounts for over half the weight loss seen with HCG diet plans, as well as loss of skin elasticity and hair.

Tea or coffee in any quantity without sugar. Only one tablespoonful of milk allowed in 24 hours. Saccharin or Stevia may be used.
1.    100 grams of veal, beef, chicken breast, fresh white fish, lobster, crab, or shrimp. All visible fat must be carefully removed before cooking, and the meat must be weighed raw. It must be boiled or grilled without additional fat. Salmon, eel, tuna, herring, dried or pickled fish are not allowed. The chicken breast must be removed from the bird.
2.    One type of vegetable only to be chosen from the following: spinach, chard, chicory, beet-greens, green salad, tomatoes, celery, fennel, onions, red radishes, cucumbers, asparagus, cabbage.
3.    One breadstick (grissino) or one Melba toast.
4.    An apple, orange, or a handful of strawberries or one-half grapefruit.
Dinner :
The same four choices as lunch (above.)

©,2011 Jerry Brainum.Any reprinting in any type of media, including electronic and foreign is expressly prohibited.

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©,2013 Jerry Brainum. Any reprinting in any type of media, including electronic and foreign is expressly prohibited.

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