As I was reading the Sunday paper, I notice an article entitled “Clinic Takes Advantage of New Weight loss Discovery”.  Turns out, this was not an article, rather a paid advertisement, and in no way a “new discovery”.  I am personally and professionally interested in weight management so I decided to do some investigation. 

 

This local, family practice physician is promoting hCG Therapy for weight loss.  The ad includes the statement, “If you can’t lose weight, it may be because your body’s signals that used to come from brain areas like the amygdala, hypothalamus, and pituitary gland have stopped sending hormones to your stored fat, telling it to move.  HCG Therapy replaces this process.”  I have had two different patients try this program, in their words, “out of desperation”.  They were charged $2500 (paid up-front) for 6 weeks worth of injections of hCG.  Neither patient lost weight, but more shocking, neither patient was told that this was NOT FDA approved.  Stephen Barrett, M.D. talks about this “therapy” on his website: www.dietscam.org/reports/hcg.shtml . I found more information about this “discovery” on the Dr. Weil’s website as well:

 

The acronym hCG stands for human chorionic gonadotropin, a hormone produced during pregnancy. It is made by cells in the placenta and is believed to mobilize abdominal fat to help nourish the fetus. The notion that daily injections of hCG combined with a severely limited caloric intake of only 500 calories per day would prove an effective weight loss method goes back to 1954 when a British physician, A.T.W. Simeons, proposed it. The idea is that if the hormone can convert fat to calories during pregnancy for use by the baby and, in the process, speed the mother’s metabolism, it can do the same thing when injected into people who want to lose weight.

 

The trouble is, it doesn’t work. Over the years, a number of clinical trials have tested the diet both in Europe and the United States, and none has found that hCG has any positive effect. Sure, you can lose weight on this diet – but that’s because you consume only 500 calories per day, not because you inject yourself with hCG. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 1976 found no statistically significant difference in weight loss, percent of weight loss, hip and waist circumference, weight loss per injections, or hunger ratings among patients who were on a 500-calorie-per-day diet combined with hCG injections and those who were on the diet and received placebo injections. Taking hCG doesn’t appear to be particularly unsafe, but there is no scientific proof that it does any good. (www.drweil.com/drw/u/QAA400413/Pregnancy-Hormone-for-Weight-Loss.html )

 

Such programs “takes advantage”…of individuals’ desire for an “easy fix” and belief that “if it is from a doctor, it must be real treatment.”  I am saddened that there are members of the medical profession engaging in such seemingly profiteering practices.  While I understand the desperation and frustration of failed weight loss efforts, why not promote increasing exercise and a healthier diet (nutritious, balanced)?  Even if individuals did lose some weight from the ultra-low calorie diet, what is the likelihood that they would be able to maintain that weight loss?  Extremely low, especially if the thoughts and behaviors that led to the weight gain were not addressed.  Sometimes there are no shortcuts.  As they say, “If it sounds too good to be true…”  

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