Have you ever heard of the HCG Protocol Diet? I first learned about it several months ago when someone sent me a link to a site about “this crazy diet” someone they knew was on. They wanted to know what I thought…about this:

  • People on the HCG diet eat 500 calories a day (1200 is considered the bottom line for dieters) and take drops of HCG—Human Chorionic Gonadotropin—a hormone made in pregnancy. This may be prescription HCG or a homeopathic “look-alike” version. It’s used to decrease appetite and promote fat loss, specifically around the hips, thighs, buttocks and stomach.
  • People on the diet lose about 1 to 2 pounds per day, what doctors and dietitians recommend as safe weight loss for one week.
  • The maintenance plan for six weeks post-HCG use includes 1,500 calories a day of basically fruit, vegetables, fish, and chicken. Processed foods, starches, and sugars are forbidden.
  • Beyond those six weeks, there’s not much in terms of a maintenance plan.

Um, can anyone say ketosis? When your body does not receive adequate carbohydrates and protein, it starts to burn fat for energy. Sounds great, but it can lead to serious problems, including kidney stones, gallstone, bad breath, and changes in blood pH, which can make the blood acidic and corrosive to internal organs. Also, when we don’t have enough glucose, a critical fuel, we may notice we feel sluggish, cranky, and even depressed.

The HCG itself is not without side effect. Men may experience prostate problems, and side effects noted in women include ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome. Either sex may experience headache, acne, and excessive hair growth.

From a nutritional standpoint, though, this is a prime example of a quick-fix regimen that does absolutely nothing to education the patient about healthy eating—or health, in general. What does someone learn about a longterm nutritious eating plan by dropping hormones onto their tongue and eating cucumbers for lunch?

I’ll bet my opinion is pretty clear—this is scary stuff that is absolutely ridiculous. In fact, if you know someone on this diet or anyone considering going on this diet, give ’em a little talking-to for me, will you? To read a well-written article about the HCG diet as well as to view a sample menu, visit the Seattle Times online.

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