» iSalute

Nutrition Topics

The HCG Weight Loss Scam

By MAJ Michael Trust, MS, RD, LD

If there was a "cure" for obesity, dietitians would definitely want you to know about it. After all, according to periodic surveys published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, two thirds of adult Americans are either overweight or obese, and one third of children between two and 18 are in the same boat. However, obesity is like other chronic diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension, for which there are yet no cures Ė only treatments to manage the symptoms. The best dietitians could do is teach patients better weight management skills with diet and exercise to reduce weight and keep it off. This may sound like a "cure," but once you deviate from the recommended diet and exercise regimen to maintain weight loss, the weight could come back with a vengeance.

Thatís the cold, hard truth about obesity. But the way Kevin Trudeau Ė the late night infomercial king Ė tells it, there is a cure for obesity, and healthcare professionals donít want you to know about it. The cure, he alleges in his book The Weight Loss Cure "They" Donít Want You to Know About, is a wonder hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin, or hCG, a prescription drug used for infertility treatements. In it he peddles a tale of conspiracy theories to keep Americans overweight so that pharmacy companies, doctors and dietitians could keep patients dependent on our services for profit. His commercial then encourages you to fork over a wad of cash to buy his book and finally learn what the secret cure for obesity has been all along.

But hCG is no cure for obesity or any other condition for that matter. It is a hormone found the urine of pregnant women and injected into the bloodstream of obese patients desperate to try anything after years of fad dieting, ingesting untested weight loss supplements, and strapping on "fat-burning" gadgets.

The hCG cure also calls for consuming a 500 calorie diet along with up to 60 other doís and doníts, according to Dr. Stephen Barrett, M.D, who blogs for Diet Scam Watch on the internet. This scam has been around since 1954 when a British physician named Albert Simeons alleged that hCG mobilizes stored abdominal fat and suppresses appetites. Barrett explained that historically physicians relied on hCGís alleged promises to ensure a steady clientele, who required weekly injections and would pay regular hefty sums of money to get them. But a starvation diet of 500 calories a day is what ultimately led to their weight loss at the expense of burning off protein from heart tissue and other vital organs Ė much like what we see in austere prison camps that arenít exactly known for their great diet plans.

By the 1970s after several clinical trials discredited hCG as a weight loss cure, the method all but disappeared from the health care system Ė that is, until its revival this past decade by Trudeau. The first seven chapters of his tome not only drone on about conspiracies, but encourage readers to place the blame for their obesity on the food and medical industries. The eighth chapter finally reveals the long-suppressed historical "cure" that includes a regimen of colonic and kidney flushes, daily hCG injections, and a very short list of foods youíre restricted to. Oh, and if you donít relish the thought of being injected with urine, hCG also comes in a oral drops absorbed under the tongue. Yummy.

According to Kathleen Zelman, a Registered Dietitian who writes for WebMD, Trudeau has already been exposed by the Federal Trade Commission as a fraud for misrepresenting scientific claims about hCG in his book and infomercials. In 2007, the FTC fined Trudeau more than $37 million for selling phony cures on television. Needless to say, Trudeau easily paid the fee out of a fraction of the profits he made from his book.

The simple truth is that all it takes to lose weight is to reduce your calorie intake to at least 500 calories below your daily needs by cutting out energy dense foods and exercising 150 minutes a week, according the American Dietetic Association. This is free advice out there already for all to see at the ADA website: Eatright.org. No profit to be made here with expensive supplements, invasive surgeries, or 4 easy monthly payments for some weight-loss gadget.

As for hCG, one need look no further than to the medical experts of the American Society of Bariatric Physicians, who in 2010 proclaimed that after reviewing dozens of studies, "there is no scientific evidence that hCG is effective in the treatment of obesity."

But that hasnít stopped a cottage industry of clinics from cropping up all over the country in the guise of hCG-based "Weight-Loss Centers," banking on that much of the weight clients do lose will come from their wallets. Now thatís a warning everyone should know about.