The HCG drops are meant to boost metabolism and help mobilize stored fat when calorie intake is drastically reduced. Proponents of the HCG diet claim that it helps prevent muscle loss and the drop in metabolism that is typical of such low-calorie diets. The diet’s very low-calorie intake is supposed to be offset by the action of the HCG hormone. The HCG diet is due to dramatic weight loss claims. However, there are ongoing controversies about the safety and effectiveness of HCG diet drops and other supplements. HCG is approved by the FDA for weight loss purposes.

HCG and Hormones

HCG is structurally similar to luteinizing hormone (LH), a hormone naturally produced in the body. LH helps regulate ovulation and menstruation in women by triggering the release of ova during the menstrual cycle. It also stimulates testosterone production in men.  During pregnancy, HCG is produced by the placenta and helps maintain progesterone levels to sustain the pregnancy. HCG levels build up rapidly during the first trimester of pregnancy. Many over-the-counter pregnancy tests check for the presence of HCG to determine if someone is pregnant.  Some HCG diet proponents claim that taking HCG positively impacts hormone levels in both men and women. However, current research does not support these claims.

Does HCG promote weight loss?

Proponents of the original hcg diet drops in Las Vegas claim that it causes rapid weight loss without hunger or loss of muscle mass. However, there is limited scientific evidence to support these claims. Critics argue weight loss from the HCG diet is due to the very low-calorie intake alone.  A 1995 meta-analysis published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology looked at over a dozen clinical trials using HCG for weight loss. Researchers concluded that there was no evidence HCG provided any boost to weight loss compared to restricting calories alone.

A more recent double-blind, placebo-controlled study from of Medicine also found no benefit from using HCG with a very low-calorie diet. The study compared weight loss between individuals on a 500-calorie-per-day diet plus HCG versus a placebo. The HCG group did not experience any more weight loss placebo group. It provides further confirmation that HCG does not appear to enhance weight loss. At best, HCG may help mitigate feelings of hunger on a very low-calorie diet in some individuals. However, current evidence indicates it does not boost weight loss or fat burning. Any benefits of the HCG diet are likely due to drastically cutting calories rather than the HCG supplement itself.

Is the HCG diet safe?

Very low-calorie diets of under 800 calories per day be followed under medical supervision. They carry risks of side effects such as electrolyte imbalances, gallstone formation, and more. The FDA has warned against over-the-counter HCG weight loss products, noting dangerous to health. Long-term, overly restrictive dieting and rapid weight loss negatively impact hormones and metabolism. Ambitious weight loss goals are pursued gradually using a balanced, maintainable approach.

There are also concerns about the safety of HCG supplements themselves, as over-the-counter HCG products are not evaluated by the FDA. Side effects associated with HCG use include fatigue, irritability, depression, swelling, and breast tenderness in both men and women.