How Effective Is the HCG Diet Plan and What Can I Expect?
Published: Apr 8, 2022

More Americans than ever before are on a diet. Some are desperate enough that they will try anything, even if the diet causes as many health risks as being overweight does. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that 49% of Americans were on a diet when they surveyed them between 2013 and 2016. The percentage of Americans with obesity rose from 34% to 42%.

Unfortunately, weight management can be more difficult as we age. There are many potential reasons:

  • Decreased testosterone levels: Decreased testosterone levels cause increased abdominal fat and decreased overall muscle mass. As testosterone levels fall, exercising and building muscle mass becomes harder. Testosterone replacement therapy may be helpful for men who have a documented low testosterone level and want to meet their weight-loss goals.
  • Increased stress: Lifestyle stresses cause an increase in cortisol, a stress hormone that tells your body to hold on to calories.
  • Changes in metabolism: Muscle is essential to keep your basal metabolism high. Muscle loss with aging can cause a decrease in the number of calories you burn each day, making it more difficult to lose weight.
  • Decreased physical activity: Several studies have shown that, as people age, their physical activity levels decrease. Physical activity is essential for overall cardiovascular fitness, burning calories, and maintaining muscle mass.  

If you are one of the millions of people who have tried to lose weight and keep it off, you may have tried diets, such as the HCG diet, that are controversial. So controversial that the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission have jointly issued seven warning letters about it. The HCG diet is not approved for weight loss, and the severe calorie restriction used in the diet plan can be harmful to your health. This article will overview the HCG diet and provide some healthier options.

What Is the HCG Diet?

The HCG diet has two key components: human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) injections and severe calorie restrictions. The diet was introduced in 1954 by Albert Simeons, a British doctor, who claimed that people who followed the diet would lose weight quickly, not feel weak, not be hungry, and would lose resistant fat from their stomach, hips, thighs, and arms. He based his diet on his research on Frohlich’s syndrome, a rare disorder that causes obesity and is due to damage to the hypothalamus, a part of the brain.

How Does the HCG Diet Plan Work?

HCG is a hormone produced by the human placenta to maintain a developing embryo in early pregnancy. It is a prescription medication that is also used to treat infertility. HCG levels are commonly measured to check how a pregnancy is progressing and to identify some types of cancer.

Take Your Daily Dose of HCG

According to Simeons, people who follow the diet should take 125 international units of HCG as an intramuscular injection. There are no food restrictions during this phase, and people using the diet are encouraged to eat high fat, high-calorie foods, even up to 250 grams of fat per day. The first sign people might notice that the diet was working was a decrease in waist and hip circumference, even when there is no weight loss. They may also have decreased appetite and cravings.

Calorie Deficit Diet 

After receiving the HCG shots for three to four days, the next step is to start caloric restrictions. According to Simeons’ HCG diet:

  • Consume only two meals per day.
  • Consume no more than 500 calories per day.
  • Each meal consists of 100 grams of lean meat, a normal serving of leafy vegetables, an unsweetened rusk (biscuit), an apple or its equivalent, and salt as desired
  • Unlimited amounts of water, coffee, and tea can be consumed, but should be unsweetened or sweetened with stevia or saccharine. One tablespoon of milk per day is also permitted.

This phase lasts for three to six weeks.

Weight Maintenance

After about 40 days on the diet, Simeons said that people would lose 20 to 30 pounds. After this, a normal appetite would return, which was felt to be a sign of tolerance to the HCG injections.

If necessary, the process could be repeated every six weeks or so. Simeons reported that people who tried the calorie restriction without the HCG would feel weak and unable to continue the diet for more than three days. Approximately 70% of the 500 people he treated over a 20-year period were able to keep the weight off. He said that no one showed signs of protein or vitamin deficiency, though they had symptoms of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).

Simeons reported that the diet cured or significantly helped with the following conditions:

  • Diabetes
  • Gout
  • High cholesterol
  • Peptic ulcers
  • Low libido
  • Infertility
  • Skin diseases

He summarized by saying that HCG does not cause weight loss, but it makes it possible to stay on a 500-calorie diet. Unfortunately, these conclusions were based on observation, not the standard for scientific testing, which is double-blinded, placebo-control studies.

Several researchers have tested the theory that the HCG diet is effective, and here is what they found:

  • A meta-analysis of 24 studies found there was no scientific evidence that HCG causes weight loss, a redistribution of fat, decreased hunger, or an increased feeling of well-being.
  • When researchers duplicated the study from 1973 that showed that the diet had value, they found no difference in weight loss, hunger ratings, or body measurements between the group that received the injections and the placebo group. This study and this one supported these results.

What Foods to Eat and Avoid on the HCG Diet Plan

Fast forward to today, and you will find fake HCG products sold without a prescription with claims that users can lose 1 to 2 pounds per day. HCG is not a homeopathic drug, and multiple controlled research studies have shown that it does not work. Consumers should not buy into the HCG diet and should not purchase HCG products.

Foods to Eat 

Besides the original version of the HCG diet, Richard Lipman, M.D., developed an alternate 800 calorie plan. The 800-calorie option is closer to safer dietary recommendations. In general, men should not cut calories below 1,500 per day, and women should stay above a minimum of 1,200 calories per day, according to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Foods that are encouraged on the HCG diet:

  • Lean protein: chicken, egg whites, lobster, crab, white fish, scallops, bison, extra-lean beef
  • Herbs and spices
  • Coffee, tea, and water
  • Vegetables: radishes, shallots, onion, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, lettuce, cabbage, spinach, chard, asparagus, beet greens
  • Fruits: apples, berries, citrus fruits, tomatoes

The foods that are encouraged on the HCG diet are healthy choices. The severe calorie restriction is a concern, not the food choices. Whenever possible, fill your plate with whole foods that are rich in vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.

Foods to Avoid 

Foods that are not encouraged on the HCG diet:

  • Dairy: cheese, yogurt, ice cream, milk over one tablespoonful per day
  • High carbohydrate foods
  • Fats and oils
  • Sugary foods and drinks

Avoiding foods that are high in saturated fats and empty calories is a good strategy for weight loss.

Benefits and Side Effects of the HCG Diet 

Potential side effects of the HCG diet include:

  • Blood clots in the leg and lung
  • Loss of muscle mass
  • Headaches
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Light-headedness
  • Gallstones
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Irritability
  • Edema
  • Mood changes
  • Gynecomastia

Any diet that severely restricts calories will lead to weight loss. It is the calorie restrictions, not the HCG, that are responsible for the weight loss. Most people will not be able to sustain weight loss because of the restrictive nature of the diet.

HCG Diet Alternatives

The Sermore-Lean diet combines healthy food choices in the HCG diet with sermorelin, a synthetic growth hormone secretagogue. Growth hormone is essential to maintain muscle mass and reduce fat mass. Unlike HCG, multiple studies support the beneficial effects of sermorelin and have investigated for potential side effects. Sermorelin was sold as the FDA-approved medication, Geref, to treat growth hormone deficiency.

Age-related decreases in growth hormone can cause:

  • Increased abdominal fat
  • Decreased muscle strength
  • Decreased cardiac capacity
  • Decreased exercise performance
  • Sleep disorders
  • Psychosocial issues

Sermore-lean is a medically prescribed and monitored weight loss protocol for people who have a significant amount of weight to lose. The plan provides tips to ensure your success and support along the way. Like the HGC diet, there are three phases, and unlike the HCG diet, there is no unproven and dangerous HCG to inject.

Key Takeaways: Is the HCG Diet a Safe Weight Loss Plan? 

The bottom line is that HCG injections are illegal for use in weight loss, and multiple studies have shown they are ineffective. HCG injections are only FDA-approved to treat female infertility.

Diets that encourage severe restrictions are also not safe. They may result in short-term rapid weight loss, but the weight will come back on as soon as you resume your regular diet.

The foods that are encouraged on the HCG diet are healthy options. However, it is important to check with your doctor or a dietician and ensure your diet plan is well-rounded and provides adequate calories to support muscle growth.

Weight management is much more important to your overall health than weight loss. While it is important to get to a healthy weight, what is even more important is to be able to sustain the weight loss. Most people can lose at least some weight, but unfortunately, most people cannot keep the weight off. Read follow-up stories on the Biggest Loser participants to see evidence that this is true.

Aging leads to decreasing hormone levels. The first step in determining whether declines in testosterone and growth hormone contribute to your difficulties with weight management is to have your hormone levels checked. Once you know where you stand in terms of hormone levels, the next step is to consult with the medical professionals at Invigor Medical to learn about Sermore- Lean, a medically supervised, sustainable weight loss plan.


While we strive to always provide accurate, current, and safe advice in all of our articles and guides, it’s important to stress that they are no substitute for medical advice from a doctor or healthcare provider. You should always consult a practicing professional who can diagnose your specific case. The content we’ve included in this guide is merely meant to be informational and does not constitute medical advice.

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