News 12 Special Assignment: HCG: The Diet Debate

By: Trishna Begam Email
By: Trishna Begam Email
HCG diet

Doctors are debating whether or not the HCG diet actually works. (WRDW-TV / May 7, 2012)

News 12 This Morning / Monday, May 7, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Move over Atkins and Weight Watchers -- desperate dieters looking to squeeze into their summer best are turning to a new craze this season.

The HCG diet was featured on the Dr. Oz show on News 12. Dieters who tried the diet say they experienced rapid weight loss, but there's a debate among doctors in the medical community about whether it actually works.

The tried and true method of exercising and eating right doesn't always work for some, no matter how hard they try.

Romi Puckett had been working to lose the weight using traditional methods.

"I had worked with a trainer. I was going to the gym on a regular basis. I was not able to get the weight off," she said.

Puckett then turned to the HCG diet offered at the Weight Shop.

"The first month, I lost 16 pounds," Puckett said.

The premise behind the diet, which uses human chorionic gonadotropin, a hormone produced during pregnancy, is to trick the body into thinking it's pregnant to help lose weight.

"The HCG is metabolizing the fat that is in the mother and providing nutrients for that baby," said Dr. Brandon Daniels, an OBGYN and owner of the Weight Shop.

Daniels says in the past two and half years they have treated nearly 2,000 clients with the hormone. So we went to find out from Daniels what exactly the hormone is doing to the body.

"The body is sensing, 'Hey I need to break down fat to provide to the body.' The HCG is the vehicle to go and target that fat tissue," he said.

Dropping pounds also means dropping cash.

Daniels says, depending on the program, it can cost clients $400 to $500 a month for the treatment.

"I can't put a price on my health," Puckett said.

After starting the diet last august, Puckett says she dropped 52 pounds by springtime. Judy Snyder experienced the same rapid weight loss using the treatment.

"I took the shots every day for two months, then I took the shots every other day for another month," Snyder explained.

In three months' time, she shed 40 pounds.

"Because you see the weight coming off pretty rapidly, I think that's an encouragement," Snyder said.

While taking HCG shots, Snyder and Puckett had to follow an extremely low-calorie diet. Snyder says they recommend 600 to 650 calories a day.

"Putting them on a restrictive diet and providing HCG, HCG goes out and metabolizes fat tissue. It does not affect lean muscle," Daniels said.

Puckett had some reservations at first.

"All of our lives we're taught we shouldn't go below 1,200 calories or your body is going to go into starvation mode," she said.

So we asked her why it was OK to follow such a strict low-calorie diet plan under HCG.

"Because the HCG lets you release that fat and helps you burn the calories," she said.

Snyder says she didn't feel all that hungry and she attributes it to the HCG. Dr. L.B. Green, a bariatric physcian, thinks there is more of a placebo effect at play.

"Studies were done after that point and time that showed essentially there was no benefit of adding HCG to a low-calorie diet in terms of losing body fat maintaining hunger," Green said.

We found several randomized, double-blinded and placebo-controlled clinical trials that show no evidence that HCG is effective in the treatment of weight loss.

Studies also show no significant difference in the amount of weight lost between patients receiving HCG and those that received a placebo.

"This is no secret that modified low-calorie diet, if providing enough nutritional supplements, they work and they work without HCG," Green said.

Snyder added, "You can read positive things, you can read bad things."

Daniels said they see the positive results and that "they speak for themselves."

"The results and patients coming in losing weight, their blood pressure coming down, getting them off their medicine," he said.

But Green says not so fast.

"Testimonials are just that; they are testimonials. They're saying I did this, this is the experience I had, that is not science," Green said.

The Food and Drug Administration goes so far as to say over-the-counter HCG diet aids are unproven and illegal. We checked local store shelves and still found some marketed as non-hormone HCG.

"Patients are looking for a magic bullet, looking for a quick fix, which HCG diet does not provide," Green added.

For Puckett and Snyder, it's a program they say worked despite the science against it.

"I think everybody is nervous when you hear about it because it's controversial. I decided I wanted to try it, and bottom line, it's changed my life," Snyder said.

Both women say after being off the HCG treatment for several weeks, they have maintained their weight.

The American Society of Bariatric Physicians takes the position that the HCG method for weight loss is not recommended.

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