Yet another weight loss myth

Some articles should not go unchallenged, like Dr. Tara McCart’s column, The HcG Diet, Fact or Fiction (The News, Aug. 16).

Some articles should not go unchallenged.

Dr. Tara McCart’s column, The HcG Diet, Fact or Fiction (The News, Aug. 16) was one of these.

To be upfront, I am an MD, retired from a career in Pediatric Cardiac Surgery. I have no training or experience in weight-loss management.

I have felt for years that nostrums promoted by naturopaths should be subjected to the same scientific scrutiny as are traditional pharmaceuticals.

HcG refers to the natural-occurring hormone, human chorionic gonadotropin.

This hormone is secreted in large quantities by the placenta during all normal pregnancies, and is essential in the fetal development. It’s the same hormone that’s used for performance enhancement by athletes. It’s difficult to detect in the user’s blood or urine, and stimulates the production of testosterone.

It has never been shown conclusively to stimulate fat breakdown, to spare normal fat, causing abnormal fat to be lost, nor to confer a tendency to conserve carbohydrates and favour fat combustion to make calorie restrictions more tolerable.

It is a protein, as are all hormones, and as such is broken down by the acid and enzymes of the gastrointestinal tract when taken by mouth. Even in its injectable form, it has a short half-life in the body.

What is meant by calorie restrictions? The current recommendation by the hCG promoters is to restrict food intake to between 500 and 700 calories per day while hCG is being administered by mouth.

Do you know what a 500- calorie a day menu looks like? You’d be allowed for breakfast one cup of tea with stevia for sweetening and up to one teaspoon of skim milk, and at mid-morning one medium apple.

Eagerly awaited lunch brings a 100- gram piece of boneless and skinless chicken breast, a sliced tomato drizzled with balsamic vinegar and pepper, and one breadstick. The evening meal, dinner, allows for a 100 gram piece of filet mignon (all visible fat removed), 100 grams of salad greens drizzled with the juice of one lemon. And before bedtime you could have 100 grams of sliced strawberries. Patients on this diet have liked it to being on a forced death march.

According to Health Canada, no properly conducted clinical study has ever shown the benefit of adding hCG to a severely restrictive diet. To quote a recent article from the Los Angeles Times, “If dieters lose weight on the regimen, the effect is from the ultralow-calorie diet, most studies have concluded, and the hCG is a placebo.”

If hCG is so effective in helping folks lose weight, its advocates are obliged to prove their claim through scientific studies.

Warren Bailey MD

Qualicum Beach

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