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Will this potion make you thin?

HCG gives you a sense of wellbeing and you do not get hungry (Roy Botterell) For a moment, everyone who was huddled outside a recent fashion show thought they had misheard her. Surely the style maven before us — who insists on keeping her name and her weight issues anonymous — hadn’t just said she’d lost 18lb in less than two weeks? It was no mistake, however, those were her very words. She looked glowing, ecstatic and, beneath her uniform of top-to-toe loose-fitting black, pretty svelte.

What was her secret? She was, she said, following the HCG diet, the latest craze to obsess New Yorkers. The basics are simple, even if they sound a tad draconian: a couple of drops of HCG hormone on the tongue a day (some inject it), combined with a daily intake of 500 calories (yes, you read that right). This must be followed strictly for four weeks, but thereafter you can eat a normal healthy diet with a short period of starch and sugar elimination. Wasn’t she starving? No, she beamed. Did she have enough energy to get through the day? She had never felt better, she said — on only an apple for breakfast and in the afternoon, some chicken and vegetables for lunch and again for dinner, and plenty of herbal tea. Besides, she said, she’d never known weight loss like it.

The HCG weight-loss system was developed about 50 years ago by a British doctor, ATW Simeons, on the basis that the HCG hormone, which the body produces during pregnancy, could help shift stubborn fat deposits. Royalty and celebrities have visited the late doctor’s clinic in Rome, yet the diet is only now becoming all the rage.

Essentially, HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) works on the hypothalamus gland, which governs some metabolic processes, explains Jeanette Blackwell, of the Cheshire-based Blackwell Slimming Clinic — the only place in Britain that uses the hormone for weight loss (its is a homeopathic version). Simeons, she says, looked at why some people were unable to lose weight and found that, for some, the hypothalamus “misreads the threat of starvation for the body. The resulting abnormal metabolic function causes the accumulation of an abnormal amount of fat around the abdomen, upper arms and upper legs”. The hormone counteracts this and enables the gland to release the abnormal fat (but only when the 500-calorie limit is adhered to). Most HCG websites claim an average weight loss of 40lb over a 30-day programme.

Any imbalance in one hormone causes a whole list of hormonal messages to all the glands of the body Not everyone is convinced, of course.

“There is no scientific evidence to support the claims that are made about HCG [injections] and fat redistribution, appetite and other effects,” says Azmina Govindji, a registered dietician and television nutritionist. “What worries me, too, is that a 500-calorie diet — which is really a semi-starvation regimen — could have drastic effects on your stores of protein, muscle and on your vital organs. Further, the US Food and Drug Administration has not approved the use of the drug HCG.”

Shabir Daya, a pharmacist with Victoria Health, a website that specialises in natural health products, also has reservations.

“My main concern with using hormonal drops or injections is that all hormones communicate with each other, using each other as chemical messengers. This means that any imbalance in one hormone causes a whole list of hormonal messages to all the glands of the body, resulting in possible multiple concerns, either immediately or later on.”

Blackwell, who works with a nutritionist and hypnotherapist at her clinic, remains evangelical about the process. For starters, she says, HCG is not a hormone but “a polypeptide. Simeons highlighted that HCG was misnamed as a hormone — in that it’s just a protein that’s excreted by the placenta in pregnant women to release nutrients to the baby”.

As for the restricted food intake, she stands by its necessity:

“In order for the regimen to work, it has to be 500 calories a day. I can understand why a nutritionist would be concerned, but talk to any of my clients and they will all say the same: HCG gives you a sense of wellbeing and you do not get hungry; you don’t feel that you miss anything. You can eat two apples, 100g of protein, which can be a steak or chicken or fish and green vegetables for lunch and dinner. It allows you to release the abnormal fat. As well as the 500 calories you’re eating, your body is releasing 2,000 calories of abnormal fat — that means your body is metabolising 2,500 calories a day. The feeling of wellbeing is quite amazing.”

The Blackwell Clinic offers an eight-week course for £795.

Written by Jourdana Abrahams, Inner Style health sunday times

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