The "hCG diet": a fraud literally without substance

Jul 14 2011 Published by under Absurd medical claims, Medicine

Back in the 1950s, a British endocrinologist named ATW Simeons had an idea: a human pregnancy hormone called hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) could help people lose weight without feeling hungry.  His idea was to put obese patients on a 500 kcal a day diet (in contrast, you probably eat about that much or more at each meal) and give injections of hCG which was supposed to blunt their hunger.  According to his writings, his results were not reproduced by anyone else, which, rather than make him doubt his own hypothesis, hardened his belief that only he could do it right.  Several studies in the 1970s effectively discredited his work, but in the 90's, famous shill and convicted felon Kevin Trudeau published a book that helped revive the hCG diet craze.

hCG has a number of clinical uses mostly related to fertility medicine.  It's also used as a biomarker for pregnancy (it's what we detect on home pregnancy tests) and for certain tumors.  Despite many negative studies in the 70s, hCG has made a spectacular return as a diet fad.   Not only does it not aid in weight loss, but as an active hormone, it may have other unintended effects (for example, it's not known if it can contribute to tumor formation or growth, but it is produced by a number of different tumors).

So put yourself in the shoes of a convicted felon like Kevin Trudeau: you want to continue to sell a weight loss scam, but you want to avoid getting sued if you happen to cause a tumor.  How can you still market the hCG diet without the hCG?  Homeopathy!

A product called KetoMist Spray (not, as far as I know, connected to Trudeau in any way) is purportedly a homeopathic dilution of hCG, that is, there is no hCG in it.  Using it, in conjunction with a 500kcal diet, should be no different than using, say, a spray of water.  The FDA recently came down on so-called homeopathic hCGs  because they are not FDA-approved drugs, nor are they in the "Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia", a list that allows fake drugs to be sold as real drugs.

But hucksters are endlessly clever.  KetoMist appears to skirt the FDA regulations by a bit of sleight-of-hand:

What is in each bottle?
Each bottle contains the 'Energy Profile' of HCG in multiple potencies (6c / 12c / 30c) imprinted onto a solution of Steam Distilled Water (80%) and Kosher Corn Alcohol (20%). If you want to know more about homeopathic remedies, search online - there is a ton of info on homeopathy.Since an 'energy signature' cannot be listed as a physical ingredient (for what should be obvious reasons) it isn't on the 'ingredients list' on the label, but it IS on the label.

In other words, KetoMist "contains" the  same homeopathic ingredient which was banned, but it's called an "energy signature", hoping to avoid the wrath of the FDA and to separate more husky consumers from their money.

hCG does not contribute to weight loss, and ultra-dilute hCG isn't even real---there is no hCG in it.  It's all, in my opinion, more fraud, but if consumers read the fine print they will see the truth:


A tiny but truthful Quack Miranda Warning inserted  at the bottom of the webpage specifically refutes all of the claims in big, bold print above.  But humans are endlessly hopeful, and looking for that miracle.  This isn't it.


Miller R, & Schneiderman LJ (1977). A clinical study of the use of human chorionic gonadotrophin in weight reduction. The Journal of family practice, 4 (3), 445-8 PMID: 321723

Young RL, Fuchs RJ, & Woltjen MJ (1976). Chorionic gonadotropin in weight control. A double-blind crossover study. JAMA : the journal of the American Medical Association, 236 (22), 2495-7 PMID: 792477

Bosch B, Venter I, Stewart RI, & Bertram SR (1990). Human chorionic gonadotrophin and weight loss. A double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. South African medical journal = Suid-Afrikaanse tydskrif vir geneeskunde, 77 (4), 185-9 PMID: 2405506

Stein MR, Julis RE, Peck CC, Hinshaw W, Sawicki JE, & Deller JJ Jr (1976). Ineffectiveness of human chorionic gonadotropin in weight reduction: a double-blind study. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 29 (9), 940-8 PMID: 786001

Rabe T, Richter S, Kiesel L, & Runnebaum B (1987). [Risk-benefit analysis of a hCG-500 kcal reducing diet (cura romana) in females]. Geburtshilfe und Frauenheilkunde, 47 (5), 297-307 PMID: 3609673

4 responses so far

  • Alexis says:

    Thanks to fertility treatment, I've injected myself with quite a bit of hCG. (plus the resultant pregnancies... Though I suppose nausea from rapidly rising hCG is an appetite suppressant!) I can confidently say that I have never lost an ounce as a result. This diet makes me shake my head. I'm not even sure who's worse--the people wasting their time on spraying magic water up their noses, or people stupid enough to pay $75 a shot for the real deal, plus whatever the quack is charging. The homeopathy is dumber, but less potentially dangerous.

  • JMS says:

    And the World Health Organization recommends 1,400 calories daily as a minimum for inactive adults. Would love to see emergency food airlifts to Harley Street in London and the Upper West Side of New York to address this micro-culture's starvation issues.

  • Elly says:

    Unfortunately, a fair number of physicians have gotten into the (non-homeopathic) HCG business, which gives the Simeons protocol an undeserved legitimacy. I mixed it up with a couple of MD providers on my own cyber-turf a while back and couldn't believe the lame rationalizations and poor arguments they made to justify themselves and the protocol (which I've read through - suffice it to say, it's loopy enough to discredit Simeons as an objective source).

    Insofar as homeopathic HCG is concerned, my impression is that there are a number of folks who simply don't understand what the word means. They just like the idea of a DIY protocol that allows them to avoid shots and clinic visits. But I love it when these folks come out of the woodwork with their success stories... They believe they're defending HCG, when - in reality - their testimonials confirm that it's a placebo.

  • Cactus Wren says:

    For the benefit of the curious, the FTC’s release on Kevin Trudeau's original “Weight Loss Cure ‘They’ Don't Want You to Know About”. On the TV commercial for this book, he repeatedly claimed of his protocol that “it’s easy to do, you can do it at home”, that “it was the easiest, simplest, most effective thing I’ve ever done”, that “when you’re done with the protocol, eat whatever you want and you don’t gain the weight back ... I can eat whatever I want now, anything and as much as I want any time I want. No restrictions now. And the weight’s not coming back. You don’t gain the weight back.” The actual protocol involved:

    a first phase that called for (among many other things) getting a “colonic” every other day for a month;
    a second phase involving HCG injections, a 500-calorie-per-day diet, no OTC medications, no prescription medications (!!), and no cosmetics, lotions, or moisturizers;
    a third phase with a very limited diet (only “100% organic” food, with no sweeteners or starches of any kind) and no air conditioning or fluorescent lighting;
    and a fourth phase (which never ends -- so much for “when you’re done with the protocol, eat whatever you want”) barring all “brand name" food, all food from chain restaurants, all food not “100% organic”, all farm-raised fish, and all food cooked in a microwave oven.

    All these requirements, of course, make it very easy for Trudeau to defend his plan: if it doesn’t work for you, he can always claim, you must have broken the rules or eaten something you shouldn’t.