hCG Weight Loss Programs: What Is the Evidence?

Andrew Kaunitz, MD


May 19, 2011

This feature requires the newest version of Flash. You can download it here.

Hello, I'm Andrew Kaunitz, Professor and Associate Chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Florida College of Medicine in Jacksonville, Florida. Today I'd like to discuss hCG Weight Loss Programs: What Is the Evidence?

On a regular basis, patients are asking me about human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) weight loss programs. Not being familiar with this, I looked into hCG as used in weight loss programs.

It turns out that the use of hCG for the treatment of obese and overweight patients has a long and controversial history. In the 1950s, a Dr. A. Simeons introduced the use of hCG injections combined with a strict 500-calorie-a-day, high-protein diet.[1]

By the 1970s, Simeons' method had become popular among those seeking weight loss, with advocates claiming that this approach indeed induced rapid weight loss with minimal hunger. While the program appeared to work, this approach to dieting fell out of favor after clinical trials noted that weight loss occurred because of the strict diet, not because of the hCG injections. A 1995 meta-analysis concluded that "...there is no scientific evidence that hCG is effective in the treatment of obesity..."[2]

Notwithstanding the lack of evidence supporting hCG's efficacy,[3] for profit weight loss programs are once again promoting hCG injections. A Google search turned up a number of programs advertising hCG-based weight loss right here in Jacksonville, as well as more than 7 million hits overall.

In a 2010 press release, the American Society of Bariatric Physicians indicates that it is "...officially not recommending..." hCG injections for weight loss, once again pointing to numerous studies that fail to demonstrate efficacy.[4,5]

This press release goes on to point out that the pillars of an effective approach to weight loss include:

  • Diet modification based on safe caloric and nutrient guidelines;

  • Exercise programs tailored to the capabilities and limitations of the patient; and

  • Behavioral counseling, including development of proper eating habits, how to deal with stress-related eating, and how to address the diet and lifestyle of the whole family.

Seems like sound advice to me. Thank you.


Comments on Medscape are moderated and should be professional in tone and on topic. You must declare any conflicts of interest related to your comments and responses. Please see our Commenting Guide for further information. We reserve the right to remove posts at our sole discretion.