HCG has been the subject of scrutiny and criticism for several decades, largely because of the off label use of the product as a weight loss aid.
While physicians are allowed to prescribe medications for uses other than intended the FDA has issued a disclaimer which reads “HCG has not been demonstrated to be effective adjunctive therapy in the treatment of obesity. There is no substantial evidence that it increases weight loss beyond that resulting from caloric restriction, that it causes a more attractive or “normal” distribution of fat, or that it decreases the hunger and discomfort associated with calorie-restricted diets.”
The argument is that HCG by itself does nothing to promote weight loss and that any weight loss is due to the calorie restricted diet that participants undergo during the HCG treatments.
This is probably true as several studies have been conducted regarding dieters following the same diet both while on and off HCG and the results showed no significant difference in weight loss during the protocol.
Recently there has been some anecdotal “evidence” by certain Doctors who still use HCG as a weight loss aid that suggests while weight loss is similar muscle retention may be improved while taking HCG vs. those that do not.
This is may seem like a very questionable claim but upon reading other studies regarding HCG in low doses it becomes clear that perhaps there may be some merit to the study.
First we have to look at testosterone in men and women and how it may affect body composition. In this study published by the US National Library of Medicine there was a clear correlation between men who had low testosterone and high BMI. Additionally they found when they supplemented men with testosterone they reduced BMI and increased lean body mass.
Most studies regarding testosterone involve men as they are the group that has greater levels of the hormone naturally.
What some may not know is that men and women both produce estrogen and testosterone, in men testosterone production is greater and in women estrogen production is greater. This does not mean that women do not see similar results when their testosterone levels are increased.
In fact there have been female athletes in multiple sports that have been fined and/or banned from competing due to having an unfair advantage by using testosterone. These athletes are typically leaner, yet carry more muscle and they perform a level above their peers who are not using these performance enhancing products.
Does this mean that a female taking HCG will start to look like a man or develop large man like muscles?
The answer to this question is absolutely not! HCG is present when a woman is pregnant in volumes much higher than what is usually available with HCG Injections.
Low Dose HCG
While there does not seem to be many studies regarding low dose HCG in women in regards to testosterone there are a number of studies that tested low dose HCG shots in women during fertility treatments.
On the other hand there are studies in men where testosterone levels were observed during low dose treatment with HCG.
In this study by the Endocrine Society they tested low dose HCG treatments (in conjunction with testosterone therapy) in 29 men and observed several changes including testosterone levels in these men for three weeks.
The groups were given a placebo, 125 IU, 250 IU and 500 IU every other day and they were tested in order to see if there was any impact from these treatments.
While the 0 HCG group and the 125 IU group showed similar progress the 250 and 500 IU had a significant increase in serum testosterone levels as shown in this graph.
There are several studies available that focus on weight loss between HCG users and non HCG users, there are very few (if any) studies that focus on muscle retention between HCG groups and non HCG users following the same diet. In this article the authors start to debunk the HCG program but about halfway through they take into consideration the possibility that other factors, such as testosterone levels, may exist even in low dose HCG programs.
While no one can make a claim that HCG aids in weight loss or results a more attractive distribution of fat, looking into other available scientific data certainly brings the possibility that slightly elevated hormone levels may assist in muscle retention or fat loss.
*None of this constitutes medical advice nor is it an endorsement for any particular diet program. Please see a physician before starting any diet or exercise program