Countless people are latching onto a diet that promises rapid weight loss-around 30 pounds on a monthly basis-and, judging by its recent surge in popularity, actually delivers. However the so-called hCG eating habits are either a weight-loss miracle or even a dangerous fraud, depending on who’s talking. The program combines drops or injections of hCG, a pregnancy hormone, with only 500 calories each day. Although some believers are extremely convinced from the power they’ll willingly stick themselves using a syringe, the government and mainstream medical community say it’s a gimmick that carries too many health hazards and doesn’t cause hcg diet drops.

“It’s reckless, irresponsible, and completely irrational,” says Pieter Cohen, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. “Are you able to lose fat on it? Obviously, but that’s primarily because you’re hardly consuming any calories. As well as any benefit is not really going to last.”

HCG is licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to take care of infertility in both men and women. But its weight-loss roots trace to the 1950s, when British endocrinologist A.T.W. Simeons saw that giving obese patients small, regular doses in the hormone helped them lose stubborn clumps of fat. It only worked, however, when coupled with a near-starvation diet. Simeons began touting hCG as being a potent diet pill that could make anything a lot more than 500 daily calories unbearable. And that he claimed the hormone could blast fat in key trouble spots much like the upper arms, stomach, thighs, and buttocks, while preserving muscle. Save for a couple tweaks, the modern-day incarnation is basically as Simeons presented it: Dieters supplement a very low-calorie meal plan with daily injections prescribed off-label by healthcare professionals, or take diluted, homeopathic hCG- typically in drop form-sold online, in drugstores, as well as at supplement stores.

Precisely why the hCG weight loss program is experiencing a revival now is unclear, nevertheless the hype has sparked a response in the FDA. In January, the agency warned that homeopathic hCG is fraudulent and illegal when sold for weight-loss purposes. Although the FDA said such products aren’t necessarily dangerous, their sale is deceptive, since there’s no good evidence they’re effective for weight loss. What’s more, all hCG products, including injections prescribed with a doctor, must possess a warning stating there’s no proof they accelerate weight loss, redistribute fat, or numb the hunger and discomfort typical of any low-calorie diet.

Nonetheless, doctors continue to be doling out prescriptions for the daily injections, typically inserted in to the thigh. At New Beginnings Weight Reduction Clinic in Florida, by way of example, an in-house physician has prescribed injections to 3,000 clients since 2008, and clinical director Jo Lynn Hansen has recently observed a marked start interest. There, clients can opt for either a 23-day plan ($495) or even a 40-day regimen ($595). After going for a six week break and eating normally-in order to avoid against becoming “hCG-immune”-many resume this process, completing multiple cycles. “We have now people flying in from throughout the country,” Hansen says. “It’s only a tiny little needle that pricks the skin. You can now practice it.”

Though hCG dieters possess some leeway in the direction they spend their 500 daily calories, they’re urged to choose organic meats, vegetables, and fish. Dairy, carbs, alcohol, and sugar are off limits. A day’s meals might consist of coffee plus an orange for breakfast; a bit tilapia and raw asparagus for lunch; a sheet of fruit in the afternoon; and crab, spinach, Melba toast, and tea for lunch. If dieters slip up, they’re asked to compensate by drinking only water and eating simply six apples for one day. That’s shown to help squeeze out water weight, a psychological boost to enable them to get back to normal.

“It wasn’t that hard to drag off, and I’d undertake it again within a heartbeat,” raved London-based fashion stylist Alison Edmond in February’s Marie Claire. “In the long run, I lost an absolute of 25 pounds, ending up at a weight I hadn’t been in 10 years.” Despite testimonials like hers, scientific evidence in the plan is shaky at best. In 1995, researchers analyzed 14 numerous studies on the hCG diet. Only two concluded hCG was any more effective than the usual placebo at helping people shed weight. And nearly ten years earlier, a report from the Canadian Medical Association Journal stated hCG has “no value” as a technique of managing obesity, and this the diet program has been “thoroughly discredited and therefore rejected by the majority of the medical community.”

Detractors repeat the hormone isn’t some miracle ingredient to weight loss-the restrictive diet is. “Should you don’t eat, you lose fat,” Cohen says. “If hCG truly diminished hunger, it would be an excellent drug. But when that have been the way it is, why couldn’t you simply modestly lessen your intake while using it? Why would you will need to simultaneously starve yourself?” But believers insist that, thanks to hCG, they are able to adhere to a low-calorie diet without hunger pangs, while losing excess fat. They’re adamant that hCG is crucial on the diet’s success. “Everyone is strongly convinced that this hormone will keep them with a 500-calorie diet. And the power of suggestion could be a very strong force,” says Cohen.

Needless to say, the regimen isn’t without risks. The hormone may cause headaches, thrombus, leg cramps, temporary hair thinning, constipation, and breast tenderness. The FDA has brought a minimum of one recent report of any HCG dieter making a pulmonary embolism, a potentially fatal blood clot inside the lung, says agency spokesperson Shelly Burgess. Yet, the hormone’s full risk profile is unknown. “HCG was studied briefly [for weight-loss] and found being ineffective, so that we do not know what its potential risks are,” Cohen says. “Will I have data that this causes cardiac arrest, stroke, or cancer? No, I don’t, because we just don’t know at this moment.” While hCG can be safe alone-the FDA says it’s safe as being an infertility treatment-pairing it by having an extremely low-calorie diet might have unexpected negative effects.

2 years ago, Lori Hill, 40, of Salt Lake City, Utah, began a 28-day hCG diet cycle. She says she lost about 26 pounds, including thigh fat, largely without hunger. But she felt ill quickly, and through the past week of the diet, Hill-a fit and active soccer referee-couldn’t climb your flight of stairs without 08dexppky for breath. The effort made her muscles burn and shake, too. After completing the cycle, Hill regained every one of the weight she had lost, plus an additional 15 pounds. “I starved myself and threw all my nutrients away from whack,” she says. “You’re tricking your body into allowing you to starve, without feeling any major hunger. What you’re doing for your body just isn’t worth the cost.”

There’s no question that 500 calories per day is tantamount to malnutrition-dieters should never dip below 1,200, say experts-and federal dietary guidelines recommend greater than three times the amount of calories the diet program prescribes for girls ages 19 to 30. Moreover, extremely low-calorie diets may cause severe bone and muscle loss, electrolyte imbalances, gallstones, and also death. “I’ve heard lots of people repeat the side effects of the diet are overwhelming,” says registered dietitian Keri Gans, a spokesperson for your American Dietetic Association. “Plus they could start the moment a day in-you’ll start feeling irritated and tired.”

To Gans, the regimen is nothing more than a crash diet-and an expensive one in that. A much more sensible way to fat loss, she says, is not any more mysterious than choosing healthy food, limiting the size of portions, and exercising. “This is another approach for folks who believe there’s a silver bullet, however, there is no such thing. All this diet does is show you the way to restrict, and an individual may only do this for so long without returning to old habits.”