Weight loss miracle method? Residents share their HCG diet success stories

FDA, some health professionals don’t recommend the drug for that purpose
By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
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Allison Gillespie recently lost 20 pounds in less than a month. She said homeopathic drops of Human Chorionic Gonadotropin, a hormone extracted from pregnant women’s urine, were her secret. Gillespie, who manages Sunrise Natural Foods in Auburn, decided to try the controversial weight-loss method after seeing the positive results of others. The HCG diet combines a very specific 500-calorie-a-day eating plan, along with taking the hormone daily. “I felt really good on it. After the first five days I wasn’t hungry at all,” Gillespie said. “I did a very low-calorie diet in college and I was starving all of the time. I only lasted two weeks.” The strict eating plan consists of certain fruits for breakfast, a small serving of protein for lunch and dinner, along with certain vegetables. Gillespie said even adding an extra apple could make her too full. According to Joe Rare, owner of Vibrant Life, which manufactures and distributes homeopathic HCG drops to Sunrise Natural Foods, HCG triggers the body to mobilize stored fat to nourish the body the way that a fetus would be nourished in the early stages of pregnancy. He said it pumps 2,000 calories of nutrients into the bloodstream, making it possible to be satisfied on such a low-calorie diet. “People say, “ I’m a little hungry and confused,’ but after the first five days, your body feels clean. And you don’t feel hungry,” Rare said. “When you see you are losing a pound a day, that outweighs the craving for ice cream or a pastry.” Sarra Bobbitt of Auburn has been dramatically impacted by the HCG diet. She has lost a total of 84 pounds so far. Deb Pearson of Lincoln said she lost 70 pounds in four months on HCG drops and has been independently coaching others for a year now. Pearson said HCG helped her nix her addiction to sugar and affected more than just her weight. “I was more in control of my emotions and food choices. My husband lost his job a month after I started it and I stayed calm in a situation I normally wouldn’t have,” Pearson said. Pearson, who found online support and followed the HCG diet with her best friend, said she never felt deprived and learned the difference between physical and emotional hunger. Still, Pearson said HCG is not for everyone. Those who do not stick to the program, developed by Dr. A.T.W Simeons in the 1950’s and modified over the past 40 years may even gain weight. While more than 100,000 people have purchased HCG from Vibrant Life and many have had significant weight losses while on the homeopathic drops, as well as HCG injections available from doctors, the hormone is only approved by the Federal Drug Administration as a fertility drug. “HCG has no known effect on fat mobilization, appetite, sense of hunger or body fat distribution,” according to an FDA report. The report went on to say that HCG does not increase weight loss beyond that which results from a calorie-restricted diet. It is FDA approved to help males with underdeveloped sex characteristics mature and as part of a sequence of fertility drugs to trigger ovulation in women. Rare said the FDA wouldn’t approve the use of HCG as a weight-loss supplement because the results are dependent on people following the diet. After testing his product on hundreds of people he said he is confident in his product and produces it in the only lab that let him tour the facility from start to finish. In 2009, the American Society of Bariatric Physicians released a position statement on the use of HCG in the treatment of obesity. It cited that numerous clinical trials have shown HCG to be ineffective at producing weight loss. The society also said in their statement that the HCG protocol provides a lower amount of protein intake than is advisable and that any physicians who recommend the use of HCG or the HCG diet may be criticized. Registered dietician Debbie Lucus is a diabetes educator for Sutter Health and nutrition professor at Sierra College. She said one of her students last semester lost weight while on the HCG diet, but she remains opposed to it and other fad diets. “I am worried about potential side effects. Maybe it does work, but at what cost?” Lucus said. “It’s just like every other diet out there. If they never learn all the things that they needed to they are just going to gain it back. It’s not about the food.” Lucus said that many people on the diet might be experiencing success because they are not eating sweets or junk food, so they lose the cravings for them. She said the best and most proven approach to losing weight and keeping it off is nothing people haven’t heard before. “The old-fashioned way with whole foods. Eat less, move more,” Lucus said. “Whatever you do it has to be something you do for the rest of your life.” Lucus, who helps patients lose weight every day, said weight loss is tough and there is no quick fix. She recommends programs through Sutter Health and UC Davis, as well as Weight Watchers. She said many insurance companies would even pay for the services now. Despite the position the FDA and many medical professionals have taken on it, many, like Gillespie who attribute their weight loss to the HCG diet, said the results speak for themselves. Reach Sara Seyydin at