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Rethinking Thin

By J.P. Faber
Posted On Aug 16, 2016
Rethinking Thin

By: J.P. Faber

The latest trend in weight loss, HCG hormone therapy, works by making your body act just like a pregnant woman’s

Mayer Eisenstein is one of those doctors who follows the ancient proverb “Physician, heal thyself!”—literally. In 2009, when he was investigating claims about a hormone that could safely help patients lose weight, he tried it on himself. And not just himself, but on his wife, daughter and son as well. Together they lost more than 300 pounds, weight that has stayed off since.

“I’m like a lot of people. I tried every diet and nothing worked over time,” says Dr. Eisenstein, a Chicago-based family practice doctor who spent decades delivering babies before changing his practice to focus on obesity.

What Dr. Eisenstein used and what he now prescribes to hundreds of patients is HCG, short for human chorionic gonadotropin, a hormone that is secreted by pregnant women. When a synthetic, bioidentical version is propearly administered, it gives people the ability to live on a low-calorie diet while their bodies shed the energy stored in their fat.

HCG was discovered in the 1950s by Dr. A.T.W. Simeons, a British doctor who spent 18 years working in India. While there he observed how Indian women would deliver perfectly healthy babies while they themselves withered away. What made this possible, he discovered, was the HCG hormone, which works by telling your fat to release its stored energy for use by the baby.

But what if you don’t have a baby inside? Your body—and this goes for men as well as women—releases the energy anyway. If this happens while you happen to be on a low-calorie diet, say 500 calories a day, then you shouldn’t feel either hunger or weakness. And that is just what seems to happen.

“If you use HCG it sort of fools the body. It tells the body to feed the baby with the calories that are pulled from the fat,” says Robert L. True, MD, a physician in Texas who uses HCG for weight-loss patients. “In this case there is no baby, but these calories in the blood tell the brain we’re fine, and so it doesn’t make you hungry.”

Without the HCG, Eisenstein points out, a very low-calorie diet tells the brain that you’re starving. This is critical, because in starvation mode the body tries to preserve fat and will digest muscle instead; as much as half the typical weight loss in low-calorie diets comes from loss of lean body weight. With HCG, the vast majority of weight loss comes from fat.

“In a quick study I did, we showed the loss [of lean body weight] to be just five percent,” says Sasson E. Moulavi, MD, a board-certified bariatric physician who has been using HCG clinically in Florida for two years. “In some cases it might be approaching zero.” To prove this, Dr. Moulavi is currently conducting clinical trials with 175 patients in six different Smart For Life Weight Loss Centers, where he is medical director.

If Dr. Moulavi’s research bears out the reports, it may shed light on another of the hormone’s remarkable results: When patients use HCG for weight loss, the weight tends to stay off. Some doctors are reporting that after more than five years, 80% to 90% of HCG weight-loss patients have maintained the loss. This compares to less than 10 percent longterm retention for most diets.

Doctors do not know why this is, exactly. Dr. True believes it has to do with lifestyle changes. A typical treatment with HCG lasts for a 12-week cycle, six weeks on, six weeks off, during which you re-learn eating habits. With 20 to 30 pounds shed in a cycle, patients often undergo one or two more cycles.

“Patients do embrace some lifestyle changes,” says Dr. True. “The theory is that if you do the lifestyle changes for that length of time, it sticks.” He found that patients who do additional cycles have even more success keeping it off—because they’ve spent more time learning good eating habits.

Dr. Moulavi’s studies, however, lean toward the idea that HCG helps keep weight off because of how it affects your metabolism, the measure of how fast you burn fat. Because patients don’t lose lean body mass, he says, “They don’t lose their metabolic mechanism.”

Like many new therapies, HCG is not without controversy. The FDA has not approved HCG for weight loss, and says this has not been proven; its approval of HCG is for use as a fertility drug. You should also never use HCG without medical supervision, especially because a very low calorie diet can be unhealthy. As for other possible side effects, such as headaches, depression, blood clots and dizziness, and a rare reaction in women called OHS (Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome), these are no more common than negative side effects from taking aspirin.

In the meantime, MDs across the U.S. are turning to HCG because so many find that it works. And regardless of why it keeps fat off, what counts is that it apparently does.

“[With dieters] the fact that weight comes back is not for lack of trying,” says Dr. Eisenstein. “If this were something that could be solved by what is available today, then Oprah would be skinny… She loses it, but can’t maintain it. With HCG you can.”