What is HCG?
HCG stands for Human Chorionic Gonadotrophin, a protein hormone associated with pregnancy. HCG is produced by the placenta, and its actions assist in maintaining a nurturing environment for the growing foetus. It is the hormone that is detected by pregnancy tests, and it is thought to be responsible for the symptoms of morning sickness.
HCG is sometimes secreted by tumours, and detection in non-pregnant women and men may be a sign of malignancy.
HCG is very similar to Luteinising Hormone (LH), which is produced by the pituitary gland in both men and women. One of the functions of LH is to stimulate the production of oestrogen in the female ovary, and testosterone in the male testes.
Why use HCG?
HCG, which is extracted from the urine of pregnant mares, or produced using genetically recombinant microorganisms, is sometimes used therapeutically to mimic the effects of LH.
A doctor may prescribe HCG therapy to stimulate ovulation in women undergoing fertility treatment, or to men suffering secondary hypogonadism as a result of pituitary insufficiency. In layman's terms, this means it is used to stimulate testosterone production in men whose bodies can't do this naturally because they don't produce any LH (1). It is often used to kickstart puberty or treat low sperm count.
Use of HCG without a prescription is illegal in Australia. Because it can stimulate the production of testosterone, it is considered a banned substance for men in international competition (but not for women, as it is not performance enhancing, and is naturally associated with pregnancy).
HCG is a drug of abuse, most commonly used to complement a cycle of anabolic steroids. Steroids mimic the male hormone testosterone, and the body controls levels through a feedback system. Introducing steroids into the body tells this system that levels of testosterone are too high, so the body shuts down its own production of male hormone. Because HCG signals the body to start producing testosterone, it is sometimes used after a steroid cycle in an attempt to restart natural production.
Additionally, it may be abused by both men and women as part of the dangerous and debunked HCG diet. HCG is purported to eliminate hard to shift fat deposits and reduce the feelings of hunger and agitation that accompany this near-starvation protocol. A number of well conducted scientific studies have determined that this is not the case, that HCG is no better than a placebo, and that it has a high potential for harm (3)
What are the Side Effects of HCG?
Using HCG to alter hormonal production takes the body even further away from a natural state, and most of the side effects of HCG relate to hormonal imbalance.
Common symptoms include tiredness, changes in mood, and acne, in addition to gynecomastia, hair loss, and prostatic enlargement in men, while women are liable to disruptions in the menstrual cycle, infertility, or hyperfertility/multiple pregnancy. People who use HCG at high doses, or for a long time, risk desensitising their LH receptors, meaning that their bodies lose the ability to respond to the message to produce hormone (2). The scientific literature reports cases of potentially life threatening blood clotting and metabolic disorders, which doctors have attributed to HCG abuse (4,5).
There are also significant risks associated with self-injection of drugs, including infection and nerve damage which may be severe and debilitating. People who share needles run the risk of contracting blood borne diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C. Because it is illegal, HCG must be purchased on the black market, where products come with no guarantees of purity or quality. A recent study estimated that close to 50% of anabolic steroids on the black market were not what they claimed to be (6).
What are some Alternatives to HCG?
There are a number of potent testosterone boosters on the market which are safe, legal, and free from side effects. Testosterone boosters are non hormonal, instead relying on botanical ingredients that have been used to enhance male health for centuries in traditional medicine, and natural amino acids. BSc Triandrobol and Elemental Nutrition Massive Muscle Fuel are highly potent best-selling products.
People looking for something to kick their weight loss up a notch should take a look at the safe, legal and potent fat burner supplements on offer. EHP Labs Oxyshred and MuscleTech Hydroxycut Hardcore Elite are very popular and effective.
(1) 'Male Hypogonadism' Merck manual Professional Edition. Online. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/genitourinary_disorders/male_reproductive_endocrinology_and_related_disorders/male_hypogonadism.html. Accessed February 5 2015.
(2) National Drug Strategy (2006). Human Chorionic Gonadotrophin. Australian Government, March 8, 2006.http://www.nationaldrugstrategy.gov.au/internet/drugstrategy/publishing.nsf/content/fs-hcg. Accessed February 4 2014.
(3) Rabe T, Richter S, Kiesel L, Runnebaum B. [Risk-benefit analysis of a hCG-500 kcal reducing diet (cura romana) in females]. Geburtshilfe Frauenheilkd. 1987 May;47(5):297-307.
(4) Goodbar NH, Foushee JA, Eagerton DH, Haynes KB, Johnson AA. Effect of the human chorionic gonadotropin diet on patient outcomes. Ann Pharmacother. 2013 May;47(5):e23.
(5) Wadera S, Magid MS, McOmber M, Carpentieri D, Miloh T. Atypical presentation of Wilson disease. Semin Liver Dis. 2011 Aug;31(3):319-26.
(6) da Justa Neves DB, Marcheti RG, Caldas ED. Incidence of anabolic steroid counterfeiting in Brazil. Forensic Sci Int 2013; 228(1-3): e81-3