Human chorionic gonadotrophin (HCG) is a hormone active during pregnancy, according to registered dietitian Katherine Zeratsky of the Mayo Clinic. Low thyroid levels are often associated with weight gain and HCG has a weak stimulating response on the thyroid gland. Although HCG supplements are sold for weight loss and are thought to stimulate the thyroid gland; HCG hasn't proven effective for this in research studies. Thyroid levels don't affect levels of HCG in the body: it is HCG levels that can affect thyroid levels.
HCG in Pregnancy
During pregnancy, HCG levels increase to maintain progesterone levels, according to doctors Gerard Burrow and Lauren Golden. Once the placenta takes over progesterone production, HCG levels fall off. This HCG increase stimulates the thyroid gland and may result in a thyroid "strain" that could predispose women to thyroid diseases later on. High HCG levels are associated with hyperthyroidism which often induces hyperactivity, irregular heart rate and weight loss but can sometimes cause depression, inactivity, loss of energy and muscle weakness, reports the website Health in Aging.
HCG and Male Infertility
Stanford University reports that a small percentage of male infertility cases are caused by problems with hormones. Hypothyroidism can cause infertility in 1 per cent of males. It is treated by reducing iodine in the diet or taking thyroid hormone replacement therapy. The condition panhypopituitafism is complete pituitary gland failure. Supplementing with pituitary hormones and HCG may stimulate testosterone and sperm production, Stanford says.
A 1997 Venezuelan study looked at testosterone levels and response to HCG in males with hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. Researchers found that 60 per cent of the hypothyroid men reported decreased libido because of low testosterone levels. Untreated hypothyroid males had normal responses to HCG but low responses to another important hormone: gonadotrophin-releasing hormone (GnRH). Supplements of thyroid hormone improved this response.
Hormones and Aging
Sex hormones decline with ageing and are involved in many more processes than just reproduction. Testosterone replacement therapy can help men with low testosterone levels. Oestrogen and progesterone replacement therapy can help women with falling hormone levels but carries risks.
Growth hormones also decline with age and this decline is linked to increased body fat and decreased muscle strength, according to the website Health in Aging. Growth hormone supplements have been proven to help people with diseases of the pituitary gland or hypothalamus [not the thyroid] but have been linked to several significant side effects.
The HCG Diet
LA Times reporter Elena Conis explains that the interest in the HCG diet is based on a discredited diet from the 1930s. Dr. A.T.W. Simeons treated children with a congenital disease known as Frohlich's syndrome with HCG. Children with Frohlich's have slow reproductive organ growth and tended to be obese. Simeons found that HCG injections helped these children to lose weight.
The doctor compiled a very low-calorie diet along with HCG injections for people without Frohlich's and claimed that the HCG made fat more available for burning and prevented dizziness, excessive hunger and weakness in his clients. The HCG diet has people limit their caloric intake to 500 calories a day.
From 1959 to 1995, studies of the HCG diet by Israeli scientists, University of California scientists, Fort Carson Army Hospital and Dutch researchers have all found that the HCG injections were not related to the weight loss and the HCG did not suppress hunger or alleviate weakness.
Dr. Michael Snyder on the HCG Diet
Weight loss surgeon Dr. Michael Snyder says that no evidence exists that ingesting HCG increases blood levels of the hormone or that HCG increases metabolism. He says that if HCG did increase metabolism, we'd see anorexic pregnant women. It is the severe caloric-reduction that is the cause of weight loss on the HCG diet, Snyder says, and unlike thyroid replacement therapies, HCG feedback loops aren't carefully watched. HCG levels are associated with problems of the thyroid and supplementing HCG hasn't been proved to be a safe treatment. HCG levels only have a weak effect on the thyroid gland and hypothyroidism and HCG levels don't have a strong connection in terms of weight loss.
- MayoClinic.com: Can HCG Injections Increase Weight Loss? Katherine Zeratsky, R.D.; (2010)
- Endotext: Thyroid Disease During Pregnancy; Gerard N Burrow, MD and Lauren H Golden, MD; Oct. 28, 2002
- University of Stanford: What Causes Male Infertility? (2010)
- Health in Aging: Hormone Disorders
- Informahealthcar: Effects of Thyroid Status on Pituitary Gonadotropin and Testicular Reserve in Men; EM Velazquez and Bellabarba Arata; (1997)