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Is HCG The Fountain Of Youth?

Is HCG The Fountain Of Youth?

Dear Doctor,
One of my golf buddies is using HCG and talks about it like it is some kind of “fountain of youth”.  He has lost weight, has said he has more energy, stronger sex drive and he claims that his “man-hood” is growing.  If all this was true, why wouldn’t every guy be on HCG?!  Can you give me the lowdown on HCG…. what is it and what can it really do?

Ave Maria, FL.

Dr. Freier:

I appreciate your question Charles.  I have been thinking about writing an article about hCG for some time….and this gives me the opportunity to do so!

Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) is a hormone naturally produced by a woman’s placenta after implantation of a fertilized egg into the uterine wall.  It helps stimulate the production of progesterone by the ovaries to maintain the uterine wall during pregnancy.  You may have heard about human chorionic gonadotropin because it is the hormone detected by at-home pregnancy tests.

hCG has also been shown to have a whole host of other roles during pregnancy including, but not limited to, stimulating fetal hormone development, and repelling the immune cells of the mother to protect the fetus.  And in the case of male fetuses, hCG has a luteinizing hormone-like effect that causes the development of the genitals.  The hCG stimulates testosterone production from the testes in the male fetus and subsequent development of male genital system.  As you can see, hCG is an important hormone, but it may not be the “fountain of youth” your buddy is making it out to be.  Read on!

Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) is a glycoprotein composed of 237 amino acids.  It has a subunit that is identical to luteinizing hormones (LH).  Because of its similarity to LH it can be used medicinally as a fertility treatment.  It is used to induce ovulation in the ovaries as well as testosterone production in the testes.  To be used clinically, hCG can be extracted from the urine of pregnant women or produced from cultures of genetically modified cells.  For supplemental purposes, hCG comes in a powder form that must be mixed with purified water and then injected just under the skin.

In women, human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) injections are used in lieu of luteinizing hormone (LH) for final maturation and induction of the egg.  In the presence of one or more mature ovarian follicles, ovulation can also be triggered by the administration of hCG, as ovulation will happen between 38 to 40 hours after a single hCG injection.  Also, patients undergoing IVF, in general, receive hCG to trigger the ovulation process.

In men, hCG injections stimulate the testicles to make testosterone.  The intratesticular testosterone is necessary for the production of sperm.  Typical uses for hCG in men include hypogonadism (i.e. Low-T), fertility treatment, and it is used in combination with testosterone replacement therapy (TRT).  

When supplemental testosterone is introduced into the male body, the natural negative-feedback loop of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis cause the body to shut down its own production of testosterone.  High levels of supplemental testosterone trigger the hypothalamus to shut down its production of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH).  Without GnRH, the pituitary gland stops releasing luteinizing hormone (LH).

LH normally travels from the pituitary to the testes, via the blood stream, where it triggers the production and release of testosterone.  Without LH, the testes shut down.  This causes testicular atrophy which decrease natural production of testosterone which then leads to a decrease in the production of sperm.  hCG is commonly used during and after testosterone therapy to maintain and/or restore testicular size and function, preserving normal testosterone and sperm production.

Human chorionic gonadotropin has often been promoted as a weight loss aid.  This was started in the 1950’s by a British endocrinologist, Albert Simeons, who proposed hCG as an adjunct to an ultra-low-calorie (fewer than 500 calories) diet for weight-loss.  While studying pregnant women in India on a calorie-deficient diet who were treated with low-dose hCG, Dr. Simeons observed they lost fat tissue rather than lean muscle tissue.  He reasoned that hCG must be programming the hypothalamus to do this in order to protect the developing fetus by promoting mobilization and consumption of abnormal, excessive fat deposits.  In 1954 Dr. Simeons published a book entitled “Pounds and Inches”, designed to combat obesity.  While practicing in Rome, Italy, Dr. Simeons recommended low-dose daily hCG injections in combination with a customized ultra-low-calorie (500 cal/day, high-protein, low-carbohydrate/fat) diet, which was supposed to result in a loss of fat storage without loss of lean tissue.

Unfortunately, other researchers did not find the same results when conducting experiments to confirm Simeons' conclusions.  A 1976 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that hCG is no more effective as a weight-loss aid than dietary restriction alone.  In response, the FDA required Simeons and others to include a disclaimer on all advertisements presenting the 1976 study data.  A 1995 meta-analysis found that studies supporting hCG for weight loss were conducted with poor method quality and concluded that "there is no scientific evidence that hCG is effective in the treatment of obesity; it does not bring about weight-loss or fat-redistribution, nor does it reduce hunger or induce a feeling of well-being.”  In the early 2000’s there was a resurgence of interest in the "hCG diet" following promotion by Kevin Trudeau.  Mr. Trudeau was subsequently banned from making hCG weight-loss claims by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission in 2008, and eventually jailed over such claims.  In 2016, the American Medical Association (AMA) passed policy that "The use of human chorionic gonadotropin for weight loss is inappropriate," and according to the American Society of Bariatric Physicians, no new clinical trials have been published since the definitive 1995 meta-analysis.  The scientific consensus is that any weight loss reported by individuals on an "hCG diet" may be attributed entirely to the fact that such diets prescribe calorie intake of between 500 and 1,000 calories per day, substantially below recommended levels for an adult, to the point that this may risk health effects associated with malnutrition.

While your golf buddy may indeed be losing weight, what he is probably experiencing, based on what he is reporting to you, is the hCG supplementation is increasing his body’s natural production of testosterone, which could give him extra energy, increase his sex drive and would help him lose weight.  The increased testosterone would also cause the growth of the testes and penis.  While these are real benefits, hCG use needs to be closely monitored by a physician because it is not without some possible side effects, most of which could be problematic and one that may be seen as a benefit…the one your golfing buddy is bragging about.

For women the adverse effects of hCG include: bloating, stomach or pelvic pain, abdominal or stomach pain, decreased amount of urine, feelings of indigestion, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea, shortness of breath, swelling of feet or lower legs, and rapid weight gain.  For men the adverse effects include: acne, enlargement of the penis and testes, growth of pubic hair, rapid increase in height, difficult breathing, flushing of skin, hives or welts, itching of skin, pain in chest, groin, or legs, especially the calves, severe sudden headache, slurred speech, sudden loss of coordination, sudden severe weakness or numbness in arm or leg, sudden unexplained shortness of breath, tightness in chest, unusually warm skin, vision changes, and wheezing.  While most of these adverse effects are rare, they need to be reported to your physician immediately if they are experienced.

If you have an interest in hCG as a treatment option, I would encourage you to call Optimal Male.  Whether your interest is boosting your natural testosterone levels, or if you are currently using testosterone through another medical provider and you are concerned about the long term effect on your natural testosterone or sperm production, I encourage you to call us.

We will conduct a complete review of your medical history and help you choose the treatment option that is best for you… and of course your consultation and exam is FREE.

Live Well!

Richard Freier, M.D.
Medical Director
Optimal Male Performance Center
Office: 239.596.8886

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