Text by: Maria Jorica Pamintuan
With the holiday season just around the corner, weight gain can’t be far behind. It can be tough to maintain a balanced diet (or an exercise routine!) when there are Christmas parties every other day, so the pounds just keep adding up.
If only losing weight were as easy as gaining it, right? Well, over the past few decades, scientists and doctors have developed a number of instant treatments that supposedly make it easy for the busy and the lazy to shed excess fat.
According to these companies, weight loss is just an injection away. It’s a dream come true, but the question remains: Do these injectable slimming treatments really work?
The HCG Diet
One of the more popular, but controversial injectables is the Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG) injection, which is an integral part of a broader diet plan of the same name.
HCG is a hormone produced by women during pregnancy. Doctors have hypothesized that HCG breaks down abdominal fat in pregnant women so that the babies they’re carrying can use the fat for energy. Thus, since the 1950s, medical professionals have been experimenting with HCG as a possible aid for weight loss.
Today, followers of the HCG diet have it injected into their bodies to “reset” their metabolism. According to WebMD, the hormone supposedly allows you to maintain an ultra low-calorie diet without feeling hungry or weak.
But the hormone is just part of the program, which lasts for eight weeks and promises weight loss of up to a pound a day. Another major component in the HCG Diet is the dieting itself.
You are only allowed to take in 500 calories per day – that’s roughly just a fourth of the recommended intake for women, and a fifth of the ideal allowance for men. You can only eat twice a day, and each meal must include one protein, one vegetable, one piece of bread, and one fruit. There are also quite a few restrictions on the types of food you can eat, but the bottom line is, you really don’t get to eat much – which is where the HCG hormone comes in.
According to Dr. Sheri Emma, HCG reduces feelings of hunger and helps elevate hormone levels in the body. This means that you can eat very little, but avoid losing muscle while you diet.
She says the problem with weight loss diets is that muscle loss usually accounts for most of the pounds you shed, but HCG injections allow for “pure fat loss” without much effort.
However, Dr. Emma also noted that the weight loss comes only with HCG injections. The hormone also comes in other forms, such as oral drops and sprays, but these barely reach the bloodstream, thus having little or no effect on the body.
Besides, injections are the only HCG products approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration. But before you rejoice at this FDA-approve miracle injection, it’s important to note that the hormone is only approved as a treatment for infertility and other hormonal problems.
“There is no substantial evidence that HCG increases weight loss,” the FDA says on its website.
Another injectable treatment for weight loss – and this one is approved by the FDA – is liraglutide, a drug used to manage type 2 diabetes. It reduces the glucose or sugar levels in the blood.
Liraglutide is a type of drug called incretins, which mimic human hormones that are released by the intestine in response to food. According to Medicine Net, it works in three ways: first, by increasing insulin production in the pancreas; second, by slowing absorption of glucose; and third, by reducing the effects of glucagon, which is a hormone that increases glucose production in the liver.
Incretins like liraglutide also reduce appetite. This weight loss treatment requires a doctor’s prescription and is recommended only for people with clinically diagnosed obesity.
According to NHS England, people who have used the highest possible dose of liraglutide lost an average of 7.2 kilograms in 20 weeks.
Another popular injectable substance for weight loss is Vitamin B-12. It’s the same water-soluble vitamin naturally found in meat, fish and dairy products, as well as in over-the-counter supplements – only, B-12 injections contain about 400 times the daily amount humans require.
Usually, B-12 – in normal doses – is used by your body to regulate neurological functions and to form red blood cells. But, proponents of B-12 injections say a supersized vitamin dose provides a metabolism boost, which helps you burn calories (and consequently, fat) faster.
An average B-12 injection contains about 1,000 micrograms of the vitamin, which is enough to energize you for about 24 hours. These shots are also said to strengthen the immune system and help cure stress-related problems like fatigue, insomnia and depression, said B-12 user Andrea Richards.
But, much like HCG, there is no definitive medical evidence that excessive amounts of B-12 can help boost your energy or make you lose weight faster, said Dr. David Heber, director of the University of California in Los Angeles Center for Human Nutrition.
So, while many claim that injectables are effective for weight loss, science has yet to prove without a doubt that these treatments will actually work. There is evidence that they could help you shed or keep off the pounds, but there’s no guarantee that a shot will help in your battle of the bulge.
Experts still agree that your best bet to recover from the sinful food you’ll be eating over the holidays is still discipline in both your diet and your exercise regimen.