Reality Check: Weight Loss Shots




Photo by: yangna


The diet industry is always looking for the newest craze, and among the newcomers, there's lots of chatter about weight loss shots. Some of these "magical injections" have been offered to weight loss clientele for years, but there’s also a new shot on the block with a mountain of potential dangers. Get the facts.

B-12 Injections

Over the years, many weight loss clinics have offered injections of vitamin B-12, promising to help boost metabolism and promote weight loss. B-12 is a water-soluble vitamin responsible for DNA formation, healthy red blood cells, and a properly functioning nervous system. Not getting enough can lead to fatigue from anemia, but unless you have a deficiency, B-12 supplements can’t do much for you. Even if you aren’t getting enough, weight loss isn’t a function of the vitamin. The good news is, there's a very low risk of toxicity from B-12 shots, but why bother getting poked with needles? Foods like meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy and fortified cereal and grain products are the best way to get some.

HCG Diet

Even more disturbing than B-12 injections is the newest trend in weight loss, the HCG Diet. HCG stands for “human chorionic gonadotropin,” which is currently available by prescription as a fertility treatment. Recently, it has been inappropriately prescribed as a weight loss aid. Shots of hCG allegedly trick the body into thinking it’s pregnant, burning fat for a developing fetus that isn’t actually there (kind of creepy, no?).

The HCG Diet includes daily injections along with a 500-calorie diet. Clever marketing on part of supporters promise that this regimen will allow women to lose a pound a day without hunger, while mobilizing and burning fat from the arms, belly and thighs.

HCG isn’t only available in injectible forms.  The FDA recently released a warning that  "homeopathic" forms of hCG, like lozenges and sprays, sold over the Internet and in some health food stores, are fraudulent and illegal if they claim weight-loss powers.”

Risks associated with use of hCG include blood clots, depression, headaches and breast tenderness or enlargement. Don’t count out the risk to your bank account: Some doctor charge over $1100 a month for hCG treatments. Equally as frightening, the accompanying 500 calories a day is far below anyone’s needs. Trying to maintain this low intake will likely do irreparable damage to your metabolism.

Needless to say, there’s very limited research to back up that hCG works better than a calorie- restricted diet. Nor does this type of diet fad teach or promote healthy eating habits, so how do you maintain it long term? Yale University’s Dr. David Katz put it best in a recent interview for ABC News "This diet is appalling. It takes irresponsible diets to new heights." Learn more from Dr. Katz in his previous interviews for us.

Bottom Line: Sorry: Just like there’s no magic pill or food, there’s no magic shot. The keys to effective weight loss come from fewer calories, more exercise, education about nutrition and good, old-fashioned will power.

TELL US: What’s your take on weight loss injections?

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition. See Dana's full bio »

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