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NY Times: Dangerous, expensive diet fraud has fans and skeptics

[ 66 ] March 8, 2011 |

“Some” (researchers who have tested the proposition) have found that injecting yourself with a hormone derived from the urine of pregnant women while eating a starvation diet of 500 calories a day doesn’t actually cause any weight loss that wouldn’t be caused by a starvation diet alone. “Others” (crooked doctors charging their desperate patients $1000+ a month) claim otherwise:

But unlike other popular diet supplements, hCG, which is derived from the urine of pregnant women, has acquired an aura of respectability because the injections are available only by prescription.

Ms. Brown’s physician, Lionel Bissoon, a well-known society doctor with an office off Central Park West, charges $1,150 for his hCG program, which covers an examination, injection training, a month’s supply of the hormone and syringes, and blood work to monitor for possible trouble.

“From an anecdotal point of view,” Dr. Bissoon said, “physicians all around the country have seen people losing a tremendous amount of weight with this stuff, and you cannot afford to ignore that.”

Indeed! Who is to say what the truth of the matter is? And what is “truth” anyway, in this crazy mixed up postmodern world of ours?

Not to mention the whole “eating 500 calories a day is exactly what anorexics do” thing.

Then there are the nutritional concerns about a diet that some say mimics anorexia. “The average person is going to eat 1,800 to 3,000 calories,” said Kristen Smith, a bariatric surgery dietitian at Montefiore Medical Center.

“I don’t think it promotes healthy long-term eating habits,” she added.

Limiting yourself to 500 calories a day “mimics” anorexia in the same way that injecting heroin every day “mimics” heroin addiction.


Comments (66)

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  1. Halloween Jack says:

    Somewhere in hell, the goat-gland guy is laughing.

  2. Malaclypse says:

    In a free market, people can test drug safety on themselves, or by simply hiring the less well-off. If Biblical kings could have food-tasters, then we can be sure that God will approve of this plan.

  3. SeanH says:

    In a free market, some people will die and some people will profit from that.

  4. GeoX says:

    Man, from what Reality Check sez, this “Free market” thing sounds awful. What kind of sociopath would be in favor of it?

  5. fluffytuna says:

    RC, you mean like the example of you when you bought yours brains. It’s an anecdote so it must be true. Beside I said it, so that makes it doubly true.

  6. JMS says:

    I love things like this that blow the top off the “It’s all about health!” illusion of the weight-loss industry.

    Not content with instructing patients to starve themselves, they’re also fucking with their hormones. AWESOME! Because there’s nothing like putting someone’s heart at risk doubly in order to get them to lose weight “for the sake of their hearts.”

  7. davenoon says:

    I see there are homeopathic versions of this same useless hormone. The mind boggles twice.

  8. elm says:

    I know that even gold-standard medical research can sometimes be fuzzy on the causal mechanisms, but what’s the logic for why the urine of a pregnant woman (and, apparently, only a pregnant woman) will lead to weight loss?

    Could you get any closer to the stereotypical witch’s potion than this unless you also mixed in some eye of newt?

    • davenoon says:

      The theory is of course completely insane. Basically, an Italian doctor working in India during the 1950s surmised that hCG could be used to promote sexual maturation in hypogonadic young boys. Initially, he administered the urine of pregnant women to these kids by way of a retention enema. He also put them on this 500-calorie diet and — surprise, surprise — the kids lost weight. He developed a theory that hCG basically “freed up” adipose tissue and caused it to migrate within the body, during which time it could be burnt off since (by his theory) the recipient’s body believed it was pregnant and needed the energy to build up a placenta, etc.

      It’s batshit. Given what Paul notes (i.e., the diet is basically anorexia + placebo), it’s remarkable that the doctor who devised the treatment always claimed that “we undertake to cure a disorder, not to create a new one.” Right, right….

  9. jon says:

    You know what was another great diet program? The Bataan Death March. But it’s not for everyone.

  10. joe from Lowell says:

    Limiting yourself to 500 calories a day “mimics” anorexia in the same way that injecting heroin every day “mimics” heroin addiction.

    I imagine it’s a bit easier to stop.

    • Lea says:

      Not necessarily.

    • JMS says:

      Anorexia has a higher mortality rate than heroin addiction, so I would suggest “No.”

      The thing is that starving yourself actively messes up your neurochemistry, which keeps many people from being able to get themselves out of the anorexic spiral.

      • Lea says:

        Yup. And after a while in that spiral (a very short while most of the time) the insurance companies basically say “Oh shut up and eat a sandwich, you silly little girl” and refuse to put out another penny for treatment. Which does not exactly lead to someone getting OUT of the spiral.

  11. Janet says:

    Hey, they lost me with the first sentence: “Every morning, Kay Brown engages in a ritual similar to a heroin addict’s, or a diabetic’s: she sticks herself with a syringe.”

    First, an insulin injection is subcutaneous; a heroin injection is intravenous — the technique is actually very different.

    Second, implying that insulin is an addictive and/or recreational substance is truly ignorant. And stupid. And offensive.

    Third, you do not stick yourself with a syringe; you stick yourself with a needle. The syringe is the part that holds the fluid you’re going to inject, not the pointy part. A turkey baster is a syringe.


    • SeanH says:

      That is really terrible thinking on behalf of the NY Times.

      “Every morning, Steve Jones engages in a ritual similar to a chronic overeater’s, or an athlete’s: he eats breakfast.”

      “Every weekend, Katie Dennis engages in a ritual similar to a functioning alcoholic’s, or a ritual celebrant of the god Dionysus’s: she drinks wine.”

  12. PhoenixRising says:

    Dr “Bissoon”? Are you certain? I thought it was spelled “buffoon”.

  13. ajay says:

    What amazes me is that they’re reporting anything less than a 100% success rate. There are people on a 500-calorie-a-day diet who aren’t losing weight? I wouldn’t even have thought that was possible for anyone except the already severely emaciated.

  14. Headscarves says:

    It’s scary how doctors will apply anything to patients for money.

  15. […] Dangerous, expensive diet fad – injecting yourself with urine from pregnant women. What? […]

  16. […] noted a few months back that the diet is essentially indistinguishable from anorexia, but Larimore seems […]

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  19. rea says:

    There has never in history been an unregulated market that worked.

  20. DrDick says:

    And some people will lie and cheat, killing and maiming thousands. This is why I, unlike most of the folks around here, am an actual socialist (not to be confused with your Faux Spews deranged nightmare fantasy of what one is).

  21. MobiusKlein says:

    In a free market, some folks swindled by hucksters invoke some free market justice and go vigilante.

  22. Malaclypse says:

    …in the same way prescribing medical marijuana for children with attention deficit disorder “mimics” sound medical practice.

    And I cannot tell you how often Paul has advocated doing just that as a clever idea.

    Is there even a strawman hidden somewhere in your comment, or is it just drunken rambling?

    Next up: Meade disapproves of kicking puppies, and demands liberals note his wisdom.

  23. Hippy Johnny says:

    Is ADD the reason that Althouse is just today linking to a story that ran in the NY Times 14 months ago? Perhaps a few bong hits would help. Couldn’t be any worse than cheap box wine.

  24. dave3544 says:

    Wait, Paul was saying that “mimics” is used wrong here. The diet doesn’t “mimic” anorexia, it “equals” anorexia.

    Are you trying to say that proscribing medical marijuana to children “equals” sound medical practice?

    Bold stance, my friend.

  25. JMS says:

    Remember, prescribing THC for children is THE DEVIL, but prescribing amphetamines for children is GOLD STANDARD MEDICINE.

    Here in the fact-based community, different drugs are best suited for different people experiencing different conditions, and the possible recreational usages of same aren’t actually what drive doctors or medical researchers.

    Of course, back in the Good Old Days (Gilded Age The First, Rise of the Robber Barons), the most widely prescribed drug for children was opium mixed with alcohol. That’s what made America great!

  26. SeanH says:

    And I cannot tell you how often Paul has advocated doing just that as a clever idea.

    In Paul’s defence, he was super high.

  27. Hogan says:

    I suspect the real answer involves some combination of the words “driving,” “traffic” and “up.” Or possibly “whoring” and “link.”

  28. That’s because it’s never been tried! Statist oppressors have _always_ had their meddlesome collectivist paws in there, which somehow _proves_ that a totally deregulated market would be the best of all possible worlds. Or something.

  29. dave says:

    Nineteenth-century America had many unregulated markets that made healthy profits for suppliers of adulterated foodstuffs and employers of underage labor in dangerous conditions. Everybody loved it, except the ones who got sick and died, and whose relatives eventually took democratic decisions to end the absence of regulation. It all depends how you define ‘worked’.

  30. GeoX says:

    What a classy, classy man you are, Meade.

  31. You are a soulless shell. I deny your humanity.

  32. SeanH says:

    Meade, quite dodging the question. Until you address the issue of viewpoint discrimination, you haven’t answered anything.

  33. SeanH says:

    Meade, you should be careful. I think your comments here put you in danger of committing viewpoint discrimination.

  34. Malaclypse says:

    Funny how you never addressed the “why are you even bringing up something this completely, stupidly irrelevant?” question. I, for one, am shocked at your evasiveness, given your history of forthright veracity.

  35. Malaclypse says:

    Actually, when I think of of Meade, this song is what comes to mind.

  36. Bill Murray says:

    Look but, if she’s really so great,
    tell me, why can’t she at least take this place and take it straight?

  37. DrDick says:

    Free MArkets (TM)!1!!

  38. Walt says:

    Is that true? Man, parenting must have been easy in those days.

  39. witless chum says:

    (not to be confused with your Faux Spews deranged nightmare fantasy of what one is)

    Don’t sell yourself short, Dr.

    I’m not sure if I qualify as a socialist for real, but it certainly has the right set of enemies in contemporary America. W.E.B. DuBois said he was a “socialist of the path” so I think I’ll start stealing that one.

  40. Emily says:

    Yeah, I was confused by that too. It seems that Meade’s point is that medical marijuana is an appropriate treatment for kids with ADHD.

  41. Malaclypse says:

    And I’m saying Campos, whatever clever irony he thinks he is employing, is just wrong.

    No, you were going on pointlessly about giving children marijuana. Go ahead, read the thread, and you can see for yourself. You really did say something that stupid.

    Now, I could point out what this says about your short-term memory, but that would be cruel.

  42. Scott Lemieux says:

    Sorry, but your wife is right on this one.

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