Models on diet with extracts of urine from pregnant women
Hormone drops are taken orally -- along with only 500 calories a day
A CONTROVERSIAL diet that uses the female pregnancy hormone HCG has become the diet du jour among Dublin socialites, including some of Ireland's top models.
The hormone is normally produced during pregnancy, but women aren't using it in the hope of improving fertility, but to help them shed the pounds.
Bizarrely, dieters who are on the programme ingest the hormone HCG (Human chorionic gonadotropin), which has been extracted from the urine of pregnant women.
It is taken twice a day, in droplet form, placed under the tongue.
It costs €200 a week for the first 21-day course.
The hormone is used in conjunction with an ultra-stringent diet of just 500 calories a day -- something which worries nutritionist Aveen Bannon of the Dublin Nutrition Centre.
However, proponents claim that HCG 'tricks' the body into behaving as if there is a pregnancy, carrying fat from the cells to the 'phantom baby' -- before disposing of the excess fat when it is not utilised.
Model Hazel O'Sullivan has credited it with helping her achieve dramatic weight loss.
"I've lost 9lbs and dropped to 8 stone 12lbs in two weeks on the diet -- the results are like nothing I've seen before. I take the drops twice a day under my tongue."
The strict food plan for one day consists of a piece of fruit, 100 grammes of green veg and 100 grammes of lean meat twice a day. An unlimited amount of tea and coffee and two diet drinks are also allowed, while 10 glasses of water are said to be essential to help dispel fat.
Ms O'Sullivan said: "I'm part of a new generation of girls who are a lot more open-minded and willing to try new forms of slimming. There's always pressure in the modelling world to keep your weight down and I have dates coming up in NYC which are really important. My ultimate goal is to appear in Sports Illustrated, so I have to make sure I'm in top shape."
However, the programme's stringent diet -- of just 500 calories a day -- is 1,500 calories less than what is considered to be normal consumption for a healthy adult female.
That low level of calorific intake concerns some experts, including nutritionist Aveen Bannon.
"I would never, ever advocate anyone to go on a 500-calorie-a-day diet," she says.
"We'd actually say to cut 500 calories a day from your existing diet to lose a pound per week, and increase exercise activity on top of that to lose two pounds a week. But this diet seems to me to be a short-term fix that cuts out important food groups, so you are losing the essential nutrients from dairy and insoluble fibre."
She added: "Any diet that has less than 1,300 calories a day -- well, it's almost impossible to have a nutritionally adequate diet on it. And we also don't know the long-term consequences of taking HCG. I don't think a study has ever been carried out on it."
But Dr Sami Hameid, from the Donnybrook Cosmetic and Wellness Clinic, says the diet has become hugely popular.
"I have seen about 400 people who have gone on the diet so far. I had five people in today, six yesterday.
"HCG increases the metabolic rate in pregnant women to support the baby and helps to shift the mother's fat to give energy to the foetus. That's why you'll see even undernourished women in Africa can give birth to healthy babies," he said.
"The hormone that I use comes from a very natural source -- the urine of pregnant women -- and it's not a sex hormone, so both men and women can go on the diet. In fact, the bodies of baby girls and boys are flooded with it at birth -- so it's very natural."
The first 21-day course costs €600, with €300 for each month thereafter.