Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) is sometimes called “the pregnancy hormone” because of its important role in maintaining pregnancy.
Pregnancy tests check hCG levels in the urine or blood to determine if a person is pregnant or not.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has also approved hCG injections to treat specific medical conditions in both women and men.
In women, hCG injections are FDA approved to help treat infertility.
In men, hCG injections are FDA approved for a type of hypogonadism in which the body doesn’t adequately stimulate the gonads to produce the sex hormone testosterone.
There are a variety of reasons why a doctor might prescribe hCG to a man.
To help address hypogonadism
In men, doctors prescribe hCG to help address the symptoms of hypogonadism, such as low testosterone and infertility. hCG can help the body increase its production of testosterone and sperm, which can help reduce infertility.
To improve testosterone deficiency
Injections of hCG are also sometimes used as an alternative to testosterone products in men with testosterone deficiency.
Testosterone deficiency is defined as testosterone blood levels less than 300 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL) along with symptoms of low testosterone. These include:
According to the American Urological Association, hCG is appropriate for those men with testosterone deficiency who also desire to maintain fertility.
Testosterone products boost levels of the hormone in the body but can have the side effects of shrinking the gonads, altering sexual function, and causing infertility.
hCG can help increase:
- gonad size
- testosterone levels
Some doctors believe that using testosterone along with hCG may help improve symptoms of testosterone deficiency while preventing some of testosterone’s side effects.
To improve sexual function
hCG may also help improve sexual function in men who don’t experience improvement while on testosterone.
To reverse steroid side effects
Bodybuilders who take anabolic steroids such as testosterone also sometimes use hCG to help prevent or reverse some of the side effects steroids cause, such as gonad shrinkage and infertility.
In men, hCG acts like luteinizing hormone (LH). LH stimulates Leydig cells in the testicles, which results in the production of testosterone.
LH also stimulates production of sperm within structures in the testicles called seminiferous tubules.
As hCG stimulates the testicles to produce testosterone and sperm, the testicles grow in size over time.
Very little clinical research has evaluated hCG in men with low testosterone levels.
In a small 2002 study of older men with partial hypogonadism, hCG increased testosterone levels compared to a placebo control. However, hCG had no effect on sexual function.
In one 2005 study, men taking testosterone along with hCG were able to maintain testosterone production in the testicles.
According to a
A small 2019 study concluded that hCG was safe and effective for men who experience the symptoms of hypogonadism but have testosterone levels above 300 ng/dL. Testosterone levels above 300 ng/dL are widely considered normal.
For men, the most common side effects of hCG injections include:
- gynecomastia, or the growth of male breasts
- pain, redness, and swelling at the injection site
- stomach pain
In rare cases, people taking hCG have developed blood clots. Although also rare, allergic reactions can occur, including mild skin rashes and severe anaphylactic reactions.
hCG is sometimes used for weight loss. Several products are available that are marketed as over-the-counter (OTC) homeopathic hCG products for weight loss.
However, the FDA has
The FDA has also advised consumers that there’s no substantial evidence that hCG works for weight loss.
These products are often used as part of an “hCG diet.” This typically involves taking hCG supplements while following a low calorie diet of 500 calories per day.
Although this low calorie diet can help reduce weight, there’s no evidence that using hCG products helps.
Additionally, this extremely low calorie diet can be unsafe for many people. Possible side effects of extremely restrictive diets include:
When used appropriately with the guidance of your doctor, hCG is safe.
It shouldn’t be used by men with prostate cancer, certain brain cancers, or uncontrolled thyroid disease.
Talk with your doctor about other medical conditions you may have before using hCG.
hCG is produced from hamster ovary cells. People with an allergy to hamster protein shouldn’t take hCG.
You should avoid all OTC hCG products, since none of them have been FDA approved. The FDA warns against using these products or following the hCG diet.
hCG is an FDA-approved medication for treating specific conditions in both women and men.
In men, it seems to have an important role as an alternative to testosterone for boosting testosterone levels and maintaining fertility.
Some doctors are prescribing it in conjunction with testosterone products for testosterone deficiency to help maintain fertility and sexual function.
Some people are also using hCG for weight loss, often as a component of the hCG diet. However, there’s no reliable evidence that hCG works for this purpose. Due to concerns about its safety, it should be avoided as a weight loss aid.