The human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) is a glycoprotein hormone composed of two subunits, the alpha-subunit and the beta-subunit, and 244 amino acids. It is produced by the chorionic cells in the fetal part of the placenta during early pregnancy. Under abnormal circumstances, certain types of tumors such as germ cell tumors (tumors from egg or sperm), choriocarcinoma (cancer of the uterus) and testicular cancer can produce HCG.
Importance of HCG in Pregnancy
The human chorionic gonadotropin is produced usually eight to nine days after fertilization. Once it reaches the maternal blood, it binds to the luteinizing hormone receptors in the corpus luteum, thereby preventing its disintegration. This HCG effect on the corpus luteum is the same as that of the luteinizing hormone.
The HCG maintains the function of the corpus luteum, which is essential in the stimulation of the production of large amounts of progesterone. In turn, this hormone prevents the shedding of the endometrial lining of the uterus, and enriches it with blood vessels and capillaries. In consequence, menstruation does not occur. It makes the uterus a viable and sustainable environment for the developing embryo.
The HCG is also essential for male sex organ differentiation. Binding of the HCG to the Leydig cells of the testes of male embryos will stimulate the production of testosterone, which is responsible for the differentiation of the male sex organ. Thus, without HCG, the process of differentiation would not happen.
HCG Use in Infertility Treatment
As mentioned above, the effect of the human chorionic gonadotropin has a similarity to the effect of the luteinizing hormone. Currently, the HCG can be used for the treatment of infertility. Administered via injection, it stimulates ovulation 24 to 36 hours after its administration. It also stimulates the Leydig cells to produce testosterone. The testosterone is necessary for the development of viable sperms. In addition, the HCG is used for the treatment of male hypogonadism.
HCG Use for Pregnancy Test
The HCG urine test can be used to determine pregnancy. It indicates whether an implanted embryo is present or absent. In cases of abnormal pregnancy or birth defects, the presence of HCG levels in the blood is also quantified as a part of a screening test. Human chorionic gonadotropin-related cancers produce high levels of beta-HCG, thus making it a reliable tumor marker. However, its use as a tumor marker is not limited to diagnosing HCG-related cancers because it can likewise be used for monitoring.
HCG Diet for Apparent Weight Loss
The HCG diet is a fad diet wherein you take human chorionic gonadotropin, either in oral or parenteral form, accompanied by severe calorie restriction. However, it has not been proven that taking HCG can cause weight loss. In fact, health experts say that HCG has no value in reducing weight, and the thing that actually causes the weight loss is the severe calorie restriction. The HCG diet may even pose dangerous risks to your health. Having a healthy diet and lifestyle is still the best way to maintain good weight, as well as good health.