Most people accept the fact that there are no short cuts to keeping in shape and maintaining your health. They realize that the only way to remain healthy and lead a vital and productive life is to take care of themselves. Even so, some people think that magic pills or wonder drugs can turn back the clock and make them young again. In recent years human Growth Hormone (hGH) has received much attention as a “fountain-of-youth” drug. These claims have been fueled by companies and celebrities who say that hGH can reverse the aging process. It has even been implicated in sports as professional athletes have been accused of using hGH to boost strength and athletic performance. All of the media hype might make the use of hGH appear credible. One of the most interesting things about media hype is that when something appears to be popular others get on the bandwagon. But does hGH make you younger? You will be better able to answer this question after you finish reading this article.
Growth hormone (GH) is a protein hormone synthesized (produced) by the anterior pituitary gland. Human growth Hormone (hGH) is a synthetic version of the form normally produced by the anterior pituitary gland. Levels of GH are highest in children and is largely responsible for the growth spurts during adolescence. Growth hormone secretion gradually decrease over time with seniors producing much less than people in their 20s and 30s. Growth hormone, as the name implies, is essential for normal physical growth. Among its many functions is increased bone density, stimulation of cartilage cell multiplication and division, lypolysis (reducing fat), increased muscle mass, protein synthesis, organ growth, maintaining body steady state (homeostasis), gluconeogenesis (conversion of fat and protein to glucose), reduces liver uptake of glucose, and causes stimulation of the immune system (1).
Growth hormone deficiencies can cause impairments in any of the above functions so medically administered injections of hGH are necessary for individuals deficient in the hormone. However, there are people who take hGH for a completely different reason: to stave off aging. Proponents of hGH for anti-aging say that the hormone can reduce body fat, and increase muscle mass in persons who received hGH injections (2). Although there is evidence that hGH does indeed reduce body fat and increase muscle mass (quite possibly due to increased water retention in muscle cells), researchers at Stanford University concluded that patients did not gain muscular strength. They looked at 31 studies involving five hundred relatively healthy elderly persons (3). Their analysis found that patients who took hGH did not show any substantial benefits from the hormone. On the other hand, the persons in the study witnessed an increase in arthritic-like symptoms, nerve damage (carpel tunnel syndrome), edema, diabetes and breast development in males (3). Other side effects of hGH are decreased libido, insulin resistance, acromeglia (increased limb size) and fatigue (1).
Growth hormone is released in a pulsatile fashion (4). Because growth hormone is so tightly regulated within the body, higher than normal concentrations of growth hormone-resulting from injection of hGH-could send a negative feedback response to the anterior pituitary gland which would then cause the body to decrease or even stop production of its own growth hormone.