Growing Evidence Against The Aging Benefits Of Human Growth Hormone

2011-04-20 |

It does not take much of a search on the Internet to find someone, somewhere attempting to sell medications. Our email mailboxes are typically full of spam messages from people attempting to sell drugs to improve our sex lives. While sexual performance medications are certainly the most frequently marketed, thousands of web sites offer numerous products promising better health and vitality. One of the medications being sold that appeals to our desire for a quick health fix is Human Growth Hormone or HGH.

Rather than being a medication in the typical sense, the Human Growth Hormone typically sold is an inexact copy of the growth hormone that our pituitary gland naturally produces. The purpose of the hormone is to stimulate cell reproduction, growth and regeneration of tissues as well as the immune system. It is these attributes of the hormone that have captured the public attention for HGH being a “fountain of youth” and created both legitimate and underground markets for its sale.

For what is Human Growth Hormone Used?

Typically, when used legally, Human Growth Hormone is prescribed to treat growth disorders in children and hormone deficiencies in adults. More recently, some doctors have started to prescribe the hormone to improve vitality in aging individuals with growth hormone deficiencies. In the illegal context, in addition to use by athletes, some individuals also promote the product as having anti-aging benefits, despite a lack of any evidence to support this.

What is the Evidence Supporting Human Growth Hormone Use?

Some of the “evidence” that supports the anti-aging claims comes from legitimate research that has looked at those with growth hormone deficiencies. In a decade long study from Goteborg University, researchers found that growth hormone use improved muscle strength for the first five years and slowed the rate of muscle decline over the following five years. Amongst those selling the next great “fountain of youth”, the important factor being conveniently overlooked is that these results were only applicable to those with existing hormone deficiencies.

The science, in contrast, points to there being little benefit to the aging process from growth hormones. In a 2007 review of more than 30 previously published studies, Stanford University researchers found that the use of growth hormone had a minimal improvement in muscle mass and reduction in fat. At the same time however, the study found that joint swelling and pain as well as diabetes were potential side effects from regularly taking the hormone.

In addition to there being almost no benefit from growth hormone on the aging process, other research has found that reduced levels of growth hormone could actually be beneficial to healthy aging. Two recently published research papers also support this idea.

In one study, more than 20 years long, researchers monitoring a remote Ecuadorian community found that individuals with poor response to growth hormone did not develop Diabetes and had very low risks for cancer. These individuals suffer from a condition that prevents the body from responding to growth hormone. In subsequent studies of cell samples from these people, the researchers found that the cells were better protected against genetic damage and were more likely to die when they became highly damaged. The combination reduces some of the normal aging effects on the body.

In the second study, research from Saint Louis University has found that a chemical that normally acts in opposition to growth hormone provides anti-aging benefits. In mice genetically altered for aging research, the scientists found that this chemical protected the brain against oxidation stress, helped protect memory and helped prevent DNA damage. They also found that the chemical limited the development of cancers. This strongly suggests that limiting the effects of growth hormone in later age can have significant health benefits.

Conclusions

Finding the “fountain of youth” on the Internet can lead to many dead ends and can be very costly. As one of those products promoted to prevent aging, Human Growth Hormone is one such dead end. None of the science supports its use in protecting against aging, but with an estimated 30000 Americans taking Human Growth Hormone for this purpose as of 2004, many people have bought into the idea that it provides them some benefit. Instead, we would all get more benefit by not looking for the next great pill and keeping our wallets in our pockets. Some exercise and a good diet wouldn’t hurt either.

Related Links

http://www.annals.org/content/146/2/104.short
http://jcem.endojournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/94/3/809
http://www.springerlink.com/content/03095v416w24k58r/
http://www.pnas.org/content/103/20/7901.short
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21325617
http://www.slu.edu/x44745.xml

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Category: General Health, Health Risks, Medical Research, Medical Treatment

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