Facts and fiction about human growth hormone benefits.
Are human growth hormones able to help with aging? Juan Ponce de Leon, a Spanish explorer, arrived in Florida in 1513 to seek the fountain of youth. His quest was the reason he gained any benefits.
Today, few men believe in miracle waters. However, many believe in the syringe to bring back youth. They inject human growth hormone into the body to slow down the clock, instead of drinking rejuvenating water.
Some are motivated by anti-aging claims, while others follow the example of young athletes looking for a competitive edge. Ponce de Len’s athletes get the benefits of exercise while older men might use growth hormone shots to replace working out. Growth hormone can increase performance, or slow down aging. Is it safe?
What is the human growth hormone?
The pituitary gland makes growth hormone (GH), a small protein, and it is secreted into your bloodstream. A complex combination of hormones is responsible for controlling GH production. They are produced in the hypothalamus, the brain, the intestinal tract, and the pancreas.
The pituitary releases GH in short bursts. Levels rise after trauma, exercise, and sleep. Normal conditions produce more GH at night than they do during the day. Although this physiology is complicated, it indicates that sporadic blood tests to determine GH levels are useless since high and low levels can alternate throughout the day. Scientists who measure overall GH production have found that it increases in childhood, peak during puberty and decreases as we age.
GH has many effects on the body. It stimulates bone and cartilage growth in children and adolescents. GH is beneficial for all ages. It increases protein, stimulates fat utilization, inhibits insulin’s action and raises blood sugar. GH can also increase insulin-like growth factor-1 levels (IGF-1).
Benefits of human growth hormone
GH can be purchased as a prescription drug and is administered via injection. GH is recommended for children and adults with GH deficiency or those with very short statures. It can also be used to treat adult GH deficiencies — a rare condition that almost always occurs in association with major hypothalamus or pituitary problems, or both. Adult GH deficiency is diagnosed using special tests that stimulate GH. Simple blood tests can be misleading and are ineffective at best.
GH injections are beneficial for adults with GH deficiencies. They are protected from fractures and have a higher level of muscle mass, energy, and exercise capacity. There is also a lower risk of developing future heart disease. There is a cost to this. Side effects include fluid retention, joint pain, muscle and joint pain, carpal tunnel syndrome (pressure on a nerve in the wrist that causes hand pain and numbness), high blood sugar and high blood pressure.
Doping with HGH and athletic performance
Adults with GH deficiencies have larger muscles, more energy and better exercise capacity. Replacement therapy can help them. Athletes put in a lot of effort to improve their performance and build muscles. Others turn to GH.
This is not a problem that is isolated. GH abuse is a problem in many sports, including track and field, baseball, cycling and major league baseball. Athletes who use GH in competitive sports risk disqualification. What are they getting in return? What do they risk for their health?
Scientists have not been able to assess GH in the field because GH is prohibited and that athletic performance depends on many factors (physical, psychological, and competitive). However, they can run randomized clinical trials in which GH or a placebo is administered to young athletes. The lab then measures body composition, strength and exercise capacity.
California researchers conducted a thorough review of 44 high quality studies on human growth hormones pills in athletes. The subjects were all young, lean, and physically fit. 85% of them were men. 303 volunteers were given GH injections and 137 received placebo.
The subjects who received GH injections daily for 20 days gained an average of 4.6 lbs in lean body mass. This is a measure of muscle mass, but can also include fluid mass. This is a significant gain, but it didn’t translate into better performance. GH didn’t produce any measurable increase in strength or exercise ability. The subjects who received GH were more likely than the placebo to experience fatigue and fluid retention.
You’ll probably remember your coach telling you “no pain no gain” as a high school or college jock. Athletes who have used illegal performance-enhancing drugs are at risk of being disqualified without evidence of gain.
Growth hormones and aging
A team of researchers reviewed 31 studies of high quality that were conducted after 1989 to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of GH for healthy older adults. Although each study was small, the team evaluated 220 subjects who were given GH and 227 controls who were not. The majority of subjects were men, with a mean age of 69.
The dose of GH was variable and therapy duration varied from 2 to 52 weeks. Despite the differences in dosage, they all succeeded in increasing IGF-1 levels by 88%.
The subjects treated with GH lost an average of 4.6 lbs of body weight, while the untreated ones gained 4.6 lbs. There were no changes in LDL (“bad”) or HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels, triglycerides and fasting blood sugars and insulin levels. Side effects experienced by GH recipients included fluid retention, joint pain and breast enlargement. Although the studies could not detect any changes in cancer risk, other research has shown an increase in prostate cancer risk.
HGH or simply diet and exercise?
Jonathan Swift wrote, “Every man wants to live long”, but “no man would ever be old.” The fountain of youth is a myth, though he was correct. GH is not safe or effective for healthy older men or young athletes. However, this doesn’t mean that you should just sit back and allow Father Time to take his time. Use the tried-and-true combination of exercise and diet.
You should aim for moderate protein intake, which is about 36 grams per kilogram of body weight. Even big men shouldn’t consume more than 65 grams of protein (roughly 2 ounces) daily. However, athletes and men who have had surgery or are recovering from illness might need to consume 20% more.
To build strength and muscle mass, plan a balanced exercise program. You should aim to do at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day. This will reduce your chances of developing many chronic diseases, increase your energy and enjoyment of your life.