Human Growth Hormone: Anti-aging miracle?
Human growth hormone, a substance produced in the human body, is now being sold over the Internet. Companies are marketing the product as an anti-aging product. At the web-site, http://www.awakenhgh.com, the company claims that there is a possibility that one can "stop the aging process." On the home page, they claim that the product can reduce fat and cellulite, increase energy and muscle tone, elevate mood, improve sexual performance and sleep, remove wrinkles, balance cholesterol, re-grow and re-color hair, and more. The product is a dietary oral spray that they claim contains a product that is "identical to the growth hormone manufactured in the human body" and is designed for oral consumption. They also provide a brief history of human growth hormone and how medical professionals have used it to treat children with growing deficiencies to promote a normal pattern of development. Human growth hormone used to be available through cadavers only, so they claim an inexpensive, synthetic form is a real breakthrough for the public.
The company claims that the product burns fat by increasing oneís metabolism, and that it is the "most effective anti-obesity agent ever discovered." It also "selectively" reduces the waist, hips and thighs while increasing muscle mass. Most of the improvement claims that are made do not explain how the product will do what it is purported to do. The creators claim that the HGH product is produced in an FDA approved lab, but there is a disclaimer in small print at that says that the Food & Drug Administration has not evaluated the statements that "Awaken" makes about the products. They also claim that there have been no significant side effects in children and adults with growth hormone, so researchers have begun giving HGH to healthy adults.
Another internet company "Health and Energy" located at, http://www.health-n-energy.cm/hghifo.htm, makes similar claims as "Awaken", but provides their "scientific" information before they ever make any of them. In addition, they claim that their product will result in the elimination of panic attacks, a reversal of the aging process, and rapid healing of wounds and broken bones. The presentation of scientific information before the sales pitch seemingly increases the credibility of the company with the customer. They quote Dr. William Regelson, who uses hormone therapy in his work, as saying, "it has some amazing powers, but its benefits must be carefully weighed against its costs and potential side effects." He also states that a product may eventually be available that provides all the benefits, but has no side-effects, which is now available through "Health and Energy." They also have a disclaimer that the FDA does not approve the information they provide about the product.
These web-sites are all created by companies trying to sell something. They are not going to provide any medical research that does not support their product claims to sell their product. This is why it is important to review scientific data when thinking about starting a new, possibly controversial, dietary supplement. Researchers and doctors are much more biased when examining a product than a group that has a stake in the possible positive or negative results. The purpose of research is to inform the public, not sell them something, and credibility is very important when a personís health is at hand.
Human Growth Hormone is produced by the pituitary gland in the brain. The Harvard Womenís Health Watch newsletter states that the hormone stimulates the growth of the musculoskeletal system in children and it may maintain organ systems in adults. The article explains some the claims that are made about growth hormone: increased muscle mass, increased energy levels, enhance libido and sexual performance, increased cardiovascular output, boosted immune function and kidney function, lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol, and smoother skin. The studies that have been done do not strongly support these claims. The risks involved in human growth hormone administration are edema, carpal tunnel syndrome, and joint pain. Use of growth hormone can increase the risk of developing diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart failure (Harvard, 1999).
An article on human growth hormone published in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society states that it decreases with age (Morley, 1999). The author notes that there have been studies using growth hormone that have showed positive effects after six months, but after a year, the subjects began to show side affects such as carpal tunnel syndrome and edema. Some studies found that older men and women taking growth hormone showed an increase in muscle mass, but not in strength. Exercise was found to be better at increasing muscle strength. They did find that growth hormone increased resting metabolism and decreased body fat, but the side effects did not outweigh the benefits for most people. The presence of an oral product that will stimulate an increase in growth hormone, and possibly strength, has been developed, but the long-term effects are not published yet. In rodents, the administration of growth hormone actually decreased life span.
Human growth hormone is just now becoming an acceptable therapy for adults with growth hormone deficiencies. Should it be available to perfectly healthy adults at all? The article by Inzucchi recognizes that the presence of growth hormone in the body does have an effect on metabolism in adults, reducing body fat and increasing lean body mass. It is also suspected that psychological health, kidney health and cardiac function are partially regulated by human growth hormone. Growth hormone affects thyroid hormone, which could have negative effects on thyroid function. Excess growth hormone can also increase bone formation, but studies have only been done on individuals with growth hormone deficiency and osteoporotic individuals who had experienced significant bone loss.
While the presence of human growth hormone in the body is necessary and beneficial, additional hormone may not be benefical and could be harmful to otherwise healthy individuals. The decrease of growth hormone as we age may cause us to gain weight and experience other natural effects of aging, but experimenting with nature without medical approval does not seem like the way to become healthier or better looking. Exercise and a healthy diet have been found to have very beneficial effects on the body and the mind, and without the additional cost of an unapproved supplement. Many more studies on HGH need to be done in order to learn more about the side effects and whether or not additional hormone had any positive effects on healthy individuals. The claims that are made on the internet are enticing and may possibly have medical research to back them up in some cases, but there has not been enough research done to sell this product to healthy individuals without unbiased scientific information.
Anti-aging Hormones. Harvard Womens Health Watch, 6 (8), 2-3. 1999.
Inzucchi, S. (1997). Growth Hormone in Adults: Indications and Implications. Hospital Practice, 32 (1), 79-86, 90-91, 95-96.
Morley, J. (1999). Growth Hormone: Fountain of Youth or Death Hormone? Journal of the American Geriatric Society, 47 (12), 1475-76.
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