Benefits of Human Growth Hormone (HGH) Supplementation
Aging is an inevitable part of life. No one can escape it, especially if you are in your 30s or older. Aging is due to the slowing of metabolic functions in the body; this slowness increases the production of free radicals in cells which can further cause cell damage and death. Death and damage of cells can lead to poor functioning of body organs which can cause the characteristic changes in aging. Graying hair, wrinkles, sagging skin—all these are signs of body decline.
Scientists have created many theories that they think have led to aging. These theories described factors such as genes, stress, lifestyle and illnesses. These theories have led other scientists to think of ways on how to delay aging both on the inside and on the outside. One of the recent and most controversial of all treatments is the use of Human Growth Hormone to defy aging. In this article, we are going to discuss all about Human Growth Hormone, its benefits towards the human body and its potential risks.
What is Human Growth Hormone (HGH)?
Human growth hormone (HGH) is a hormone secreted by the pituitary gland which enhances the growth and development of children and adolescents. It also helps in maintaining the growth and development of muscles; it is involved in the regulation of body composition and body fluids as well as in the promotion of carbohydrate and fat metabolism. It is also involved in the proper functioning of the heart.
HGH may be produced synthetically in the form of injections to be used as a form of treatment for various disorders. Presently, it is approved by the FDA in the treatment of various disorders in children and adults especially growth disorders. These growth disorders are in the form of Turner’s syndrome (a genetic condition that affects the growth of girls), Prader-Willi syndrome (a rare form of genetic illness that causes low sex hormone levels and poor muscle tone), long-term kidney failure and growth hormone deficiency. It is also given to adults who have various medical conditions such as short bowel syndrome (a condition that causes poor absorption of nutrients in the intestines), uncommon tumors in the pituitary gland and muscle wasting in HIV/AIDS conditions. It is also given to children who are small for gestational age (SGA).
Giordano et al in 2008 also described in their paper that human growth hormone (HGH) exerts certain beneficial effects on the central nervous system such as the enhancement of cognitive function and the promotion of good sleep. In people with insomnia, there are often problems in growth hormone and insulin growth factor-1 (IGF-1) activities. This may be the reason why elderly people often have poor cognitive functions and impaired sleep. They hypothesized that HGH could actually bring back good cognitive function and good sleep in the elderly.
Rudman et al who were pioneers in HGH studies were the first to provide evidence that HGH, when given to elderly people (30 μg/kg three times weekly for six months), could reverse the changes associated with somatopause, a state wherein the levels of HGH decline due to old age. The benefits associated with HGH supplementation include improvements in body composition and bone mineral densities (BMD). In the elderly, it has been shown that HGH supplementation was able to increase lean body and muscle mass as well as reduce total body fat. However, some experts have argued that some of the increases in lean body mass may be attributed to fluid retention, since methods cannot differentiate fluid retention from solid mass well. The studies have also, according to Giordano et al, found out that HGH treatment decreased total cholesterol levels. However the authors mentioned that there were no changes in triglyceride, LDL and HDL levels. Some studies were not also able to associate HGH treatment with improvements on blood sugar metabolism, muscle strength, functional capacity and bone mass.
Boesen et al in 2014 studied the effects of HGH on aging connective tissues in muscles and tendons after immobilization and rehabilitation. They theorized that HGH is responsible for the regulation of collagen turnover in muscles and tendons and that it may even inhibit muscle damage after immobilization. They found out that HGH may even stimulate muscle growth during rehabilitation and that it stimulated increase in tendon size, collagen expression and stiffness during rehabilitation after inactivity for a short period of time.
Parini et al in 1999 established in their study that HGH may play an important role in the regulation of cholesterol in the body by enhancing liver function in rats. Since there is impaired liver metabolism of fat in the elderly, the researchers concluded that HGH may probably reverse the age-dependent blood cholesterol increases in elderly people.
Bartke in 2008 cited studies that HGH therapy was able to change age-related metabolic changes, cognitive function and brain vascularities in rat studies. However this paper also noted that in healthy elderly individuals treated with HGH injections, there may be side effects such as carpal tunnel syndrome, diabetes, edema and arthralgia.
Samaras et al in 2014 also noted that HGH treatment is associated with lean mass and decreases in fat but they also noted that this increase in muscle mass was not always related to improvement of physical activity. They also entertained the possibility of fluid retention. In cognitive disorders on animal studies, they were able to note that HGH treatment can lead to decreased αβ-amyloid accumulation in Alzheimer’s disease, leading to possible treatment of this disorder. HGH treatment was also able to improve cognition not only in healthy elderly persons but also among those with mild cognitive impairment.
Zajac et al in 2014 studied the effects of HGH on aerobic and anaerobic fitness, body composition and fat in middle aged men. They studied 14 men aged 45 to 60 years old. There were beneficial effects on lipid profiles of these subjects not only as a result of HGH treatment but also as a result of physical activity. They did not observe any changes in body mass, composition nor anaerobic and aerobic capacity, however HGH seemed to stimulate these changes.
Malmof et al in 2002 noted that HGH had potential in reducing fat in obese adults by probably increasing metabolic rate and energy expenditure. They were able to prove that HGH caused slight increases in muscle mass in terms of wet weight. Dry matter of muscles was also increased by HGH. In HGH-treated animals, protein intake was not increased. They deduced that the increase in muscle mass may have been due to conversion of dietary protein to tissue protein. They think this may be due to the effect of HGH that decreases the conversion of amino acids in the brain to urea in the liver.
Side Effects Of HGH and Controversies
Giordano et al in 2008 noted that there were some raised concerns regarding HGH use in the elderly. There were reports of side effects such as increase in breasts (gynecomastia), fluid retention and carpal tunnel syndrome. These side effects were noted to be dose dependent (i.e. increased in frequencies as the dose is increased). In women treated with HGH, there were reports of soft tissue edema, yet this was not dose dependent.
The authors also noted that there were reports saying that long-term GH therapy may bring about increased cancer risks especially involving the prostate, colon and breasts. However, other studies did not seem to show this risk.
Whitney et al in 2013 reported that HGH may have the tendency to bring about the progression of kidney damage in diabetes-induced kidney disease. In mice, HGH may have a role in the development of diabetic kidney disease; however the authors claimed that the mechanism by which HGH acts on the kidney is still not completely understood. This may be due to the fact that HGH increases the secretion of proinflammatory mediators that could possibly be responsible towards the resultant kidney disease.
Batke et al in 2008 noted that in cases when there is abnormal secretion of HGH such as in cases of gigantism and acromegaly, life expectancy may be reduced due to increased risks of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer. More studies are needed to establish this fact.
Another matter of concern is described by Vance in 2003 which speaks about the potential misuse of health care resources. HGH injections are expensive and may cost thousands of dollars every year especially for off-label use. Off-label use of HGH is not approved by the FDA and is not covered by medical insurance. This may cause inappropriate allocation of resources. Off-label use of GH injections is not only expensive, but may also expose a person to side effects as mentioned above.
Conclusion and Recommendations
HGH has many potential benefits to the human body especially among the elderly. However, there is also a risk for side effects especially with the use of HGH injections among the elderly. Perhaps, if we use HGH-boosting supplements instead of HGH injections, we may avoid the risks described above especially among the elderly population. HGH supplements are also less expensive than HGH injections and are easy to use. Further studies are needed to prove whether these HGH-boosting supplements are truly safe and effective.
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