What Does HGH Mean?
HGH means human growth hormone. Much remains unknown about the connections between HGH and aging. Animal studies consistently find that mice with genetically impaired growth hormone production are smaller, frail, and less fertile; however, they also tend to live longer. Also, higher than normal HGH levels are associated with reduced life expectancy in mice and humans.
The Big Effects
Adverse effects from subcutaneous HGH include carpal tunnel compression, arthralgia, fluid retention, and reduced HDL-cholesterol levels. In one study reviewed here, 12 of the 15 subjects taking HGH reported such adverse effects.
Where Is Hgh Made From?
There is concern about the safety of HGH obtained from glandular or organ material derived from animals. In the early 1980s, several cases of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease developed because of contaminated cadaveric HGH. Although HGH commercially available in the United States is made via recombinant DNA technology, some countries still produce cadaveric HGH of questionable quality which may be available illegitimate outlets.
What Are Secretagogues?
These oral products are sometimes called "HGH secretagogues
" which should not be confused with pharmaceutical HGH secretagogues currently being developed to overcome muscle wasting conditions associated with various diseases. Regarding oral supplements, no adverse effects were reported in the study involving older men taking 6 g amino acids bid.
HGH should always be prescribed under the careful supervision of physicians. Physicians should take advantage of patient interest in these products to point out how these advertisements deceptively misuse scientific studies. Taking time to educate patients will help them avoid both wasting money on ineffective products and placing hope in false promises. At the same time, HGH injections may produce beneficial changes in some older people's body composition.
Supervision Of Physicians
A trial period may be appropriate, but HGH should always be prescribed under the careful supervision of physicians. Adverse effects are relatively common, and there are theoretical concerns that higher than normal levels of HGH may shorten lifespan. Patients should be reminded that the best ways to increase their chances of living a longer, healthier life are to adhere to well-established advice on nutrition, exercise.
Some patients also may need help in coming to accept that aging currently cannot be prevented. Numerous formulations are available. The most popular ones are capsules containing 2-3 g of amino acids, usually arginine, lysine, and glutamine. Other herbs and glandular extracts often are included in these preparations. A month's supply costs from $50 to $200. Injectable HGH is legally available only by prescription, but a black market makes it available, especially among certain athletes.
HGH Boosting Effects
HGH levels will be increased endogenously by amino acid supplements, taken orally, the results are inconsistent and the clinical significance unknown. Results with athletes show none of the desired benefits. The few studies with the elderly have not found HGH-boosting effects and instead suggest that the physiological impact of oral amino acid supplements diminishes with aging.
HGH involved 21 healthy men ages 61-81. The first study to examine the anti-aging effects of injectable, prescription Twelve men were randomly assigned to receive HGH (0.03 mg/kg subcutaneous three days/week) and the other nine men received no treatment. After six months, the treatment group had 8.8% more lean body mass, 14.4% less adipose tissue mass, and a 1.6% increase in lumbar vertebral bone density.
No significant changes occurred in the control group. Changes in body fat were examined in a doubleblind, randomized study involving 110 healthy men and women (ages 65-88 years) given HGH (six months at 20 mcg/kg self-injected three times/week) with or without sex steroids.
Works For Men
In women, neither HGH, hormone replacement therapy, nor both altered abdominal fat distribution. In men, subcutaneous fat but not visceral fat was reduced significantly compared to placebo after HGH (14%, P = 0.05) and HGH plus testosterone (16%, P = 0.0005).
HGH Plus Testosterone
A similar study examined the effects of HGH (0.02 mg/kg subcutaneous three times/week) with or without sex steroids on bone metabolism in 125 healthy men and women (> 65 years). Biochemical markers of bone metabolism had beneficial changes in women given HGH, but not in those given HGH plus hormone replacement therapy. In men, these markers showed small improvements with HGH and much larger ones with HGH plus testosterone. Bone mineral density did not increase in men or women given HGH alone.
More Complex Studies
A complex study divided 31 healthy men (ages 73-75 years) into four groups. The interventions were: HGH alone, HGH plus resistance training, placebo plus resistance training, or placebo alone. HGH alone had no significant effect on muscle strength, size, power, or fiber size, but did produce changes in myosin heavy chain composition consistent with more youthful muscle.
Resistance training produced significant muscular gains that HGH did not augment, just as was found with younger athletes. HGH alone also significantly reduced fat mass and increased fat-free mass, but did not change bone mineral content.
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