In a modern world obsessed with youth and beauty, it is natural for us to seek to reverse the signs of aging, no matter the cost. And we’re not short of miracle potions. One of the substances some people turn to is human growth hormone, or HGH, in the hope that it will keep them looking and feeling younger. But this hope may not be founded on anything more than myth. Worse, HGH might even be harmful to health.
What is Human Growth Hormone?
Only the pituitary gland can naturally produce Human Growth Hormone, which, as the name indicates, encourages growth in children and teenagers. Its other functions include regulating body fluids, sugar and fat metabolism, muscle tone, and bone growth. It has also been implicated in heart function. Because of its properties, synthetic human growth hormone was developed in 1985 and is approved for the medical treatment of certain conditions such as:
- Short stature of unknown cause
- Turner’s syndrome, a genetic disorder that affects a girl’s development
- Prader-Willi syndrome, a rare genetic condition that causes low levels of sex hormones, constant hunger and poor muscle tone
- Human growth hormone deficiency
- Chronic kidney disease in children
- Muscle-wasting disease associated with HIV/AID
- Short bowel syndrome, a disorder causing nutrients to not be properly absorbed because of severe intestinal disease or surgical removal of a large part of the small intestine
Anti-Aging and Performance Enhancing?
However, human growth hormone is most commonly used outside of the medical sphere. While its effect on sports performance is largely unknown, many people who use the hormone take it alongside performance-enhancing drugs such as anabolic steroids in order to build muscle and boost athletic performance.
The body’s natural levels of human growth hormone decrease with age. This has prompted some anti-aging experts to speculate that supplementing HGH could reverse the signs of aging. However, these claims are also unverified. Other unfounded claims include reducing fat, increasing muscle mass, restoring hair growth, boosting energy, and improving sleep, vision and memory.
Risks and Side Effects of HGH
The FDA for medical conditions approve, and therefore control the Human growth hormone. But it’s possible to obtain it online via internet pharmacies, anti-aging clinics and specialized websites. Unfortunately, there are several problems with a direct association to this:
- You don’t know what you’re getting. Synthetic HGH is expensive. The product you receive may be counterfeit, or contain fillers that could be harmful to your health.
- Most non-prescribed HGH products are in pill or spray form. However, taken orally, HGH is digested by the stomach before the body can absorb it, rendering any potential positive effect null and void.
- Possible side effects of unsupervised, unapproved use of HGH include muscle or join pain, body edema (swelling due to fluid build-up), carpal tunnel syndrome, numbness, high cholesterol, and increased risk of diabetes.
Human Growth Hormone and Cancer Risk
But that’s not all. A study published by the journal Clinical Interventions in Aging observed the effects of human growth hormone on elderly patients. In contrast to the marked benefits of HGH therapy in patients with HGH deficiency, healthy patients who received HGH noted minor improvements in body composition but also a number of undesirable side effects, most worryingly an increased risk of cancer. The researchers found that, while a decline in human growth hormone as a natural part of getting older contributed to signs of aging, it may also offer some protection against cancer and other age-related disease.
Not a Magic Pill
So it seems human growth hormone is not the cure-all magic pill that some may like us to believe. We may not be able to stop the signs of aging or the eventual onset of age-related conditions, but we can take active steps to keep ourselves healthy and well for as long as possible by adopting simple healthy lifestyle strategies:
- Not smoking
- Engaging in regular exercise
- Avoiding processed foods
- Eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds
- Thinking positive, smiling much, and, most importantly, enjoying life to the full