Some people turn to a substance called human growth hormone (HGH) in the hope that it will make them look and feel young again. But experts say that hope is unfounded. What’s worse, these products can be harmful.
HGH, produced by the pituitary gland, stimulates growth in children and young people. It also helps regulate body composition, body fluids, muscle and bone growth, sugar and fat metabolism, and possibly heart function. Synthetically manufactured, HGH is an active ingredient in many prescription drugs and other products available on the Internet.
HGH is used and abused
Synthetic human growth hormone was developed in 1985 and approved by the FDA for specific applications in children and adults. In children, HGH injections such as Norditropin and Saizen are approved to treat short-term growth for unknown reasons, and weak growth for many medical reasons, including:
- Turner syndrome, a genetic disorder that affects the development of a child
- Prader-Willi syndrome, an unusual genetic disorder that causes weak muscle tone, low levels of sex hormones and a permanent feeling of hunger
- Chronic kidney disease
- HGH deficiency
- Babies born too small
Approved uses of HGH in adults include
- short bowel syndrome, a condition in which nutrients are not properly absorbed due to a serious intestinal disorder or the surgical removal of a large part of the small bowel
- HGH deficiency caused by rare pituitary tumors or their treatment
- Degenerative muscle disease associated with HIV/AIDS
But the most common uses of HGH are not FDA approved. Some people use this hormone along with other performance-enhancing drugs like anabolic steroids to build muscle and improve athletic performance. However, the effect of HGH on athletic performance is not known.
Because HGH levels in the body naturally decrease with age, some so-called anti-aging experts have speculated and claimed that HGH products can reverse the body’s age-related decline. But even these claims are not confirmed. The use of HGH for anti-aging is not approved by the FDA.
However, some people receive HGH in the form of injections from doctors who prescribe it for off-label purposes (applications for which it is not FDA approved) and through online pharmacies, anti-aging clinics, and websites.
Others buy HGH products — or products that claim to increase the production of HGH in the body — in tablet and spray form. Companies that market these products in TV commercials or online claim that they can habe the following benefits:
- Turn back your body’s biological clock
- Increase energy
- Reduce fat
- Normalized blood sugar
- Build muscle
- Restore hair growth and color
- Strengthen the immune system
- Improve sex life
- Better sleep
- Improved vision
- Restored memory.
However, the Federal Trade Commission has seen no credible evidence to support the claim that these products have the same effects as the HGH prescriptions, which are always given by injection. When administered orally, HGH is digested by the stomach before being absorbed by the body.
HGH side effects and other dangers:
- Possible side effects of HGH are:
- nerve, muscle or joint pain
- Swelling due to fluid in body tissue (edema)
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Numbness and tingling in the skin
- High cholesterol level
- HGH can also increase the risk of diabetes and contribute to the development of tumors.
Even if you are taking this medicine illegally, you may not know what you are actually taking. Because of the high cost, HGH drugs have been counterfeited. If you do not get HGH from your doctor, you may be given an unapproved product.
You should talk to your doctor before taking any HGH products.