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Human Growth Hormone: Does It Slow Aging?

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Growth hormone stimulates infant growth and helps maintain tissues and organs throughout life. It is produced by the pituitary gland, which is about the size of a pea, and is located at the base of the brain. However, beginning in middle age, the pituitary gland slowly reduces the amount of growth hormone it produces.

This natural slowdown has sparked interest in the use of synthetic human growth hormone (HGH) as a way to stave off some of the changes associated with aging, such as decreased muscle and bone mass.

If you find it hard to believe, no problem. There is little evidence to suggest that human growth hormone can help otherwise healthy adults regain youth and vitality. Alternatively, treatments with this hormone may increase the risk of other diseases manifesting. Experts recommend not to use itto treat aging or age-related conditions.

Do some adults need human growth hormone treatment?

For adults who have growth hormone deficiency (not the normal deterioration of the hormone due to aging), their health care provider might prescribe synthetic human growth hormone .

Growth hormone deficiency is usually caused by a benign tumor in the pituitary gland (pituitary adenoma) or by treating an adenoma with surgery or radiation therapy.

For adults with growth hormone deficiency, human growth hormone injections may cause:

  • Increase exercise capacity
  • Increase bone density
  • Increase muscle mass
  • Decrease body fat

Human growth hormone therapy is also approved to treat adults with growth hormone deficiency related to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes uneven distribution of fat bodily.

How does human growth hormone treatment affect healthy older adults?

Studies of healthy adults taking human growth hormone are limited and conflicting. Although it appears that human growth hormone can increase muscle mass and reduce the amount of body fat in healthy older adults, the increase in muscle does not translate into an increase in strength. It is not clear if human growth hormone provides other benefits in healthy adults.

What are the risks of human growth hormone treatment?

Human growth hormone treatment may cause a number of side effects for healthy adults, including:

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Increased insulin resistance
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Swelling in the arms and legs (edema)
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • For men, enlargement of breast tissue (gynecomastia)
  • Increased risk of certain types of cancer

Clinical studies of human growth hormone treatment in healthy older adults have been relatively small and of short duration, so there is little or no information on the long-term effects of human growth hormone treatment .

Does human growth hormone come in pill form?

Human growth hormone therapy is approved in the United States only for the treatment of growth hormone deficiency and problems related to HIV infection. Human growth hormone is only effective if given as an injection.

Human growth hormone is not available in pill form. Some dietary supplements that are claimed to increase human growth hormone levels come in pill form, but research doesn’t show they’re beneficial.

Human growth hormone is considered a controlled substance by the Food and Drug Administration. The use of human growth hormone for a condition that is not approved, such as building muscle or an anti-aging treatment in older adults, is illegal.

What is the main issue?

If you have specific concerns about aging, ask your health care provider about proven ways to improve your health. Remember that healthy lifestyle choices (such as eating a healthy diet and including physical activity in your daily routine) can help you feel your best as you age.

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