In the arsenal of products for anti-aging, HGH or Human Growth Hormone is one of the more controversial. While some research seems to indicate it has anti-aging properties, others say there is little evidence it can do more than build muscle.
HGH is a peptide hormone, a natural substance produced by the pituatary gland. It’s primary function is to fuel growth during childhood and maintain tissues during adulthood, and its main clinical use is in the treatment of growth disorders.
It is also an anabolic agent which alters the metabolic process and can be used to artificially stimulate the production of muscle tissue. As such it has been banned by both the International Olympic Committee and the National Collegiate Athletics Association.
In recent years HGH has been investigated as a potential tool in the anti-aging battle, but agreement on its anti-aging value is far from universal. Its proponents say HGH hormone replacement therapy has a broad spectrum of positive anti-aging effects, while others say there is little solid evidence that the effect of HGH has any real anti-aging value to otherwise healthy adults.
HGH advocates point to studies showing that the benefits of HGH therapy range from better skin tone to improved bone density, energy levels, and immune system function. At the same time, many medical authorities say these claims are based on a small number of small studies, and much more research is needed to determine their validity.
Accepted as treatment for specific diseases
Injectable synthetic HGH is approved for the treatment of adults with non-age-related growth hormone deficiency and for the treatment of the muscle wasting associated with AIDS/HIV. In those treatment scenarios, HGH is known to increase bone density and muscle mass and increase endurance and physical capacity.
First considered as potential anti-aging tool in 1990
A small study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1990 broke ground in research on HGH for anti-aging. The study showed that 12 older men who were treated with HGH achieved significant increases is both lean body mass and bone density, while the control group experience no such increases. Though the authors of the study did not indicate that HGH reversed the aging process, the results sparked curiosity about the anti-aging potential of the hormone.
2006 Stanford University School of Medicine research measured the effects of HGH on elderly participants and found similar results, but further noted that the increased muscle mass didn’t translate to increased strength. The study findings suggested that HGH did not actually increase muscle growth, but rather induced the body to store more water in the muscles. This would explain the increase in lean body mass, the study said.
Possible side-effects a major concern
The possible side effects of too much HGH remain a key in the controversy over its effectiveness. According to the Mayo Clinic, the possible side effects of taking HGH may include swelling in the arms and legs, joint and muscle pain, and enlargement of the breast tissue in men.
It is also believed that unneeded HGH could contribute to the severity of existing unrelated conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes. But because there are currently no extensive long-term studies on how taking HGH effects otherwise healthy adults, the severity and duration of side effects remains unclear.
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