News Karnataka
Tuesday, May 30 2023

Human Growth Hormone Therapy: Benefits vs Side Effects

Pituitary Gland medication
Photo Credit : Unsplash

Human growth hormone (HGH) is a hormone secreted by the pituitary gland. This hormone is vital for promoting growth in children. Our bodies grow more during adolescence and after that, as HGH production decreases, our body stops growing. To supplement the reduced HGH levels, our body often needs HGH medications.

Adults with HGH deficiency are often offered a prescription drug that is administered with an injection. To make it more accessible to people, pharmaceutical companies have come up with over-the-counter HGH boosting supplements and although there is no evidence that supplements are as effective as injections, it is said that regular intake of HGH supplements are expected to slow the signs of aging, improve bone density, and reduce body fat.

Role of HGH in our body

Growth hormone triggers growth in every cell in the body. It is especially vital for infants and children as it promotes growth in cartilage and bones. It impacts metabolism by producing IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor-1). 

Insulin, which is a vital hormone for the pancreas, helps in regulating glucose levels by decreasing them. While low HGH levels can increase blood glucose levels, higher levels of HGH in the body can counteract with insulin, raising glucose levels.

Can HGH supplements increase height? 

HGH increases vertically in the human body, allowing children to grow taller. Once the growth plates fuse together, also called epiphytes, the growth stops. Once final height is attained, HGH can only help in maintaining body structure, muscles, and other factors related to metabolism. So, if an adult takes HGH supplements to increase height, it is not going to help.

How to Identify HGH deficiency in our body?

When HGH levels are low in the body it is referred to as GHD (growth hormone deficiency) or pituitary dwarfism. Sometimes it may be due to damage to the pituitary gland. 

Though rare, children with GHD have abnormally short heights with normal body proportions. Sometimes GHD is present at birth in which the infant is born with symptoms like hypoglycaemia, micropenis, and prolonged conjugated hyperbilirubinaemia. Newborn screening is accurate in finding out severe GHD. Research suggests that children with GHD either stop growing or, over time, become shorter. 

When adults have very low levels of HGH in their bodies, they may experience dullness, weak muscles and bones, and an increased risk of heart disease. Growth hormone deficiency in adults can also lead to hypopituitarism that develops due to benign pituitary adenoma, which is a non-cancerous tumor. 

Benefits of HGH Treatments

 The US Food and Drug Association (FDA) has allowed the usage of synthetic alternatives to HGH as treatment options. The synthetic form is administered to patients in the form of injections. When prescribed they are injected intramuscularly and subcutaneously (under the skin). 

 HGH injections can: 

  • Increase body mass and muscles
  • Decrease body fat
  • Increase bone density
  • Increase capacity to exercise

Side Effects of Treatments 

There are limited studies that indicate the effectiveness of HGH treatments on healthy adults. Although regular intake of growth hormone supplements is said to make muscles bulky and increase body mass, it does not increase strength. So, the effectiveness of such medications is still contradictory. 

There are several side effects of HGH treatment. Research indicates that side effects affect older adults more than younger and healthier adults. Possible side effects may include: 

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Insulin resistance 
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Higher levels of LDL and lower levels HDL 
  • Swelling in hands and legs, also called edema
  • Increased risk of certain types of cancer
  • Enlargement of breast tissue in men

HGH and Aging 

In 1989, a team of researchers reviewed 31 studies to find the efficiency of growth hormone (GH) medicines in older healthy people. The studies revealed that GH recipients gained around 4.6 pounds of lean body mass while shedding significant amounts of body fat. They also exhibited side effects like fluid retention, breast enlargement, carpal tunnel syndrome, and joint pain.

Why is HGH in sports prohibited?

Athletes work hard to build muscles. Not only that, they need more energy and stamina to exercise vigorously and perform their best. HGH in sports is prohibited because of its anabolic effect on the body. Sports is supposed to be an even playing field and if athletes use HGH to get bigger it can give them an unfair and non-natural advantage. 

The Bottomline

Before taking any HGH medications, it is wise to consult your healthcare professional for advice. Remember, medicines are not the only answer for looking youthful and young. One can obtain good health by eating proper food and exercising regularly. 

Photo by Julia Zyablova on Unsplash

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