Growth Hormone No Fountain of Youth

From the UCSF Diabetes Update and Advances in Endocrinology and Metabolism meeting, San Francisco

Image courtesy of Whole Wheat Toast under a Creative Commons license.

Image courtesy of Whole Wheat Toast under a Creative Commons license.

Lots of people assume that some bulked-up athletes or actors like Sly Stallone may be taking human growth hormone (HGH), but your grampa too? Illegal use of HGH as a longevity elixir in anti-aging clinics may be the most common use of HGH in the United States, Dr. Andrew R. Hoffman says.

Problem is, that while there’s no evidence it benefits normal elderly people, there is some evidence it can harm them, and let’s just say the cost could exceed most people’s now-depleted 401K funds.

The only legal use of HGH in adults is to treat growth hormone deficiency syndrome caused by pituitary disease, hypothalamic disease, surgery, radiation, or trauma. In these patients, growth hormone use does seem to provide cardiovascular benefits, longer life, increased strength and exercise capacity, and improved quality of life, says Dr. Hoffman, who has received funds or owned stock in seven companies that market growth hormone products.

The whole craze for using it in normal elderly adults started with a 1990 study that has been cited in potentially misleading advertisements. Subsequent studies by the National Institutes of Health found that higher growth hormone levels are associated with shorter lifespans, not longer ones, and that increasing someone’s growth hormone levels can trigger insulin resistance  and may cause prostate cancer in men or breast cancer in premenopausal women, said Dr. Hoffman, professor of medicine at Stanford (Calif.) University.

A 2007 review of randomized, controlled trials of HGH given to healthy elderly people found high rates of side effects and “absolutely no data in the elderly that suggests that there’s any significant clinical improvement by giving growth hormone,” he said.

—Sherry Boschert
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Filed under Cardiovascular Medicine, Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism, Family Medicine, Geriatric Medicine, Internal Medicine, Oncology, Uncategorized, Urology

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