What You Need to Know About Human Growth Hormone (HGH) - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on January 12, 2016

Curious About Human Growth Hormone? Here's What You Need to Know.

The use or abuse of HGH may cause side effects for healthy adults and contribute to serious conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.

The use or abuse of HGH may cause
side effects for healthy adults and
contribute to serious conditions
such as diabetes and heart disease.

Human growth hormone (HGH) has been in headlines lately thanks to recent reports alleging several professional athletes, including Peyton Manning and the Phillies’ Ryan Howard, purchased or used it.

This is a serious allegation in the world of professional sports because the use of HGH is banned out of concern that it would give professional athletes an unfair competitive advantage.

Don’t know what HGH is or what it’s capable of? Here’s what you need to know.

HGH Is a Naturally-Occurring Hormone

It’s produced by the pituitary gland and helps spur growth during childhood. HGH also helps regulate muscle and bone growth, sugar and fat metabolism, body composition, body fluids, heart function, and maintain tissues and organs throughout life.

HGH production decreases with age, which results in a decrease in muscle and bone mass, wrinkles, and a decline in energy and sex drive. This is what fuels the market for synthetic HGH.

Some View It as the “Fountain of Youth”

For athletes, synthetic HGH is considered a performance-enhancing drug. But for most other adults, it’s been credited with the ability to turn back the body’s biological clock. Some synthetic products are marketed as fountains of youth for their claims that they can reduce body fat, build muscle, restore hair growth and color, strengthen the immune system, increase energy, normalize blood sugar and improve sleep, vision, memory and sex life.

Does it sound too good to be true? Maybe – neither the Federal Trade Commission nor the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have seen reliable research or evidence that supports these claims.

Some People Need Synthetic HGH

Although the FDA hasn’t approved HGH’s use to turn back time, it has approved some medical uses of HGH. Adults can sometimes have a true growth hormone deficiency that is not in line with the expected decline in the hormone due to aging. In this case, an adult may be prescribed synthetic HGH by their doctor. This deficiency in adults is rare – it can be caused by a tumor on the pituitary gland or treatment of such a tumor via surgery or radiotherapy.

The FDA has also approved specific uses of the hormone for children – HGH injections are approved to treat short stature of unknown cause and poor growth as a result of medical causes.

Synthetic HGH Use Can Be Harmful

If you try a new wrinkle cream or serum and it doesn’t work, it typically won’t cause you any harm. That’s not necessarily the case with HGH.

Studies of the effect of HGH on healthy adults are limited. Though it may appear that it can increase muscle mass and reduce body fat, the increase in muscle doesn’t translate into increased strength. Additionally, it’s not clear if it can provide healthy adults any other benefits.

The use or abuse of HGH may, however, cause side effects for healthy adults, including swelling in the arms and legs, joint and muscle pain, carpal tunnel syndrome and, for men, enlargement of breast tissue. HGH may also contribute to serious conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.

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