Growth hormone is a protein based peptide hormone, which is secreted into the bloodstream and acts on the muscle, bone, and liver. Recombinant human growth hormone uses DNA sequences that are produced in a lab, which creates genetic material from several sources, resulting in new sequences that are not found in biological organisms. Before recombinant human growth hormone technology, human growth hormone was harvested from cadavers. Natural human growth hormone releasers do not use these hormones and instead use a mixture of herbs to stimulate the pituitary gland, which activates the body’s natural production of growth hormone. Natural HGH releasers come in pill form and are usually ingested before bedtime. Human growth hormone is usually
not taken orally as the gastric acids in the body can break down the hormone. The herbal pills are available in health stores and over the internet without a prescription. As the body gets older, the body goes through changes in composition,
including a decrease in muscle mass and an increase in fat mass. Growth hormone is
currently being touted as a cure-all for these and other complaints related to natural aging.
The effects of HGH, whether stimulated by natural HGH releasers or from another source, are increased muscle mass, improved skin, weight loss, stronger bones, and fewer wrinkles. One of the downsides of HGH is that it depletes potassium and restricts the action of insulin. People with diabetes are instructed to take care when using HGH releasers. Growth hormone is only prescribed for people suffering from wasting syndrome of AIDS or growth hormone deficiency. Most natural HGH releasers are not FDA approved, and therefore it cannot be said with certainty that a non-FDA approved product is effective. Herbal ingredients can vary from brand to brand and thus, the effectiveness varies as well as the potential for harmful side effects. The FDA does not condone the use of growth hormone for anti-aging purposes and clearly indicates that HGH is not to be used as a dietary supplement. Although distributing human growth hormone for anti-aging purposes or to enhance athletic performance is illegal, distributers selling natural HGH releasers fall into a legal loophole because their product does not contain any actual human growth hormone. Because of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, when advertising a dietary supplement, manufacturers are in charge of determining if their product is safe for humans. Because a company does not have to disclose any proof of the veracity of its claims, it is possible for a company to legally deceive the public. Furthermore, the FDA requires no documentation for proof that a company’s product does not cause adverse side effects, and although they are required to keep them, companies are not required to provide records of investigations into the potential dangers of their products. The manufacturer is responsible for establishing its own safety guidelines regarding how it chooses to manufacture its product.
Safety documentation is required only when a company adds a “new” ingredient to its product, and the FDA can then prohibit it from being used. Any existing products that the FDA deems hazardous can also be prohibited. Many websites advertising natural HGH releasers quote a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, in which male participants aged 61 to 81 with a concentration of an insulin type growth factor below that of a healthy young man, were given twice the dose of HGH that would be given to a younger male with growth hormone deficiency and, subsequently, the level of lean muscle mass was increased. They often neglect to note, however, that because the study was done over such a short period of time, the long-term effects of HGH are unknown. Also, overall quality of life, muscle strength, and endurance were not measured as part of the study. Furthermore, in the results of a study placing participants in a strength-training regimen with and without HGH, there was no difference between the two. The New England Journal of Medicine emphatically states that it does not support or endorse any natural HGH releasers.
Growth hormone for use in treating complaints relating to natural aging is still being researched. While some studies show beneficial effects for modifying body composition in the elderly, these results have yet to be replicated. Most studies
published recommend exercising as a more natural and safer alternative to the
potential risks associated with taking a growth hormone supplement, as exercise is
a natural way to activate the body’s own growth hormone secretion. Natural Health Product, Inc., a website that claimed to sell a supplement to reverse aging and increase the amount of growth hormone naturally produced by the body, was fined by the FTC for forgery of the ftc.gov email address, and misrepresentations in marketing, studies, research, evidence, and potential benefit from using the product. Another FTC case put a restraining order against Sili Neutraceuticals LLC for sending out emails advertising weight loss pills and human growth hormone releasers. The FTC stated in its complaint that the claims made by the emails were false and unsubstantiated. In June 2002, 51 scientists went on record in Scientific American to denounce any medicine sold as anti-aging, including the use of growth hormone as an anti-aging treatment. The article states that not only is the health of the public in
jeopardy, but the credibility of science itself is potentially damaged by such claims, making it more difficult for the scientific community to keep the public informed about real breakthroughs in research and medicine. The article concludes with a statement urging the general public to avoid any products that promise to reverse, stop, or slow the natural aging process.
The New England Journal of Medicine – nejm.com
U.S. Food and Drug Administration – fda.gov
The Oxford Journals – oxfordjournals.org
Senior Journal – seniorjournal.com
National Institutes of Health– nia.nih.gov
Consumer Affairs – consumeraffairs.com
Scientific American – June 2002