Growth hormone benefits
Growth hormone benefits include improved cardiovascular, metabolic and musculoskeletal health. Growth hormone can also have a positive impact upon cognition, depression, sleep and reproductive health in both men and women.
The amount of growth hormone circulating in the body declines by around 14% for every decade humans live. Reduced secretion of growth hormone is partly responsible for a decrease in lean body mass, expansion of adipose (fat) tissue mass and age-related skin thinning – all common characteristics of our aging bodies.
Along with this, there are declines in bone mass, muscle mass, dyslipidaemia, quality of life, and psychological symptoms similar to those seen in individuals who have a diagnosed growth hormone deficiency (GHD) disorder. These signs of aging, linked in part to lower levels of growth hormone, are also known as the ‘somatopause’.
Researchers have acknowledged that using growth hormone in aging has been poorly studied, and although growth hormone is common in treating various medical conditions, human growth hormone (hGH) and similar growth hormone treatments have yet to be approved for anti-aging purposes.
The US perspective on growth hormone and aging
In the US, growth hormone is not prescribed for anti-aging. Government bodies have conducted investigations into clinics and distribution services that provided growth hormone for non-medically prescribed purposes (i.e. as an anti-aging treatment or as a sport performance enhancing treatment).
One key problem arising from this, and one of the reasons for the investigation, is that there are no means of detecting or monitoring adverse events in individuals who purchase growth hormone through non-conventional channels and for non-medical purposes. The authors (Oshlanksy and Perls) concluded that until growth hormone benefits and safety is confirmed through rigorous clinical trials, it shouldn’t be used for anything other than its prescribed medical uses.
The Growth Hormone Research Society published a statement about using growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) to extend life span. It recommended that until further research is carried out, professionals shouldn’t recommend growth hormone for aging.
However, the National Institute of Aging currently states on its website that it is investigating the administration of hormones (including growth hormone) to older people.
‘Anti-aging’ growth hormone treatment
An early study investigated growth hormone benefits on older men, showing it was able to increase lean body mass, decrease overall fat mass, increase bone density in the lumbar vertebrae and increase skin thickness.
The researchers at the time acknowledged that there were potential benefits of growth hormone treatment in older people, although more extensive research was required on treatment duration and adverse effects, for example.
The HORMA study included older community dwelling men, who were given a physiological dose (similar to natural levels in men in their 30s or 40s) of either testosterone supplement, or testosterone with growth hormone. Whichever group the subjects were allocated to, they demonstrated an increase in lean body mass and decrease in total fat mass. They also had an increase in muscle strength and were able to increase their stair climbing power.
Although there were some negative changes with blood pressure and LDL cholesterol levels, the subjects showed improved HDL cholesterol and fasting triglyceride levels. A number of the positive effects of the hormone therapy remained three months after the treatments had stopped.
The majority of reviews have acknowledged growth hormone benefits in older people, such as improving musculoskeletal health and promoting some aspects of cardiovascular health. However, at the time of publishing, the review authors were unable to recommend the use of growth hormone as an anti-aging therapy.
The International Hormone Society aims to increase public awareness of importance and availability of doctors who specialize in hormone deficiencies or excesses. The Society also aims to develop the “medicine of aging” within the professional medical community. Although it is carrying out promising hormone work, including on growth hormone, there is still a need for large-scale, long-term clinical trials to assess the overall benefits of growth hormone as a specialist approach for anti-aging.
Although research concludes that growth hormone therapy is able to promote physical and mental health in aging men and women, the use of growth hormone in anti-aging and longevity applications remains controversial.
As more clinical studies are undertaken on growth hormone in the context of aging, it is predicted by some that growth hormone may in the future become a key anti-aging therapy.
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