The use of HGH not all it’s cracked up to be

Some men turn to human growth hormone or testosterone hoping to feel more youthful. HGH normally drops after sexual maturity while testosterone normally declines slowly throughout adulthood. While those with specific medical conditions benefit from hormones, for others the anti-aging misperception causes harm. The misuse was more prevalent in my California patients (where sadly two HGH-using patients suffered from aggressive prostate cancer and another with congestive heart failure), protecting Michiganders is my objective herein.

HGH is only active by injection; testosterone is active by any form of administration. Neither is available in safe and uncontaminated form except by prescription. Unfortunately, there are many supplements falsely claiming to contain or promote these hormones — none of which have produced medically-validated data. However, as with diet supplements, hope trumps science so consumers buy the marketing scams regardless.

HGH was touted as an anti-aging supplement when a study showed modest increases in muscle and bone mass in elderly subjects. Other data shows HGH increases atherosclerosis, arthritis and certain cancers. There is no “normal” level for adults (HGH is helpful for some pediatric conditions).

Alcohol decreases HGH by 75 percent; interrupted sleep disrupts HGH; eating — particularly carbohydrate-rich food — inhibits HGH. Conversely, fasting, quality sleep and high-intensity interval training all increase HGH. McMasters University researchers recently proved caloric restriction programs with weight-training resulted in fat loss without any muscle loss — precisely the desired HGH effect — without any risk.

Unlike HGH, there are established normal levels of testosterone. Patients with low levels and symptoms of low testosterone may chose replacement. Men without symptoms should still consider replacement if they have risks for osteoporosis, which testosterone prevents. Like all hormones, testosterone over-replacement can cause health problems which can be avoided with medical monitoring by your physician.

Allan P. Frank, MD, MS

Assistant Clinical Professor

MSU College of Human Medicine