HGH: Anti-Aging Miracle or Mistake?

By Stuart Weinerman, MDChief, Division of EndocrinologyNorth Shore/Long Island JewishAssistant Professor of Medicine, Hofstra/North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine

Posted on | By Stuart Weinerman | Comments ()

What are the actual results seen in research?

The largest review of trials with HGH demonstrate that long-term use of growth hormone caused an average 2.3 kilogram (about 5 lbs) loss of weight, 2.6 kg (5.6 lbs) loss of fat, 1.4 kg (3 lbs) increase in lean body mass, and no consistent change in bone density. Patients feel generally better, as seen in quality of life scores.


Sounds great. Shouldn’t everyone take it?

There are significant potential side effects to HGH therapy. Known side effects include increased swelling, joint pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, insulin resistance and increased risk of diabetes. The potential effect of HGH to promote cancer growth remains controversial. People who purchase HGH illegally may be getting tainted or impure products, which are potentially dangerous.

What is the effect on longevity?           

The effect on longevity is not yet known. There is a paradox that both HGH deficiency and HGH excess, a disease called acromegaly, are associated with shorter life expectancy. Further, even though there is an increase in mortality in pituitary patients missing HGH, there is no evidence that this it improved with HGH treatment.


Why not try it?

The biggest reason not to take HGH as an anti-aging therapy is simply that it has not been adequately studied. We do not know the risks and benefits of long-term use of HGH in healthy people. As we have learned from many other similar situations, such as the safety of long-term hormone replacement in menopause, we should not make any assumptions of benefit or safety about potent drugs or hormones. We should first do the correct studies, powered to look at real risks and benefits, not just short-term effects like changes in muscle. Only when large studies are completed should we consider treating large numbers of normal people. We should not be doing an uncontrolled experiment on millions of healthy people.

Article written by Stuart Weinerman
MDChief, Division of EndocrinologyNorth Shore/Long Island JewishAssistant Professor of Medicine, Hofstra/North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine