Human Growth Hormone Is a Growth Industry, but Should You Try It?

hgh-injection

There I was, heading undercover again for Dr. Oz to see how doctors present the pros and cons of human growth hormone as an anti-aging and body-sculpting treatment. The boss types sprang this one on us last minute so my team and I were worried about whether we’d even be able to get doctor’s appointments in time to make air for the show. Silly me! With no trouble at all, I soon had appointments at—count ’em—five medical facilities that all offered HGH injections, ranging from simple doctors’ offices to swanky anti-aging clinics.

Whoa. This stuff has gone mainstream, even though the Food and Drug Administration has a narrow definition of when it’s even legal to use human growth hormone. The FDA told us: No HGH drug has been approved for “anti-aging…” The FDA has taken enforcement action against unapproved HGH products and companies or individuals that illegally market or distribute HGH.

This is one of the most complicated, cutting-edge medical topics I’ve covered for the show. So I thought I’d share factoids from my reporter’s notebook that will help you make your own decision about HGH.

  • Human growth hormone or HGH is a naturally occurring protein produced by our pituitary glands.
  • In 1985, the FDA approved the first synthetic forms of HGH for use in treating children who weren’t growing normally.
  • HGH is approved for use in adults who have short bowel syndrome, muscle-wasting caused by AIDS and HGH deficiency due to pituitary tumors.
  • Doctors who prescribe HGH for anti-aging purposes seem to be relying on this last category, reasoning that if a patient’s natural HGH levels are low or below what’s considered normal, they are justified in giving them more HGH.
  • HGH is not allowed in major league sports because it gives athletes a competitive advantage, and much of the publicity about it surrounds athletes who lied about using it.
  • HGH must be injected to be effective, usually into the waist area. The needles used are small, similar to those that diabetics use.
  • HGH injections for anti-aging and body sculpting are not covered by insurance and cost between $1,000 and $5,000 a month.
  • Supplements advertised as containing HGH are suspect because the HGH molecule may be too large to absorb through the stomach or will be destroyed by stomach acid.
  • Some HGH sold online has been found to be horse or pig growth hormone, rather than synthetic HGH, and could cause allergic reactions.
  • Studies have shown HGH side effects can include swelling and bloating, carpal tunnel and arthritis-like symptoms and headaches.
  • The theoretical risk of HGH is that because it causes growth, it could cause cancerous tumors to grow bigger faster. It can also cause high cholesterol and joint, muscle or nerve pain.