Growth hormone is produced by the pituitary gland — a pea-sized structure at the base of the brain — to fuel childhood growth and help maintain tissues and organs throughout life. Beginning in middle age, however, the pituitary gland slowly reduces the amount of growth hormone it produces. This natural slowdown has prompted an interest in the use of synthetic human growth hormone (HGH) to stave off the realities of old age.
If you're skeptical, good for you. There's little evidence to suggest human growth hormone can help otherwise healthy adults regain youth and vitality.
Who needs to take human growth hormone?
Synthetic human growth hormone, which must be injected, is available only by prescription. It's approved to treat adults who have true growth hormone deficiency — not the expected decline in growth hormone due to aging.
Growth hormone deficiency in adults is rare and may be caused by pituitary adenoma — a tumor on the pituitary gland — or treatment of the adenoma with surgery or radiotherapy. For adults who have a growth hormone deficiency, injections of human growth hormone can:
Increase bone density
Increase muscle mass
Decrease body fat
Increase exercise capacity
Human growth hormone is also approved to treat AIDS- or HIV-related muscle wasting.
What can human growth hormone do for otherwise healthy adults?
Studies of healthy adults taking human growth hormone are limited. Although it appears that human growth hormone injections can increase muscle mass and reduce the amount of body fat in healthy older adults, the increase in muscle doesn't translate into increased strength. It isn't clear if human growth hormone may provide other benefits to healthy adults.