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Human Growth Hormone: A History of...


****Since we are leaving soon, we are going to Turn Back the Clock a little bit on some of our best posts. This post was originally run on December 19, 2007 and was extremely insightful.

Some background:  When I first started to think about this blog, I originally had planned to collect information from time to time during the next few weeks.  I began my collection today; I had about an hour and a half between clinic times, and a few times in between patients to research the topic in several academic journals.  Surprisingly, my search was relatively easy.  If you have never read an academic journal, let me give you a brief run down.  Much like a website, there are keywords, and much like Google, all I have to do is enter a keyword in order to find an article from a journal that would suit my needs.  Pubmed.com is world renowned for containing a huge collection of everything that is medically acceptable in academic journals.  Once I located on article that I like, I usually go to the references in that article and my hunt begins to track down the original articles on the topic...usually you find it, and often along the way, you gather all the information that you need...hence, I am writing the HGH blog today.  I hope that you find it informative and useful...as always, feel free to ask question, I will answer them the best way that I can...

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History:  For decades, doctors had been administering doses of growth hormone (GH) taken from cadavers' pituitary glands for patients that lacked their own production of the hormone.  These patients were usually of short stature with very little lean muscle and often had large amounts of fat.  These GH dificient patients were also linked with low bone densities (osteoporosis), bleeding disorders, and many cardiovascular conditions.  The idea of GH was to help these patients in several ways; 1. Grow, as most of these were children, and hadn't reach skeletal maturity yet,  2. Burn fat while developing more lean muscle mass, and 3.  Help improve the deleterious risk factors of not having enough GH.  For the most part, the administration of GH worked.  The height of these children improved, although still slightly shorter than the average.  The patients had less abdominal fat (a predisposing factor for heart disease), and their bones densities, bleeding, and CV disorders tended to normalize.  However, since GH was taken from cadavers and supplies were limited, selection was too very limited.  Eventually after the realization that virus could be transferred from the cadavers, this form of GH was discontinued.  In 1985, the development of Somatropin, or the reproduction of GH from real HGH made the possiblity of limitless supplies with no threat of disease transmission.  This was a market for athletes to tap into as an alternative or use in combination with steroids.

How it Works:  Human Growth Hormone is rather simple.  A hormone called growth hormone releasing hormone, or somatostatin is released from the hypothalamus, this causes a release of growth hormone from the pituitary gland, which activates the livers to release insulin like growth factor.  What does this mean?  Well, GH works in two mains ways; The 1st - by lipid and carbohydrate metabolism, ie "burning" of fat.  The 2nd - which is actually controlled from the insulin like growth factor is skeletal and tissue growth ie bone growth, and protein synthesis or muscle building.  There is a feedback mechanism here...the body naturally shuts down the release of growth hormone releasing hormone when insulin like growth factor is high.  So, when athletes inject GH into their bodies, the body sends it to the liver to be broken down into a growth factor when then causes cells to create larger muscles, larger bones, and to also burn fat.

Side Effects:  I should point out that there are not a lot of studies for GH in adult patients.  The use is just not there.  Occasionally there is some reported use in adults for GH deficiency, but this is not widely done, and often times it is reported use for patients with HIV.  This is done due to the patients' loss of muscle mass.  Even in these cases, the information on side effects is hard to pin point since HIV patients have several other problems occuring at the same time.  What I can tell you is this; patients with GH secreting tumors have acromegaly (large hands and feet) and gigantism (think Andre the Giant.)  These patients usually die from some heart condition.  Reported adverse effects from GH therapy are reduced testicular volume, gynecomastia (female type features, ie tits), renal dysfunction, and cardiac hypertrophy (enlarged heart.)  However, there have been studies that say these often only occur during the time of use, and once therapy is done, long term adverse effects are not noted. 

With all of this, one of the main things that need to be addressed is the fact that insulin like growth factor is mitogenic and antiapoptotic.  What the hell is this?  Well, the body has "programs" in cells that tell them they should die when they are not produced properly.  This programming is called apoptosis, or cell death.  This is extremely important in certain cancers, and this is often the way the body prevents cancers.  A cancer cell is basically a normal cell that has mutated, if it is allowed to grow and reproduce, this cancer can spread.  Apoptosis often prevents this.  Insulin like growth factor blocks this, and allows cells to reproduce without regulation...opening up the individual to the possibilities of uncontrolled cancers.  It has been reported that GH therapy has been linked to prostate, breast, and colon cancers.

Summary, and my thoughts:  I understand this has been a bit long winded and filled with more medical jargon that I usually put down, but I felt that it was necessary for total understanding of the subject.  I feel that the most recent reports of athletes using GH to recover from injuries is a bullshit excuse.  Nowhere in my research did I find the use of GH for healing of injuries, and I think that the athletes stating that they used it for this reason holds no validityHowever, I have also found that there is no research stating that GH actually improves athletic performance.  I even found that it can lead to a decrease in visual acuity, which is contrary to many reports by the media.  I believe this, whether the athletes knew GH worked or not, the main reason they took GH was because they believed that it would do something to gain an advantage over other players, it was to give them an edge.  This is cheating plain and simple,..

Brian said

Possibly not very effective cheating, correct?

Thanks for this post, there is a lot of misleading info out there about HGH, it's great to read some info from medical journals.

Below is an excerpt from a Rob Neyer article saying pretty much the same thing you found out Cpt.

"HGH has some definite and proven medical benefits. It is currently approved medically in the United States for two primary indications, short stature in children and growth hormone deficiency in adults.[2] All of these HGH benefits, however, are in individuals with growth hormone deficiency. In people with normal GH levels, HGH does not improve athletic performance in terms of muscle strength, flexibility, and endurance. In fact, several placebo-controlled studies have been negative.

A 4-week, double-blind Swedish study using 2 doses of HGH and placebo found no differences in subjects exercising on a bicycle in terms of power output and oxygen uptake.[3] In another study, a single injection of HGH increased plasma lactate and reduced exercise performance.[4]


In addition to the lack of effectiveness for enhancing athletic performance, HGH has a downside. It can cause dose-related side effects including diabetes, carpal tunnel syndrome, fluid retention, joint stiffness, muscle pain, and high blood pressure.

It turns out that, like Paul Bunyan, the athletic benefits of HGH is a myth.

That's my opinion. I'm Dr. George Griffing, Professor of Medicine at St. Louis University and Editor in Chief of Internal Medicine for eMedicine."

Question...HGH in itself does not 'help athletic performance' but by aiding in recovery doesn't it help to do that?

For athletes, the many benefits of HGH elevation include decreased body fat, increased energy, increased protein synthesis, and faster recovery from hard training sessions.

Hoosiernation said

Great stuff. What an asset the cpt. is for such a hot topic in baseball. I had no clue about HGH until the cpt. was able to provide the info above. You would have to think that these players would do some sort of questioning about the product of HGH before using. If those items listed above were covered, there is no way in the world I would even think about using. Of course, I don't have millions riding on it either. If indeed there is no evidence of enhanced ability from use, I would love to see a physician come forward (say during a Congress session) and explain that these excuses are bullshit.

Redhead said

I'm with Jack - if HGH decreases body fat, increases energy, promotes faster recovery after training sessions etc., then wouldn't some athletes see it as a perfectly viable performance enhancer? I mean, I would imagine those benefits are what would convince athletes to do it. But I'll admit to not knowing a lot about HGH before reading this. Is that even how it was marketed to athletes?

The GM said

My younger brother had to take GH from when he was 7 to 9..in cycles. He then had to take it at 13 to help him reach his growth spurt that most kids hit at that age. A year later, his eyesight became less than spectacular and he now has to wear glasses/contacts.

Now, most of my family on my father's side wears glasses or contacts, except for me. The doctor stated that the GH probably sped up the process of my brother's vision getting worse.

He finally did hit his growth spurt, but he never really put any meat on his bones. I am the tallest and heaviest in my family (5'8, 175). He is 20 now and is 5'6, 130....and his head is normal size! But, then again, he wasn't trying to be a world class athlete either.

Cpt Morgan said

I was listening to the radio, and they said that it does aid in recovery...again, from my own knowledge on the subject, and from the information that I have gathered, I have found no true evidence that it "aids" in recovery. I have not come across any research where they used it on individuals that were injured and ponied them up against individuals that didn't receive the stuff...I kind of lump it into the category of Ginkobiloba a few years back...huge talk about how it improved memory and concentration, in which is ultimately turned out to be a bunch of garbage when all was said and done...I think that HGH will help you grow, it may cause parts of you to get bigger during the time period that you use it if you are an adult, but I think that over the long run, it doesn't really do much...I think that during the time that you are using it, you are exposing yourself to diabetes, high blood pressure, and possible cancers as well.

daas said

hi am man 42 years dream to have normal tittswont come ladyboy

High said

There are some good uses for HGH but some people just don't know how to respect that. For people using it to gain an upper advantage in sports is just horrible. First steroids now this one.

hhhwcent said

definitely not a medical jargon but a treasure of information you shared about HGH thanks a lot.

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