Anti-aging clinics using growth hormone (GH) as a “fountain of youth” have become more popular over the years. However, this use needs more research, experts say.
“The consumer must be aware that the use of GH for anti-aging is off-label and may be considered illegal in certain circumstances,” wrote Drs. Lorenzo DiGiorgio and Hossein Sadeghi-Nejad in a Journal of Sexual Medicine commentary last May.
Growth hormone (somatotropin) is produced by the anterior pituitary gland. As the name implies, it is responsible for growth in children and contributes to tissue and organ health throughout a person’s life. However, levels gradually decline with age.
The hormone is generally used to treat childhood GH deficiency, AIDS wasting syndrome, short bowel syndrome, and hypopituitarism (limited hormone production that can lead to dwarfism or premature aging).
The authors noted that hormonal rejuvenation – prescribing GH to reverse the effects of aging — has not been widely studied in a clinical sense, and that existing studies are not always of good quality.
When considered for rejuvenation purposes, interest in GH tends to focus on three areas: bone and skeletal health, memory and cognitive function, and functional status. However, studies have had conflicting results. For example, it is unclear whether treatment with growth hormone improves cognition.
GH treatment can have side effects, including increased risk for cancer (particularly prostate cancer and breast cancer), elevated insulin levels, swelling in the extremities, joint and muscle pain, gynecomastia (enlargement of male breasts), and cardiovascular disease.
In addition, hormonal treatments may cost patients thousands of dollars out-of-pocket, and most practitioners are not endocrinologists, the authors said.
Some studies have had encouraging results, but further research, such as validation studies, is necessary before GH can be recommended for rejuvenation.
“As bright as the future rejuvenation research prospects may be, the quest for the eternal ‘fountain of hormonal youth’ continues along an obscure road with no end in clear sight,” the doctors concluded.
The Journal of Sexual Medicine
DiGiorgio, Lorenzo, MD and Hossein Sadeghi-Nejad, MD
“Growth Hormone and the Fountain of Youth”
(Full-text. Published online: May 31, 2018)
“Human growth hormone (HGH): Does it slow aging?”
(October 25, 2016)