Is human growth hormone technology (HGH) really that bad for you?

One of the most recent technological advances in the health and athletic performance industry are human growth hormone supplements. We brought the issue to GeekSmack to see if they’re really as bad as the media portrays them to be.

The Human Growth Hormone (HGH), alternatively known as somatotropin, is a naturally occurring peptide hormone that performs an array of growth and development related functions in human beings. Some of these are:

  • Growth stimulation.
  • Cellular reproduction.
  • Cellular regeneration.
  • Regulate the body’s composition.
  • Maintaining fluid balance.
  • Metabolism.
  • Bone growth.
  • Muscle growth.

It can be classified as a stress hormone which, when released, leads to an increase in the concentration of glucose and fatty acids in the human body.

During childhood, the daily secretion of HGH steadily increases as the child grows into an adult. The secretion levels are highest during adolescence. However, following this phase, the daily secretion levels begin to decline and are lowest in old age.

What is synthetic HGH?

Synthetic or artificial HGH was developed in 1985 and approved by FDA for certain uses. It was developed using recombinant DNA technology and was available in two different varieties, although both are similar in potencies and biological impact. These two varieties are:

Somatropin: Similar to the naturally occurring HGH in our bodies.

Somatrem: Slightly different to the natural poly-peptide hormone due to an additional amino acid. [1]

What is synthetic HGH used for?

Synthetic HGH is an active ingredient in a variety of prescription drugs and products. Many doctors prescribe these products to both adults and children. The number of uses range from FDA-approved to non-FDA approved. Let’s examine both kinds of uses one at a time:

FDA-approved uses

In children:

Synthetic HGH is prescribed for therapeutic use in children for a wide range of reasons. Some of these include growth hormone deficiency, poor growth, and short stature. Some of the reasons for the prescription of FDA-approved synthetic HGH are:

  • Turner’s syndrome: A condition affecting girls in which they are fully or partially missing an X chromosome. Although HGH injections cannot cure Turner’s syndrome, they are prescribed as a treatment for the symptoms. [2]
  • Prader-Willi syndrome: A rare disorder caused by seven missing or unexpressed genes. Some of its effects include low muscle tone, poor sexual development, learning disabilities, short height, and excessive hunger. Synthetic HGH therapy is prescribed to increase muscle mass. [3]
  • Growth Hormone Deficiency: Caused by problems in the pituitary glands inhibiting the release of growth hormones. It can cause hypoglycemia and the development of a micropenis in infants. In later stages of childhood, it may cause growth failure or slow rate of growth. Synthetic HGH injections may treat these symptoms. [4]

In adults:

Some of the FDA-approved uses of synthetic HGH therapy in adults include:

  • Short bowel syndrome: It can be caused intestinal dysfunction or the surgical removal of a part of the small intestine and can result in malabsorption of nutrients. Synthetic growth hormones can increase the intestinal capacity to absorb nutrients. [5]
  • Pituitary tumors: Our pituitary gland is the part of the brain which regulates the secretion and balance of hormones in the body, including the human growth hormone. Pituitary tumors are abnormal growth in the brains that may inhibit the secretions of growth hormones. In such cases, synthetic HGH may be prescribed.
  • Muscle atrophy: Muscle atrophy can be defined as a decrease in muscle mass. It can be experienced after disabling circumstances such as starvation or lack of movement. It can also be caused due to diseases such as cancer, AIDS, and poliomyelitis. Since synthetic HGH is used to gain muscle mass in athletes illegally, it can serve a similar function here legally. Growth hormone therapy is one of the means to treat muscle atrophy. [6]

Non FDA-approved uses

Perhaps the most common uses of synthetic HGH are non FDA-approved. These uses include illicit means of gaining muscle mass and performance enhancement in sports, athletics, and physical fitness competitions. It is not the sole means to achieve the aforementioned results though. Synthetic HGH are usually utilized in addition to performance enhancing drugs even though, medically, their impact on performance enhancement in athletics is not yet known.

Other uses include anti-aging purposes. Again, no credible, reliable, and definitive scientific evidence proves that synthetic HGH products could lead to age-related bodily deterioration. However, many self-proclaimed experts suggest the use of synthetic HGH for anti-aging purposes.

What are the side-effects of synthetic HGH?

According to the FDA, “Among the possible long-term side effects of HGH is an increased risk of cancer, and other dangerous side effects have been reported, including nerve pain and elevated cholesterol and glucose levels.” [7] Other side effects of the use of synthetic HGH include:

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome: The carpal tunnel is the passageway that connects the forearm to the palm. This condition occurs due to nerve compression causing pain in the hand and the arm, numbness, and a tingling sensation. The risk is increased when people take daily doses of 4iu or higher. Other risk factors include heavy physical activity involving the hand or the arm, such as during excessive workout regimens.
  • Edema: It can be described as the swelling of various body parts due to higher than normal accumulation of fluid. It can usually occur in feet and ankles but sometimes also in other parts of the body. The use of synthetic HGH can increase water retention in the body which may lead up to edema.
  • Hypoglycemia or diabetes: Hypoglycemia can be described as the sudden drop in sugar or glucose levels in the blood to abnormal level. In physical terms, it may be experienced as a sudden “hunger attack.” The risk increases after sessions of heavy physical activity. This can be caused due to an increase in the dose of synthetic HGH. It may also lead to diabetes in some cases.
  • Synthetic HGH can also lead to joint pain and muscle pain.
  • Since synthetic HGH stimulates growth in body cells, it may lead to an abnormal growth in malignant cells such as cancerous cells or a tumor. This is why the users of synthetic HGH are at a greater risk of cancer than non-users.