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50+: Live Better, Longer

Growth Hormone Prompts Growing Concern

Alleged Anti-Aging Agent May Work, But More Often Backfires
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Besides increasing risk of liver damage, these products could interfere with other medications, such as the blood-thinner Coumadin. "They can either exacerbate its effect and cause a bleeding tendency, or lessen its effects and the benefits of preventing clotting could be reduced," says Blackman. "Since these pills haven't been well tested, we really don't know their long-term effects."

While proponents of these products cite numerous studies of their safety, Blackman says these trials typically last only for a few days or weeks and involve few participants. And they have not "tested" these pills against placebos, says Blackman -- the gold-standard method of clinical study.

Even plastic surgeons are now advising their colleagues against administering HGH products, which allegedly reduce wrinkles and improve skin health. In the January issue of the medical journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, surgeon W. Glenn Lyle, MD, chair of the Plastic Surgery Educational Foundation, published an article critical of these products.

"Plastic surgeons are often called upon to do things to make patients look better, but these products' use is unproven and there are potential dangerous side effects that have been proven," Lyle tells WebMD. "Plastic surgeons that are administering these products are doing it outside the bounds of what they were trained to do."

But HGH proponent Ronald Klatz, MD, president of the Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine, tells WebMD that his organization properly trains anti-aging doctors to use HGH safely. "We have yet to see serious sustained side effects in anti-aging patients treated under the recommended protocols taught at our conferences," says Klatz, author of Growing Young with HGH. "No patient who is not found to be deficient by lab parameters is recommended to be on HGH."

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