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Growth Hormones Not Fountain of Youth

Treatment Offers Few Benefits but Definite Risks
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Jan. 16, 2007 -- Older Americans taking shots of human growth hormone in an effort to turn back the clock will likely be disappointed.

As an antiaging treatment, the hormones appear to offer few benefits but significant health risks, a review of the research finds.

Stanford University researchers came to this conclusion after analyzing 31 studies that included a total of more than 500 relatively healthy elderly people.

The only clearly positive effect found from taking the hormones was a slight improvement in lean body mass.

On the negative side, participants who took human growth hormones were significantly more likely to develop joint swelling and pain, and carpal tunnel syndrome.

There was also a suggestion of an increased risk of diabetes and prediabetes, but that association did not reach statistical significance.

Authors of the review say better studies are needed to understand the risks and benefits of human growth hormone as an antiaging treatment.

But they say studies do not support the use of human growth hormones for this reason.

"If the benefits truly are minimal, and the risks are not, this is not a therapy that should be used for antiaging purposes," Hau Liu, MD, MBA, MPH tells WebMD.

Use Growing Among Elderly

Growth hormone is naturally produced in the pituitary gland at the base of the brain, but its levels decline with age.

Promoters of synthetic growth hormone as an antiaging treatment claim the hormones can do everything from firm sagging skin to boost a sagging libido.

According to government figures, between 25,000 and 30,000 Americans used growth hormones for aging purposes in 2004. That is a tenfold increase in about a decade, Thomas T. Perls, MD, tells WebMD.

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