Can Human Growth Hormone Reverse Aging?

Excitement about Human Growth Hormone

"In 1990, considerable excitement was generated from a report by Rudman and colleagues which described wonderful effects of [Human Growth Hormone] GH treatment in a small group of elderly men. These volunteers, who ranged in age from 61 to 81 years, showed increased lean body and bone mass, decreased fat mass and, perhaps most dramatically, restoration of skin thickness to that typical of a 50-year-old." Unfortunately, further study has demonstrated higher mortality with high doses of human growth hormone and longer periods of intensive care and hospitalization compared with those who did not take GH. R. A. Bowen DVM, PhD.

Free Online Course from the University of California

The UCSF Academic Geriatric Resource Center presents aging issues in the form of an online course available without charge.

Dr. Mirkin's Plain Words on Human Growth Hormone

Dr. Abe Mirkin is my favorite source of concise, well-written medical information.

In his medical reports and opinions, Dr Mirkin applies the term "aging" both in a precise scientific sense and also in the popular sense. I find this a little confusing because I keep primary aging and secondary aging separate in my own mind. I do this because I believe lumping together both kinds of aging promotes fatalism: Why combat aging if we cannot do anything about it?

Well we can combat many chronic diseases associated with aging by better lifestyle choices, which is what Dr. Mirkin is so qualified and competent to write about.

To distinguish primary aging, which we cannot avoid, from secondary aging, much of which we can avoid or delay, I mentally insert the word "primary" into Dr Mirkin's sentences when he discusses basic aging processes. Also I mentally substitute the word "secondary" when Dr. Mirkin refers to chronic conditions.

For example, Dr Mirkin says, "To reduce the effects of [primary] aging and improve your performance on all medical tests of [secondary] aging, start an exercise program." (The words in the square brackets [] are mine.)

In the following article, Dr Mirkin exposes the hype surrounding human growth hormone and shows how good nutrition and exercise are natural ways to promote its formation.

Exercise Raises Human Growth Hormone Levels
by Gabe Mirkin, M. D.

Entrepreneurs claim that growth hormone (GH) levels decrease with age, and that their products will help you combat the effects of this process. It is true that GH levels drop as a person ages, but there is no evidence whatever that lack of GH causes aging or that taking GH slows aging, and the evidence that GH grows muscle and gets rid of fat is highly controversial. Furthermore, it is against the law to sell GH without a prescription, so these products do not contain any GH.

Products that are sold as "GH releasers" are just amino acids, the building blocks of protein, that are the same as the protein you get in your food. Anything that you eat can be called a GH releaser because all foods raise blood levels of GH temporarily. When you eat protein, blood levels of GH rise even higher. GH releaser pills cost much more than food and have not been shown to raise blood levels better than the ordinary foods you eat every day.

Exercise can also be called a GH releaser because every time that you exercise, blood levels of GH rise. Exercise raises GH levels more than and longer than eating does. Recent research shows that GH levels are lowered by having lots of fat stored in your belly. However, no one knows whether these GH manipulations have any effect on the aging process since we have no dependable tests for aging. The commonly used tests to measure aging actually measure fitness. To reduce the effects of aging and improve your performance on all medical tests of aging, start an exercise program. If you want to gain muscle and lose fat, reduce your intake of refined carbohydrates and fatty foods; eat plenty of the foods that come from plants (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and other seeds); and maintain a regular, vigorous exercise program.

Dr Mirkin's reports and opinions are for information only, and are not intended to diagnose or prescribe. For your specific diagnosis and treatment, consult your doctor or health care provider.

Dr Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is one of a very few doctors board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. For more information visit URL: Dr Mirkin on human growth hormone

Support for Dr Mirkin's Opinion

Dr Mirkin's opinion about human growth hormone is supported by Mary Lee Vance, M.D., writing in the New England Journal of Medicine.
"Not mentioned on the 'antiaging' Web sites is a study of 18 healthy men, 65 to 82 years of age, who underwent progressive strength training for 14 weeks, followed by an additional 10 weeks of strength training plus either growth hormone or placebo. In that study, resistance exercise training increased muscle strength significantly; the addition of growth hormone did not result in any further improvement. Going to the gym is beneficial and certainly cheaper than growth hormone." [Bold type not in Dr Vance's original.]
URL: Can Growth Hormone Prevent Aging? NEJM, Volume 348:779-780.


Studies of human growth hormone have shown that supplements may be harmful, but that exercise suppported by adequate nutrition can stimulate the body's own production of human growth hormone, which is beneficial.