Human Growth Hormone for Anti-Aging Treatment
The quest for ageless beauty has become a lifestyle for some. Those who can afford to pursue it are now turning to the burgeoning science of anti-aging medicine for turning back the clock. Ever more concerned with appearing and feeling youthful, aging baby-boomers are continually upping the ante to unearth the elusive fountain of youth. Human growth hormone (GH) therapy, considered by many to be a risky, unpredictable, and costly treatment, is touted by anti-agers as the key to looking fresh and young through your 40s and beyond.
Lured by the treatment’s promises of combating the concrete physical and hormonal signs of aging, patients undergoing this treatment seek to undo the effects of time by augmenting levels of naturally depleted GH for astronomical prices. Because of the much advertised success and popularity of human growth hormone, ineffective “copy cat” treatments sold mainly in pill form are purported to generate a $70 million industry. Anti-aging patients will pay between ten and twenty thousand dollars a year for real GH injections, most commonly administered in an anti-aging clinic or medical spa setting.
Though not one of its three FDA-approved uses, off-label GH therapy for anti-aging unabashedly promises rejuvenated skin, hair and nails, increased energy, mental clarity, fat loss, lean muscle gain, and even an increase in bone density, despite the fact that the treatment has yet to be proven effective for all who pay the steep price for treatment.
What Exactly Is Human Growth Hormone?
Human growth hormone, abbreviated as hGH, HGH and GH, is the hormone that activates cell production, growth, and metabolic processes within the human body. Secreted by the anterior pituitary located just inside the base of the skull, GH is responsible for working in conjunction with other hormones in the body to stimulate and regulate proper human growth and development. GH levels generally reach their all time high at puberty and significantly decline around the age of 40.
There are a variety of medical conditions that can develop if levels of GH are either too low or too high. With an excess amount of human growth hormone the body may over produce cells causing acromegaly, a condition characterized by oversized extremities, rapid and continual cell growth, and a variety of other serious health complications; or pituitary gigantism, which results in extreme height due to over secretion of GH. Medical conditions caused by GH deficiency can be serious as well, leading to a variety of short stature conditions that may severely impact overall health.
Current FDA Approved Applications for GH
Synthetically derived (recombinant) GH was initially approved by the FDA in 1985 for the treatment of short stature due to GH deficiency (GHD). In the following years, GH continued to gain approval for the treatment of specific clinical conditions causing short stature and other complications related to lifelong GHD or deficient levels of GH in childhood, including Prader-Willi syndrome, short stature caused by chronic renal insufficiency, Turner syndrome, idiopathic short stature, and intrauterine growth retardation. The FDA has also approved GH therapy as a treatment for growth hormone deficiency attributed to the presence of pituitary tumors.
In 1996, a form of GH called Serostim® was approved by the FDA for the treatment of HIV / AIDS-related wasting, which renders victims unable to maintain lean body mass, further complicating the already insidious disease. GH’s stimulation of cell replication ideally helps to rebuild and maintain body mass in the hopes of improving overall health.
GH can only be legally prescribed for the aforementioned purposes approved by the FDA; however, many off-label uses for the hormone exist, such as athletic performance enhancement and anti-aging treatment. In most instances of off-label usage, the FDA has not approved GH treatment simply because the potential benefits of therapy do not outweigh the possible risks posed by altering the body’s levels of GH. While touted by some as a miracle cure-all, GH carries with it serious side effects that patients should take heed of before initiating treatment.
Potential Side Effects of GH Therapy
Because our internal balance of human growth hormone is determined by our unique, individual body chemistry, it is often difficult to establish ideal GH dosing levels that will not be too high or too low, particularly when a patient has developed antibodies. This is especially true of off-label GH applications, like anti-aging, where no serious GH deficiency is present. Anti-agers considering GH therapy must carefully weigh the risks and benefits of treatment before deciding to follow through with the potentially harmful therapy.
With GH there is the ever-present risk of overdose, which can lead to the development of devastating conditions brought on by excessive GH production, such as acromegaly. Since GH stimulates cell growth, there is also the risk that GH may activate the proliferation of unwanted cells like cancer cells, causing the development of leukemia, prostate cancer, and malignant tumors in those undergoing GH therapy. Comparatively less serious side effects of GH include fluid retention, carpal tunnel syndrome, joint pain, and type 2 diabetes.
How can Human Growth Hormone Assist with Anti-aging?
As previously stated, the rate of GH secretion from the pituitary gland is at its peak around puberty, declining progressively as we age beyond that point. Around the late 30s and throughout the 40s, GH levels continue to dip considerably, causing the telltale signs of aging to appear. Fat tissue begins to collect in areas where it may have not before, the skin begins to lose thickness, bone mass becomes depleted, energy levels drop, and mental clarity may become clouded.
For the purposes of anti-aging therapy, GH treatment functions to re-stimulate cell production to youthful levels restoring form and function to the entire body, from the inside out. Those who have undergone successful anti-aging treatment with GH or a combination of GH and other diminishing hormones such as testosterone have been reported to experience improvement in the skin’s appearance, renewed energy, mental acuity, invigorated health, enhanced sexual function, and an overall sense of well being.
Human Growth Hormone Treatments and Anti-aging Clinics
Anti-aging clinics offering human growth hormone treatments are cropping up in locations across the nation to meet the demands of aging individuals seeking to regain their youth. Although GH therapy is not FDA approved for anti-aging purposes, these clinics persist in promoting the cure-all properties that no treatment other than GH injections can boast. In some cases, clinics make laughable claims that GH can “reverse” aging, promising that patients will look 10 to 15 years younger on average after completing a GH treatment regimen.
However beneficial the treatment, many patients seem to forget that these potential benefits also come along with the possibility of distressing health complications. Many fail to simply ask themselves if administering unnatural levels of growth hormones is really a good idea for their overall health. Perhaps there is an evolutionary reason that our bodies all begin to slow down the production of GH, testosterone, and estrogen as we age. We so often forget that aging, regardless of how unattractive we may find it, is a natural process that all who live long enough will experience.
The most frightening aspect of the anti-aging clinic trend is that doctors claiming to be experts in GH therapy hail the hormone as an aging solution, while most reputable doctors would never recommend its use for this purpose. The side effects are simply too dangerous, outweighing the benefits of treatment, especially when you consider that, in many cases, expensive injectable GH regimens will render no visible or scientifically calculable improvement. It is for this exact reason that the FDA has not approved GH treatment for this purpose. As with other hormones that have been involved in intense research during the past 50 years, such as estrogen and testosterone, we are currently unable to perfect the appropriate levels necessary for treatment, considering everyone’s internal balance is arranged differently.
Until we learn more about the long-term effects of today’s GH anti-aging treatments, it is advisable to be wary of offers at anti-aging clinics and elsewhere that sound too good to be true. Even if the immediate benefits are initially pleasing, the long term effects of GH therapy could ultimately shorten your life or severely complicate your health in your golden years. Instead, those seeking a more youthful appearance can look into cosmetic surgery and skin care treatment options.
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