Human growth hormone (HGH) helps to regulate bone and organ growth in your youth. In adulthood, it is responsible for many other metabolic processes including protein synthesis, which means that there is a direct correlation between the level of HGH and the percentage of lean muscle. Many of the obese clients that I see in my program have significantly lower than normal levels of HGH. However, it is normal for this hormone to naturally decrease with age, so no one is going to have the same amount of HGH in middle or old age as he or she had in youth.
Is there anything that can be done about low HGH levels in middle age? A few years ago there was a lot of excitement about HGH injections. Headlines called injectable HGH the fountain of youth. However, interest has begun to wane as people have found out that it is not the simple panacea that it was promised to be.
In fact, every doctor who I asked about HGH injections felt that they are not the answer for several reasons. One is that this therapy is prohibitively expensive, costing $800 to $1,250 per month, and it may not be covered by health insurance. Also, it takes up to six months for these injections to begin to take effect. And, of course, there is the unpleasant prospect of giving yourself a daily injection.
Dr. Michael Murray warns about some of the negative side effects of injectable HGH:
My take on it is, like most hormones, it's a double-edged sword and needs to be used very carefully if it is being used. I don't know how wise it is to use it. I think there's been a lot of publicity about its positive benefits. Not enough press has been given to the potential harmful benefits of excess hormone, such as inducing diabetes and actually promoting the growth of cancer and possibly worsening osteoarthritis. Those are some of the risks of excess growth hormone. I'm not too optimistic that HGH injections will be shown to be all that beneficial in the long term. Again, I think that taking into consideration diet and lifestyle and trying to maintain natural levels of HGH for as long as possible is the best way to go. I think there's a reason why the body starts secreting less growth hormone. I think it's a natural process, and any time we go against that process, whether it's growth hormone or whether it's estrogen, we run the risk of doing more harm than good.
As the Consensus Report of the International College of Integrative Medicine states, "You can't just focus on one hormone, and the patient has to be treated as a whole person. You have to look at the other aspects of the endocrine system. For example, people with thyroid disorders will not achieve optimal health until the thyroid disorder is corrected first. They may also need testosterone, progesterone, estrogen, etc. So you should check all of the hormone levels when approaching the patient."
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