Dr. Richard Hellman, the president of the board of directors of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE), answered our viewers' questions about human growth hormone. Read his answers below and thank you for your questions.
Hellman is also a member of the executive committee of the AACE and chairs its patient safety committee. He is a Fellow of the American College of Endocrinology (ACE), and a Fellow of the American College of Physicians.
Question: What are the major side-effects of taking growth hormone? Do you know of any heart or muscle or joint problems? And if so, is there any time frame or dosing issues that affect them?
Gary from San Antonio, Texas
Hellman:When growth hormone is given to replace the growth hormone that is lacking, such as when a child or adult is proven to be without the capability to make their own growth hormone, if the growth hormone replacement is given in the appropriate dosage, the side effects are minimal.
In contrast, when growth hormone is given in excess, to someone who already makes adequate amounts of growth hormone, the excessive and inappropriate growth hormone may have many different and unpleasant side effects, dependent upon the age of the person, their health, and the amount of excess of growth hormone given. In this case, arthritis, due to joint overgrowth, entrapment of nerves, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, excessive sweating, elevated blood sugars or overt diabetes, and edema, may all occur. The longer the exposure to the excess, the greater the problem, and the older the person, the more vulnerable they are to some of the side effects noted above.
Question: Are there any natural proven ways to increase HGH output? Maybe certain exercises or diet? Can your body turn its natural HGH production down or off if it is injected for a period of time (like steroids)? Thanks for your help!
Greg from New York
Hellman: The question is whether there are any natural proven ways to increase HGH output. The counter question is why someone thinks it may be a good idea. Since HGH is essential for normal growth, and without it we remain much shorter than we should be, it is not a surprise that the levels gradually diminish as we get older, after HGH helps us grow in height to our full adult height and helps strengthen our bones to their full density, that we should have less of a need for the hormone. In general, the body does better regarding aging when people are active physically and mentally, and not overweight, and with a lower chronic stress level. Interestingly, when people are physically active and less obese, their HGH levels and responsiveness are better, but this may well be a result, rather than a cause.
Question: The HGH which is administered to children for the purpose of growing, does it also enhance athletic ability as in professional athletes? How safe are they and when are children taken off this drug? I know people who I am concerned about who is giving their kids this and I am curious about answers.
Lynn from Coram, New York