What Is Human Growth Hormone (hGH)?
Human Growth hormone (hGH) is a small protein molecule, which contains 191 amino acids in a single polypeptide chain. It is the most common hormone secreted by the anterior pituitary gland. Its rate of production peaks during adolescence when accelerated growth occurs. However, it generally remains in abundance in the pituitary gland ready to be secreted into the body. For some reason unknown, the amount of growth hormone secreted starts to slow after peaking. The measurable level of HGH in our body decreases 14 percent every ten years into old age. This reduced level of secretion occurs over a period of time, which leads to aging. Daily secretion from the pituitary gland diminishes with age to the extent that a 60-year-old man secretes only 25 percent of the HGH secreted by a 20 year old man.
HGH is actually released in pulses that take place during the day. Its release is especially prominent during the beginning phases of sleep. Secreted from the pituitary gland, these pulses are converted in the liver (within 20 minutes) to Insulin-like Growth Factor Type I (IGF-1). Although IGF-1 is not insulin, it acts like insulin as it promotes glucose transfer through cell membranes into the cell. More importantly, IGF-1 elicits most of the effects associated with the growth hormone. It is measured in the blood and is the surrogate marker of growth hormone in the body.
Use of HGH in Anti-Aging Medicine
Dr. Harvey Cushing first discovered the Growth Hormone in 1912. It was first isolated from human and monkey cadavers through glandular extraction in 1956. Two years later it was used to treat dwarfism in children by injection. Dr. Daniel Rudman conducted a landmark double blind study in 1989. The results of this study showed conclusively that age reversal was possible with the use of GH. This study included adult men who had measured deficiencies in growth hormone and were aged between 61 and 73 years.
Results of the double blind study showed:
- Lean Body Mass +8.8%
- Bone Density +1.6%
- Adipose Tissue (Fat) Mass -14.4%
- Skin Thickness from 4 sites +7.1%
In short, skin became thicker, muscle mass increased, age-related stomach fat disappeared, and lost bone from the spine was restored.
The effects of six months of human growth hormone on lean body mass and adipose-tissue mass were equivalent to 10 to 20 years of reversed aging. Here, the most significant result relating to anti-aging exists between the ratio of muscle to fat.
A quote from Robert Klatz’s book Stopping the Clock aptly summarizes the full report made by this relationship and the implications: “…it helps to recall the way our muscle-fat ratio tends to change as we age. Some 80 percent of a young adult’s body are lean body mass: (which is) muscles, organs, and bone. Only 20 percent is fatty (adipose) tissue. For most people, after age 30, muscles atrophy, partly from genetic programming, partly from underuse. Every decade thereafter an average of 5 percent of lean body mass is replaced by fatty tissue, so that by the time most of us reach age 70, we’ve gone from an 80-20 lean-fat ratio to a ratio that is closer to 50-50.”
The increase in fatty tissue is related to a variety of cardiovascular problems, while the loss of lean body mass is linked to the elderly losing energy, strength, and mobility. Any cause that can slow or reverse the trend towards more fatty tissue in effect slows or reverses the aging process itself.
Although drugs and therapies that claim to reverse aging are nothing new, only Dr. Rudman’s study passes the gold standard of drug testing: controlled, randomized, double-blind clinical study with reproducible results.
Other Studies on Growth Hormone
Since Dr. Rudman’s landmark study in the field of hGH, 100 reputable studies have been performed which documented the safety and legitimacy of this outstanding therapeutic approach. After Dr. Rudman’s death, a study was conducted at the same institution at which Dr. Rudman completed his original work. The following information was taken from this study at the Medical College of Wisconsin between 1994 and 1996:
Recipients of hGH were given low dose/high frequency dosages. The information was compiled from 308 randomly selected self-assessment questionnaires that were completed by 202 patients.
- 88% reported improvement in Muscle Strength
- 81% reported improvement in Muscle Size
- 71% reported improvement in Body Fat Loss
- 81% reported improvement in Exercise Tolerance
- 83% reported improvement in Exercise Endurance
- 71% reported improvement in Skin Texture
- 68% reported improvement in Skin Thickness
- 71% reported improvement in Skin Elasticity
- 51% reported improvement in Wrinkle Disappearance
- 38% reported improvement in New Hair Growth
- 55% reported improvement in Healing of Old Injury
- 53% reported improvement in Back Flexibility
- 53% reported improvement in Sexual Potency/Frequency
- 73% reported improvement to Common Illness
- 62% reported improvement in Duration of Penile Erection
- 57% reported improvement in Frequency of Nighttime Urination
- 57% reported improvement in Hot Flashes
- 84% reported improvement in Energy Level
- 62% reported improvement in Memory
Such findings, which became a stir in the medical industry, create a huge demand for human growth hormone.
Effects of hGH enhancements include the loss of fat and wrinkles as well as the growth of hair and gains in muscle. Improvements in sex drive, brain function, vision, immune function, and cholesterol profile have been widely determined as well.
Signs of Declining Hormonal Health. The following are 15 common signs of declining hormonal health:
- Do you go through mood swings easily?
- Do you anger easily?
- Do you have trouble falling or staying asleep?
- Is your sex life declining?
- Do you have problem concentrating?
- Do you often get cold or feel sick?
- Is your total blood cholesterol over 240?
- Is your HDL cholesterol under 50?
- Do you have high blood pressure?
- Does the skin on your face and neck appear to hang?
- Is it getting harder to exercise?
- Is your grip strength weakening?
- Is your endurance level less?
- Is your breathing more labored when you exercise hard?
- Are you age 45 and above?
If you answer “yes” to many of the questions, you should consult an anti-aging physician for further evaluation as hormonal replacement may be warranted. If you answer negatively to most of the questions above, chances are your hormonal health is within normal limits and no intervention is necessary.
Symptoms of hGH Deficiency in Adults. There are numerous symptoms to indicate a hGH deficiency. These symptoms can be broken down into at least four different categories.
- Symptoms in anabolic tone include: reduced lean body mass, reduced skeletal muscle strength, reduced exercise performance, increased body fat, and increased abdominal fat.
- Symptoms in lipid effects: increased LDL cholesterol and decreased HDL cholesterol; in bone defects: osteopenia (lack of bone).
- Symptoms in protein synthesis: thin skin, lack of collagen, decreased size of organs, decreased nail, and hair growth.
- Symptoms in mental health: reduced energy, emotional instability, poor memory and concentration, depression, and reduced sex drive.
Growth Hormone Enhancement and Replacement
A. Human Growth Hormone Injections
For years after Dr. Rudman’s study, the therapeutic approach to dominating the growth hormone field was through the injection of the human growth hormone. Injectable hGH is currently produced by recombinant DNA biotechnology methods. Only a few pharmaceutical companies worldwide are capable of producing injectable hGH. However, there were many problems associated with using this method. Fortunately, these setbacks were not safety related. For example, the injections could cost up to $1,000 per month. Since the objective of this procedure was to mimic the body’s secretion pattern of hGH throughout the day, the doses tended to be low, although they were delivered in higher frequencies. As a result, many people complained about the daily injections. No major side effects were reported with the exception of some minor joint aches and pains and fluid retention. These minor complications, however, tended to disappear within the first two months. Fortunately there were no reported cases of cancer or serious degenerative illnesses. However there would be a decrease in energy level when a patient tops the hGH injections. It was found that the body composition would essentially remain unchanged if accompanied by an exercise and diet program. Although injections of Human Growth Hormone may not be the program of choice for many people, statistics demonstrate overwhelmingly its impressive effectiveness.
However, interest in hGH injections never reached critical mass. Perhaps the cause for this is the injection method, which is considered troublesome.
B. Amino Acid Secretagogues. A secretagogue is a natural polyamino acid chain that is postulated to initiate the pituitary gland to release growth hormone. It is the precursor to hGH. While hGH causes the body to act as if the pituitary has released growth hormone, a secretagogue actually causes the release of it. Hence a secretagogue causes the bodies own natural processes to produce growth hormones. Secretagogues do not act as growth hormones at all as they stimulate the pituitary gland to secrete growth hormone.
Interestingly, the inconvenience of hGH injections first led to the discovery of Secretagogues. For years, it was believed that the pituitary gland, which produces growth hormones, dries up as a natural effect of aging. Science has recently discovered that growth hormones reside in the pituitary gland, which stops the release due to aging. Scientists then discovered that certain combinations of amino acids could actually spur the pituitary gland to release the growth hormones. Experiments soon led to the right combinations. Natural secretagogue is the most practical approach because there are no side effects. In comparison with hGH, their potency and efficacy are low. Since these are orally taken, they can be a first line approach for those who may not choose hGH injections. This category of hGH products uses amino acids as “secretagogues,” which stimulate the pituitary gland to produce hGH. Other proprietary agents are usually part of the powder/tablet mix, which provide each product with a presumed marketing advantage. Studies show that certain amino acid combinations such as L-lysine, L-arginine, L-ornithine and L-glutamine can stimulate pituitary hGH. While this is theoretically plausible and positive clinical results have been widely reported, published double blind controlled studies that show evidence that these other proprietary factors provide additional pituitary hGH secretion is still incomplete at best. Most studies reveal at least two grams of amino acids are needed to have any effect on pituitary hGH stimulation.
Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in the body and causes GH secretion. It is a conditional amino acid as the body may not be able to synthesize it under stressful conditions. Traditionally it has been used to strengthen the immune system. The standard anti-aging intake is 50 mg to 1 gm twice daily. Glutamine is a neurotransmitter in the brain. It is essential for proper brain functions, immune functions, kidneys, pancreas, bladder, and liver functions. Glutamine becomes one of our body’s most powerful antioxidants in high quantities. Many people, especially those in weight training, add this amino acid due to its benefit in muscle metabolism. Supplementation of two to three gm/day is quite common. For those who plan to take extra doses, it is best to divide the doses throughout the day with up to four servings daily. Two grams of glutamine was shown to cause a four fold increase in Growth Hormone levels.
Lysine is an essential amino acid, which affects bone formation, height, and genital function. It also boosts the effects of arginine. The recommended dosage is one gram on an empty stomach one hour before bedtime and before exercise.
Ornithine is a non-essential amino acid. It is used to potentate the effect of Arginine. The suggested dosage is one gram at bedtime. Doses of more than two to five grams have been known to cause diarrhea.
C. Oral Peptide Secretagogues
HGH is a hormone made up of a long chain of amino acids. Only a portion of the long chain of amino acids makes up the active ingredient. Researchers have been able to identify and extract these active peptides, which are usually five to ten amino acids linked together in a chain. These are then stabilized and formulated into a power or tablet effervescent form. The oral tablets are dissolved in water to be taken before bedtime on an empty stomach. This is to stimulate the release of hGH from the anterior pituitary, which peaks during the early phase of sleep. The effervescent form is best to draw the peptide away from the gastric juice closer to the mucous for better absorption. Gastric juices are highly acidic. Peptides are proteins that are easily denatured when exposed to an acidic environment. Extraction of the peptide is a tedious process. Peptides are not stable enough to maintain its activity in an aqueous environment. Thus, the peptide is formulated in the oral tablet format. Secretagogues using peptides are abundant in the marketplace. They are sold as a natural nutritional supplement and no FDA approval is required. However, some unscrupulous operators simply use ground bovine pituitary gland and pass them off as secretagogues. The consumer is often faced with the arduous task of identifying which is the real secretagogue. Secretagogues can also work at multiple sites leading to growth hormone release. For example, a secretagogue targeted towards the hypothalamus would stimulate the hypothalamus to release Growth Hormone Releasing Factor (GHRF) that in turn stimulates the pituitary gland to release growth hormone. An oral peptide pituitary secretagogue, on the other hand, stimulates the pituitary gland directly to effect the release of growth hormone.
An effective secretagogue could easily raise IGF-1 levels, although the result is not as significant as growth hormone injections. Clinically many users have reported better sleep, increased alertness during the day, and less joint pain.
IGF-1 levels may not be the best indicator of how effective a secretagogue is for the GH receptor sites may be damaged. A low IGF-1 level does not mean that the body’s growth hormone level has not increased. It may simply mean that that the level is not accurately measured, or that there is a defective receptor site. If your IGF-1 does not increase, do not be despair. Talk to your health care practitioner. How you feel is just as important and sometimes even more important than laboratory studies alone.
D. Growth Factors
Growth factors (GF) are small protein chains, commonly known as polypeptides, which bind to cell surface receptor sites and exert actions directly on the target cells. This is generally done through cellular proliferation and or differentiation.
Some GFs exert generalized effect, while others are cell and action specific. There are many different classes of GFs. Some common ones include: Insulin-like Growth Factor (IGF-1) that is responsible for much of Growth Hormones (GH) action in the body; Interleukins (IL); Fibroblast Growth Factors (FGF); Transforming Growth Factor (TGF); Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF); Epidermal Growth Factor (EGF); and Transforming Growth Factors-b (TGFs-b). GFs come from a wide variety of sources. Epithelial Growth Factors (EGF) comes from sub maxillary gland, and FGF comes from a wide range of cells. A unique family of growth factors that is secreted primarily by leukocytes (white blood cells) is called cytokines. When such cytokines are secreted by lymphocytes, they are called lymphokines. Many of the lymphokines are also known as interleukins (ILs). Not only are interleukins secreted by leukocytes, they are also able to affect the cellular responses of leukocytes.
What Do Growth Factors Do? Different GFs have different jobs to do. Generally, all of them work at the cellular level to:
- Repair damaged cells
- Enhance cellular proliferation
- Maintain optimum function of the target organ
- Rejuvenate aging tissues
While hormones generally are more specific and sometimes work through other mediations elicited from its simulation of intermediate organs, GFs often act directly on the target tissue and have a wide range of effects. Its action is mostly stimulatory. It can also work synergistically with other GFs or hormones to elicit a biological effect. Growth hormone, for example, exerts its effect in the body via Insulin-like Growth Factor (IGF-1). In other words, it is the IGF-1 that actually carries out the function of growth hormone and not growth hormone itself.
What Is Fibroblast Growth Factor (FGF)?
FGF is a group of GFs that act on the fibroblast within the body. Fibroblast are basic building blocks of fibrous tissue, including the brain, nervous system, eye, blood vessels, heart, stomach, skin, liver, kidney, muscle and bone. In fact, most cells in these organs possess receptors for FGF and therefore susceptible to its biological effect. There are at least 19 distinct members of the FGF family, which interact with at least 4 distinct types of cell-surface receptors. It is evident that a certain amount of FGF is essential for optimum body function, and disruption of FGF can lead to disease states, including achondroplasia and craniosynotosis syndromes.
Conjugated FGF. FGF can be bound to inert, non-toxic polymers to form a conjugated molecule. This is usually done through a series of chemical reactions. Substances commonly used for as polymers include polysaccharides or muco-adhesives. FGF is a small protein that can be easily denatured when exposed to heat or acid. Ingesting FGF, for example, will expose FGF to gastric acid, which will quickly denature it. When the FGF is conjugated, the protein is more stable and protected from the digestive enzymes, for example. Conjugation can furthermore program the FGF’s release from its carrier to ensure that the desired action of the GF on a specific site is maintained.
What is the Anti-Aging Effect of FGF? The natural progression of the aging process is due to cellular degeneration. Oxidative stress and free radical pathology has been well studied in this respect as a causative factor. FGF helps maintain the target organs in the body that contains fibrous tissue, including the eye, heart, brain, skin, and the musculoskeletal system. It helps damaged tissues to be repaired. For example, FGF can help injured nerve tissue restore to normal function, or damaged blood vessels to be repaired to prevent further clotting or stokes. In the case of duodenal ulcers, it can help the ulcer heal more quickly. Fortification and re-growth of the epidermis and its underlying circulation will lead to healthier skin and less wrinkles.
Non-damaged aging cells can also benefit from FGFs. Laboratory studies, for example, have shown that cells that are unable to replace themselves (such as eye tissue) can be stimulated to renew their cell layers. An example of this is the pigmented layer in the eye.
Body parts that response to biological stimulation of FGF include:
- Nervous system (brain, central nervous system)
- Cardiovascular system (heart, circulatory system)
- Skin (dermis, epidermis, and underlying circulatory system)
- Eye (cornea and retina)
- Gastro-intestinal system (stomach and intestine)
- Hair (hair follicle and the sub-scalp circulatory system)
- Musculo-skeletal system (muscle, bone, cartilage)
- Liver and Kidney (target organ cells)