HGH: Hype or Hope?
If you’ve been trying to lose weight, you’ve probably tried just about everything. Low-carb diets that were supposed to kick in a “ketosis” effect to trigger weight loss were all the rage at one time. Then the movement of magical foods like green coffee or raspberries took over. There’s also a huge push recently where purveyors of hormone-based products are staking their claims. There’s a contingent of those spouting the benefits of testosterone, and another camp saying that Human Growth Hormone (HGH) is the answer.
We took some time to investigate the claims of some of the best HGH supplements, and the general background on HGH. Here’s what we found:
The Claimed Benefits
Companies that are selling HGH products are generally restating benefits that have been uncovered in medical studies. More about that later, but there is some hard science behind the idea that HGH can increase lean body mass, and decrease your body fat percentage. For now, note that this isn’t the same thing as weight loss, in fact, it’s arguably better. Lose fat, and increase muscle, versus just “losing weight”.
The general premise being sold is that this hormone, naturally present in your body, can be taken in powder, pill, or injection form, and stimulate both muscle growth and weight loss.
The History of HGH
HGH does occur naturally in your body, and is basically the catalyst that spurs cell growth and development. The earliest uses of HGH were as a treatment for children with unusually stunted growth due to a few specific illnesses, and goes back to the mid-eighties. Over time, more uses for the drug were identified. For example, there’s a condition known as “short bowel syndrome”, where patients that are eating normally don’t absorb enough nutriets because of a naturally short, or removed section of intestines.
Eventually treatments spread to two other patient types, both with issues in either muscle loss, or excessive body fat. The studies related to using HGH on these patients is likely what ignited companies to try and sell it as a general solution for weight loss.
The first patient type was a subset of HIV/AIDS patients that were losing muscle mass in their bodies, typically losing over 10% of their overall body mass. HGH as a treatment for these patients was very successful. They were given a daily dose of HGH, and over a 3 month period, saw significant increases in both their body weight and overall muscle mass, more than was observed with other treatments, including testosterone and weight training.
The second study focused on patients with pituitary gland deficiencies. This was an obvious study to perform, as the naturally occurring HGH in your body is produced by the pituitary gland. Thus, patients with pituitary issues would be experiencing the symptoms of low HGH, which include decreased strength lower energy, weight gain, loss of muscle mass, and depression.
The study, predictably, showed marked improvements in the symptoms, as the injections of synthetic HGH were supplementing the low levels of their naturally occuring HGH. Patients did lose body fat and gained lean muscle mass.
The question is, of course, whether these beneficial effects of HGH apply to otherwise healthy adults, or if the benefit really only helps those patients with specific disorders and conditions.
An Evidence Shortage
Really, the issue at hand is that there’s not a wealth of studies available documenting HGH’s effect on people that are overweight, but have no other significant health issues.
If you decide to try HGH, there’s three major watchouts:
- Pills and Poweders: Don’t bother with buying HGH in pill or powder form. HGH is a protein, and the acid in your stomach easily breaks it down into digestible material before any HGH enters your bloodstream. If you buy HGH in this form, it’s not going to do anything at all other than pass through you.
- Shady Operators: Since the only form available that will have some effect is an injection, you’ll need to have it both prescribed, and administered, by a doctor. If you don’t have one of the specific medical conditions that HGH is FDA approved to treat, you may have a difficult time finding a reputable physician that will agree to do this. That makes the temptation to take injections from an unlicensed individual high…but don’t do it. If an unregulated and unlicensed clinic is willing to do this, there’s no guarantee that you’re actually getting HGH, and also no guarantee that they are following other rules, like using only new needles and monitoring your physical health.
- Side Effects: There are a number of documented side effects of HGH use, some of them potentially severe, like insulin regulation issues that can result in diabetes, and joint issues, including carpal tunnel syndrome. Ensure that you’re talking with your doctor and being monitored for side effects.
It is our strong recommendation to avoid HGH use unless you’ve been diagnosed by a licensed and reputable physician. If you’re trying to lose weight, there are a number of more well documented treatments that have proven success.