The human growth hormone has been in the news in recent years as it is used by professional athletes and bodybuilders to speed up the healing of muscle fatigue and injury.
While synthetic HGH has been linked to doping and misuse, many of us are not aware that this hormone is naturally produced inside the human body.
Produced by the pituitary gland, the HGH plays a vital role in growth, body composition, cell repair, and metabolism.
In this article, you will learn about human growth hormone, its uses, and benefits in the body and its side effects and ways to increase its production naturally.
What is the human growth hormone?
Human growth hormone, also known as somatotropin or growth hormone (GH) is a peptide hormone that stimulates growth, cell production and regeneration in humans and other animals.
It influences height, builds bones and muscles in the body. It plays a crucial role in the processes involved in healthy human growth and development.
Secreted by the pituitary gland, HGH remains active in the bloodstream for some minutes so that the liver can convert it into growth factors.
Who needs HGH?
Children need HGH for their growth as it processes protein and increases fat breakdown to promote tissue growth.
The HGH levels in the body surge during childhood and adolescence, but it reduces to almost half by the time you are around 40 years old.
Harm to the pituitary gland can lead to growth hormone deficiency in adults.
Synthetic HGH was developed in the 1980s. The FDA approved the use of recombinant HGH in 1985 for extreme deficiency in children who are at the risk of being extremely short.
It was also cleared for use for HIV/AIDS patients who suffer from muscle wasting and people with short bowel syndrome.
When news about sports doping with HGH started coming out in the 1990s, the lawmakers voted for restrictions of HGH.
Many endocrinologists were against this ban as they were worried that putting HGH in the same category as steroids and narcotics and declaring it a controlled substance would stigmatize many children who needed this treatment.
So, unprecedented limits were put on the prescriptions of HGH.
Health benefits of human growth hormone
1. Increased muscle strength
HGH improves physical capacity in people through stimulation of collagen synthesis in the tendon and skeletal muscle, which increases muscle strength and leads to better training.
A study published in the International Journal of Endocrinology in 2013 evaluated the effect of HGH therapy on muscle strength of men above 50 years.
During the study 14 healthy men in the age group of 50 to 70 were divided into two groups and given HGH therapy or placebo for six months.
After six months there was a statistically significant increase in the leg press responsive muscles in the GH group.
This study shows that HGH therapy improves muscle strength in the lower body (1).
2. Strengthens bones
The growth hormone plays a vital role in regulating bone growth during puberty.
The HGH also stimulates the production of another hormone called insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), which is produced in the liver during puberty and released into circulation. IGF-1 is also produced in other tissues, particularly in bone, under the control of HGH.
The growth hormone accelerates skeletal growth during puberty. The decreased production of HGH and IGF-1 as we grow older is the reason why older individuals cannot form bone rapidly or replace bone loss due to reabsorption.
The growth hormone and IGF-1 system stimulate both the bone-reabsorbing and bone-forming cells. They help in bone formation, which increases bone mass (2).
3. Expedites fracture and wound healing
Human growth hormone is known to improve bone regeneration and accelerate fracture healing. A study published in Bone in 2002, researchers studied the improvement of fracture healing of rats by systemic administration of growth hormone and the local application of insulin-like growth factor-1 and transforming growth factor-b1.
The results showed that the local growth factor application showed a stronger effect on fracture healing than the systemic GH injection (3).
Growth hormone also improves wound healing in older people. The University of California conducted a randomized controlled, double-blind trial of 6 months of growth hormone replacement or placebo in 28 healthy older men with low baseline plasma insulin-like growth factor-1.
The results showed that healthy older men who took growth hormone had enhanced reparative collagen deposition during the wound healing process (4).
4. Helps in weight loss
Growth hormones in obese people are less responsive due to excess fat in the body. HGH accelerates lipolysis.
This process involves breaking down of lipids, hydrolysis of triglycerides into glycerol and free fatty acids.
The impaired secretion of HGH leads to loss of lipolytic effect. However, with increased consumption of synthetic hormones, it is possible to accelerate lipolysis.
During a study 24 obese participants were placed on a calorie restricted diet and put on low dose growth hormone treatment or a placebo.
The results showed that HGH treatment caused 1.6 -fold increase in weight loss as compared to the placebo.
This study showed that when obese individuals are given a hypocaloric diet, GH accelerates body fat loss, exerts anabolic effects and improves GH secretion.
These findings suggest a possible therapeutic role of low-dose HGH with caloric restriction for obesity (5).
5. Reduces the risk of heart disease
Adults with HGH deficiency have a higher risk of developing heart disease, which can lead to lower life expectancy.
During a study by University of Goteborg, Sweden, 66 men and 38 women aged 22 to 74 years with growth hormone deficiency and with adequate replacement therapy with thyroid hormones, glucocorticoids, and gonadal steroids were studied for risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
The results show that HGH deficiency alters lipoprotein metabolism and increases the risk of hypertension, which can lead to a higher risk of heart disease (6).
6. Improves mood and concentration
When HGH therapy is given to adults that are growth hormone deficient, it improves their mood, concentration, and cognitive function. During a 2004 study from Lithuania, 18 patients with growth hormone deficiency were given 12 IU growth hormone per week.
After six months of the therapy, the psychological functioning improved significantly on mood scales and cognitive performance tests (7).
HGH improves male reproductive function and sexual maturation. A deficiency in this hormone can have the opposite effect and can cause loss of sexual desire and erectile dysfunction.
During a German study, 35 healthy adult men and 45 men with erectile dysfunction were exposed to visual and tactile erotic stimuli to elicit penile tumescence. An immunoradiometric assay determined the serum levels.
The results showed that HGH helps in the maintenance of male erectile capability and that a decline in HGH release may lead to erectile dysfunction (8).
Signs of HGH deficiency
The symptoms of growth hormone deficiency can differ with age.
Children with normal levels of growth hormone grow up to 2.5 inches a year after the age of one year until they reach puberty when they can grow up to four inches in a year.
The common symptoms of HGH deficiency in children are –
- The child can look younger than other children his age.
- Delayed puberty
- Increased fat around the face and the stomach
- Slow tooth development
- Slow hair growth
- The symptoms of HGH deficiency in adults are:
- Anxiety and depression
- Lack of concentration and memory
- Sexual dysfunction
- Dry and thick skin
- Elevated triglyceride levels
- Insulin resistance
- Heart problems
- High levels of LDL cholesterol
- Low energy levels
- Reduced bone density
- Weight gain around the waist
Ways to increase HGH levels
- Lose body fat. People with higher body fat levels are more likely to have low levels of HGH.
- Opt for intermittent fasting. Studies have proved that fasting for three days can increase HGH levels by 300 percent.
- High-intensity workouts also help in increasing HGH secretion.
- Reduce your sugar intake. Refined carbs and sugars increase insulin levels, and high insulin levels can lower HGH production.
- Several studied have found that taking arginine supplements can increase growth hormone levels.
- Our body releases significant amounts of HGH during the night. When you eat your meal, it spikes insulin levels, which can block HGH release. So you must eat light meals before bedtime to avoid insulin spikes.
- GABA is a calming agent for the brain, and it aids sleep. Studies have also found that it helps increase HGH levels in the body.
- Consuming more vitamin C rich foods also helps in increasing growth hormone levels.
- Laugh a lot. According to a study from Loma Linda, University, laughter increases HGH hormone and endorphin levels in the body.
- Get an adequate amount of deep sleep to enhance your HGH levels long term.
- Glutamine, creatine, ornithine, L-dopa, and glycine can increase HGH levels in the body.
Human growth hormone is a hormone that stimulates growth, cell production and cell regeneration in humans and other animals. It influences height, builds bones and muscles in the body.
It also helps in weight loss, reduces the risk of heart disease, improves mood and treats erectile dysfunction.
You can increase your HGH levels naturally by losing body fat, opting for high-intensity exercise, doing intermittent fasting, eating vitamin C rich foods, and getting adequate amounts of deep sleep.