Human growth hormone, or HGH, is a substance produced by your body to stimulate tissue growth. In childhood and adolescence, HGH is responsible for rapid growth; in adulthood, it helps to maintain your health. The amount of HGH that your body produces declines as you grow older; replacing it may reverse some of the effects of aging. In people with growth abnormalities, injections of synthetic HGH accelerate development, but the benefits for normal, healthy individuals remains unclear.
The pituitary gland produces natural HGH in children and adolescents, stimulating bones, cartilage and muscles to grow rapidly as their bodies develop. As an adolescent matures, the gland continues to produce the hormone but at a lower level. The smaller amount of HGH in the bloodstream of adults continues to promote the growth needed to maintain tissue and organs.
Some people have levels of HGH that are below normal for their age group. This condition may be due to an injury or illness, such as a pituitary gland tumor. To restore normal body growth and maintenance, these people may receive injections of synthetic HGH. The elevated level of the hormone increases the amount of bone and muscle that builds up and decreases body fat. People with deteriorated muscles, due to HIV or AIDS, sometimes receive injections of HGH to help restore muscle mass.
Effect on Healthy Adults
An article in “The New England Journal of Medicine” reported that healthy people might benefit from receiving synthetic HGH. Researchers found that, in healthy adults, HGH injections increased muscle mass and reduced the amount of body fat. Studies were inconclusive as to whether these changes translated directly into added strength and agility or any other tangible benefit.
Artificially increasing the level of HGH in a healthy body seems to increase muscle mass in much the same manner as anabolic steroids do. In healthy adults, the side effects of HGH, unlike those of steroids, are much less severe. There can still be adverse effects, though; patients have reported a number of side effects, from swelling and pain in joints and muscles to serious problems with various organs, including the heart and the liver. Higher-than-normal levels of HGH make some tissues and organs grow beyond their proper size, producing physical deformities in the face and hands. According to the Cancer Prevention Coalition, using HGH can increase the risk of cancer, as it stimulates these cells to grow at a faster pace.