Growth Hormone

Growth hormone is released by the pituitary gland in the brain. It stimulates metabolism pathways in the body that lead to increased muscle growth. Growth hormone causes increased protein creation and the breakdown of fats. Growth hormone prevents the body from storing sugar (glucose) in the form of animal starch (glycogen). If this glucose is not used, an increase in blood sugar levels results.

People with overproduction of growth hormone may continue to grow and develop a condition called gigantism or acromegaly. Both of these conditions are linked to a shorter lifespan. People with underproduction of growth hormone may have stunted growth, a condition called dwarfism. Growth hormone levels increase during exercise and remain so right after exercise. Supplementing growth hormone levels is controversial. It has not been clearly proved to increase sports performance.

WHY ATHLETES USE IT

Athletes use growth hormone because they think it will increase strength, decrease body fat, and improve performance.

ADVERSE EFFECTS

Athletes supplementing growth hormone may experience:

  • Raised blood sugar.

  • Raised blood lipids (energy storage units).

  • Sexual dysfunction (impotence).

  • Enlarged heart disease (cardiomyopathy).

  • Pressure on nerves in the wrists (carpal tunnel syndrome).

  • Bony overgrowth of the forehead and jaw (mandible and supraorbital ridges).

  • Enlarged hands and feet.

  • Weakness.

  • Degenerative joint disease (osteoarthritis).

Supplemental growth hormone was once taken from the pituitary glands of cadavers (people who have died). This method is no longer used in the legitimate construction of growth hormone. However, some black market mixtures still use cadaver glands. These mixtures are low quality and carry risk of contamination with potentially deadly viruses, such as Jakob-Creutzfeldt disease and HIV.

PHARMACOLOGY

The release of growth hormone from the pituitary gland is controlled by many factors, including diet, exercise, and medicines. Growth hormone is only present in the bloodstream for a short period of time. So, it causes its effects through other substances in the body. For growth hormone supplementation to be effective, it must be given via injection.

PREVENTION

The use of growth hormone is banned by many competitive athletic organizations. It is not recommended for use in athletes. Growth hormone may be advised for use in older, hypogonadtic men (with sexual function problems). Studies on growth hormone have shown increased lean body mass and decreased fat in older men. These studies have not distinguished whether the changes were related to muscle mass or changes in bone, cartilage, and soft tissue. It is important to be educated about the potential side effects of growth hormone, and the lack of evidence that it increases strength and athletic performance.