ASK A TRAINER: 'What is HGH and is it Safe?'
Hello everyone. Mickey from Washington wants the 411 on HGH.
"I've heard that a lot of doctors support the use of HGH and prescribe it. So if it's safe enough for doctors to prescribe, why does it get such a bad rap? Is it bad? What even is it? Is it a steroid? I know a lot of celebrities use it to keep body fat low and look younger. How does it work?"- Mickey K., Tacoma, Washington
HGH, or human growth hormone, is a big subject in gym's across the country right now. HGH in the context you're referring to it is any drug in which the primary active ingredient is the synthetic version of human growth hormone produced by the pituitary gland. (For the sake of simplicity, I'm going to use HGH as a blanket term to encompass all of these drugs.). In addition to regulating growth spurts in children and adolescents, the human growth hormone produced by the pituitary gland also regulates fat and sugar metabolism and manages body fluid levels.
HGH became an acronym known to most Americans during the baseball steroid scandal of the early 21st century. HGH and steroids are grouped together as being the same thing by a lot of the population but in gym culture, using HGH does not carry the same stigma as being "on the juice." (I get offered HGH in the gym on a regular basis. Click here to read about that.) Technically, HGH is not an anabolic steroid although, like steroids, it is a synthetic version of a naturally occurring substance. And like steroids, there are legitimate medical reasons that doctors prescribe HGH. But also like steroids, the instances in which there is a valid reason for them to be prescribed are rare.
A synthetic version of HGH was developed in 1985 to help severely under-sized children and to treat disorders that affect muscle tone, sufficiently working kidneys and other physiological development problems in children that prevent the internal organs from functioning properly.
Doctors will also prescribe HGH to people with serious chronic conditions like HIV/ AIDS that have trouble maintaining normal body weight as a result of disease. This and its ability to expedite the time it takes to recover from injury, led many athletes to HGH in the 1990s.
Does HGH make you look and feel younger? After all, when Sylvester Stallone was busted for transporting over 48 vials of the stuff internationally, the 61 year-old actor looked 35 and was in better shape than he was when he beat Mr. T in ROCKY III. Was HGH Sly's secret weapon? It's hard to say. It was a contributing factor in his buff appearance but his face appears, and I'm speculating, to have also benefited from some plastic surgery.
The fact is there isn't sufficient evidence to prove or disprove the theory that HGH is a fountain of youth miracle drug. The evidence that it can function this way is anecdotal. We haven't been using synthetic HGH long enough to fully understand what it does, which is why it is prescribed discriminately, and why I wouldn't advise anyone to self-prescribe it for themselves.
Here's what we do know about it though. Side effects include swelling of internal body tissue, increased risk of cancer and diabetes, numbing and tingling of the skin, dangerously high cholesterol levels and heart problems. And that is a laundry list of doctor-prescribed HGH. If you buy it on the street, there is no telling what you are actually getting and what it can do to you.
Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or Tweet @BuckleyBodyGuru