Human Growth Hormone: The Mother Of Over-Hyped Hormones
If there’s one over hyped misunderstood hormone out there, it’s human growth hormone (HGH). It’s constantly pushed as the mother of all anabolic hormones and mentioned in virtually every supplement add and every news story about athletes of all kind.
Readers of my ebooks and articles know I can consider it highly overrated in terms of what it can do for building muscle or improving athletic performance. GH has greater effects as a hormone that can improve recoup vs. directly impact performance per se, can have uses healing connective tissue injuries, and when combined with other hormones/drugs, appears to have synergism, although data is lacking there.
In terms of it’s ability to directly impact athletic performance, an extensive review of the literature recently published entitled “Systematic review: the effects of growth hormone on athletic performance” (1) essentially came to the same conclusions as I have. The authors specifically evaluated evidence about the effects of growth hormone on athletic performance in physically fit, young individuals, so they were not looking at studies in GH deficient populations (e.g., older populations, etc.) which usually find benefits of using this hormone.
The authors reviewed a pile of studies which met a their inclusion criteria of randomized, controlled trials that “compared growth hormone treatment with no growth hormone treatment in community-dwelling healthy participants between 13 and 45 years of age.”
What they found after reviewing all these studies, was that on average, “lean body mass increased in growth hormone recipients compared with participants who did not receive growth hormone.” However, that increase in LBM only averaged 2.1 kg, or 4.62lbs. Not exactly impressive gains in LBM, considering what HGH costs or compared to even what a supplement like creatine can achieve!
More importantly, from all the studies they reviewed “strength and exercise capacity did not seem to improve” and “Growth hormone-treated participants more frequently experienced soft tissue edema and fatigue than did those not treated with growth hormone.”
It should be noted however that few studies looked directly at HGH effects on athletic performance directly, and the studies may not have reflected “real world” doses, but the above does not bode well for GH in my view, and this review does little to improve my opinion of HGH as a stand alone drug for improving performance in healthy athletes. Bang for the buck, it’s a highly overrated hormone for that use. The authors concluded
“Claims that growth hormone enhances physical performance are not supported by the scientific literature. Although the limited available evidence suggests that growth hormone increases lean body mass, it may not improve strength; in addition, it may worsen exercise capacity and increase adverse events. More research is needed to conclusively determine the effects of growth hormone on athletic performance.”
All in all, a fair assessment on their part in my view…
(1) Ann Intern Med. 2008 May 20;148(10):747-58. Epub 2008 Mar 17.