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HGH: The Body of Evidence

You know now what many clinical scientists and academic endocrinologists at medical centers around the world are aware of: growth hormone significantly—in many elderly people, vastly—improves quality of life and physical endurance. And the image of a frail oldster suddenly transformed is sufficiently impressive to make this hormone's name and fame. This is made possible when age-related growth hormone deficiency is replaced to normal, youthful levels.

However, if all HGH did was add extra muscle, its stature as a pro-longevity hormone would be very limited. Such a physical improvement can certainly minister to an older person's comfort and sense of competence, but I'd be surprised if, on average, it gave more than an extra year or two of life. There are so many other ways besides muscle loss in which we age. Some are extremely significant to our health and quality of life. How much of what we call heart disease is aging? To what extent is bone loss a direct response to depleted hormones? Why does mental function decline in a significant proportion of the elderly? Why does an infection that would only cause an eighteen-year-old a feverish, uncomfortable evening kill an eighty-year-old? Let's go through that list in reverse order. HGH appears to be a major player in every single one of these conditions.

HGH: What You Should Know if You Plan to Take It

 Cautions about Generic HGH

An extensive list of peer reviewed clinical studies

Growth Hormone Replacement Found Safe for Long Term Use

THE WANING OF THE IMMUNE SYSTEM

If they could afford it and didn't mind the isolation, very old people would have reason to live inside sterile bubbles like those rare, sad children who are born without immune systems. Somewhere between the ages of seventy and eighty-five, the human immune system takes a nose-dive, and far too many of us go down with it. Enter HGH.

Growth hormone's changes aren't only the ones found rippling just beneath the surface of the tighter and tauter skin. There's something more profound than that. We now have every reason to think HGH replacement will greatly upgrade the quality of the aging immune system!

Now it's possible you don't find the immune system very exciting. You may take it for granted—just an old, dull part of your body that does its job when you catch that winter cold. However, the truth is that it's the premier instrument of your survival. You wouldn't last long without a skin to cover the outside of you, and you wouldn't live a whole lot longer without an immune system to protect the inside of you. The world is potentially a dangerous place filled with bacterial lions and tigers and viral dragons out to get you. There are shark-like parasites that long to munch on your juicy interior and hungry yeasts that would like nothing better than to grow at your expense. So to live without defenses is to live in peril. These dangerous microbial wanderers assault you daily. Yet so fantastically powerful is your immune system, that most days you feel quite healthy and aren't even aware of the battles being fought on your behalf by your lymphocytes, phagocytes and killer cells. This highly disciplined and warlike system guards our physical integrity.

For now, it's sufficient that you accept its supreme importance and realize that it's a scientific fact that immune response declines with advancing age. And once we've reached our seventh or eighth decades, the decline is likely to be quite profound. This immunological falling-off is a major contributing cause of the increase in cancers, in autoimmune disorders such as arthritis, and, of course, in simple viral and bacterial infections—everything from the common cold to full-blown pneumonia. In extreme old age, the immune system has a difficult time dealing with even the simplest biological hazards of life. At some point in time, people who are fortunate enough to live that long arrive at an immunological crisis point: they're simply waiting for the first haphazard puff of infection or growth of malignancy to lay them low. How does one go from the incredibly hearty immune system of the adolescent to the frail and crumbling defense network of the senior citizen?

In many scientists' opinion, the first, and eventually most significant negative change begins as early as puberty. Our thymus gland, the source of the T-cell lymphocytes (a form of white blood cell) that lead the immune-system charge when infection and unwanted intrusions of any kind take place, begins to shrink. Important thymic cells are replaced by fat tissue, leading to decreased thymic hormone secretion. By old age, the thymus has nearly disappeared-and so has our immune system. Naturally immunologists have wondered whether this shrinkage of the thymus is controlled by a biological clock or is the result of age-associated imbalances in the endocrine system.

It has been noticed that thymic shrinkage and growth hormone decline begin more or less simultaneously in adolescence. Of course, this could be coincidental. But research in the 1960s showed that the treatment of middle-aged animals with pituitary extracts could increase thymic size. That was definitely suggestive.

In the last ten years, we've gone beyond coincidence or mere suggestion. It has been demonstrated experimentally that mice, rats, and dogs, all of whom suffer thymic shrinkage with age and consequent immune decline in a manner very similar to humans, are all capable of regenerating their thymus glands. HGH is the key hormone that does it.

Dr. Keith Kelley, a researcher at the Indiana University School of Medicine, made one of the first experimental demonstrations in 1986. He took sixteen-to twenty-two-month-old female rats—this is the beginning of old age in rats—and implanted young pituitary cells under their skin. A control group of similarly aged rats was untreated. After two months of treatment both groups of rats were killed. Only remnants of the thymus gland were found in the control rats. The treated rats had larger, functional thymus glands and the number of T-cells produced were up to five times that found in the untreated rats. Kelley concluded that it was possible to regenerate normal thymic tissue and reverse the natural loss of immunity.

In 1987 Dr. William Monroe did a similar study with dogs and, after giving them growth-hormone therapy, found that "the thymus glands of growth-hormone-treated dogs regenerated, resembling thymic tissue of young dogs."

These were fairly short-term studies and though they showed that a thymus gland shrunken by age has an astonishing capacity to recover, they didn't yet show what effect such treatment would have on longevity. In 1991 David Khansari and Thomas Gustad of North Dakota State University completed a lengthier study on mice. The results were truly startling. Taking fifty-two mice who had reached the age (seventeen months), the age at which healthy, well-cared for mice will begin to die off, they divided them into two groups of twenty-six mice each, one group receiving growth hormone for thirteen weeks.

In that time span, sixteen control mice (61 percent) died, whereas only two of the hormone-treated mice (7 percent) expired. After a break of four weeks, HGH therapy was continued for another six weeks. One more of the HGH mice died. But, by the end of this period, the mice in the control group no longer existed. Dead to the last mouse! The surviving growth-hormone-treated mice had already passed beyond the outer limits of mouse longevity. And it was found that their immune production of T-cells was comparable to that of young mice. Not wishing to overstate their results, the two researchers modestly concluded that the mortality curve obtained "suggests that long-term low-dose growth hormone treatment prolongs life expectancy."

The truth is that the only other substance that has had a similar effect in the extension of longevity is melatonin, which coincidentally has also shown a capacity to regenerate the thymus gland.

 IN HUMANS?

We already have evidence that growth hormone will indeed stimulate one kind of immunity in people. A study was conducted at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine on older women with low levels of human growth hormone. The researchers were intrigued by the correlation of two facts. First, that in both animals and humans a deficiency in growth hormone is associated with an impairment in natural killer (NK) immune cell activity. Second, that a decrease in NK activity occurs naturally with aging.

NK cells have somewhat different targets from the T-cells that are produced by the thymus. The T-cells are pre programmed to respond to specific antigens, and the victims of their assault are most often invading viruses and bacteria. Natural killer cells choose cancer cells as their primary targets, especially blood-borne metastatic cancer cells in the process of spreading.

Until scientists worked out the function of NK cells, they had often assumed that the body has little natural defense against cancer. If we didn't all die of it relatively quickly, that had to be because malignancies were rather rare malfunctions of the body. Nowadays, we realize that cancer cells are anything but rare. The billions of cells in the human body with their trillions of daily interactions inevitably produce rogue cells all the time. If we can go for many decades—and the majority of us for a lifetime—without contracting cancer, that's because our bodies are programmed to promptly and decisively destroy these renegades.

Recent research indicates that NK cells are designed to sense any cell that is dividing at an abnormally rapid rate—which is the exact characteristic of a cancer. NK cells go directly to such a site of abnormality; attach themselves to the suspect cell; and, acting as judge, jury, and executioner all in one, give it such a walloping dose of chemical toxicity that the offending malignant cell promptly croaks. Immunologists now believe that without these superb and necessary assassins, we would very quickly become statistics on the national cancer charts. Which is exactly what happens to a large percentage of AIDS (HIV) patients as their natural killer cell counts go down. Incidentally, HGH is an FDA approved treatment for the bodily wasting that accompanies AIDS.

The researchers in New Mexico were aware that growth hormone declines naturally with age as does NK activity. Taking twelve older women in otherwise good health but with low HGH levels, they gave growth hormone to six for fourteen days while leaving the other six untreated. At the end of the experiment, the growth-hormone-treated women had increased their level of natural-killer-cell activity by 20 percent.

 Growth Hormone Against Skin Cancer

With great interest I've observed in my patients a phenomenon new to science. Patients with early skin cancer lesions on the face and hands have occasionally found these minor malignancies vanishing without surgery after a period on HGH. A friend and colleague of mine, James P. Frackelton, M.D., of Cleveland, Ohio, has had similar experiences with his growth hormone patients. Dr. Frackelton reported one man with squamous cell carcinoma, one of the faster spreading varieties of skin cancer, who was completely cured without surgical or other treatment.

Dr. Frackelton is fortunate enough to have an excellent clinical laboratory adjacent to his office. Measuring immune function before and after growth hormone replacement therapy, he has found consistent increases in natural killer cell lymphocyte (NK) counts in his elderly patients, in some cases by as much as 300 percent.

An interesting side issue that this study raises is the relationship between HGH, obesity, immune system function, and cancer. It is well known that obese women tend to have lower HGH levels, impaired natural killer cell activity, and a higher risk of cancer. Is it their weight that increases their cancer risk or is it actually depressed immune function resulting from lower levels of HGH?

And what about the thymus regeneration in animals? There is evidence here, too, though not so much as we're likely to have in a few years when more clinical studies bear fruit. Dr. Edmund Chein has reported some degree of thymic regeneration within four weeks of beginning HGH supplementation in humans. An interesting early (1987) study conducted by scientists at the University of Bologna in Italy  found that giving large doses intravenous arginine, an amino acid that promotes secretion of growth hormone, produced almost a full recovery in the secretion of thymic hormones, even at a very old age.

As this research continues to pile up, it is going to become harder and harder to avoid the conclusion that one of the chief enemies of the elderly—depressed immune function—is treatable.

Now let's think about thinking.

Bolstering the Brain?

There's little doubt that one of the most feared results of aging is a decline in our mental function. What would it profit us to live longer, if our brains were no longer in functional shape, our thoughts grown incoherent, our speech fumbling and slow, our old memories fading, and our capacity to form new memories declining? And I do not even speak of the horrors of that most severe form of senile dementia, the rightly dreaded Alzheimer's disease. And since by some estimates at least a third of eighty-five-year-olds display signs of Alzheimer's, any book on longevity that fails to consider ways and means of protecting mental function is surely sadly lacking.

Not all of the evidence is in by any means, but many scientists now believe growth hormone is a powerful tool in the preservation of brain function, memory, and intellect. Let's consider for a moment the way brain cells function. It's quite different from the way things work in the rest of your body.

Approximately every three years 90 percent of the 100 trillion cells in the human body are made anew in a constant process of cell death and replacement. Only in the brain and nervous system are the original cells, or at least most of them, retained forever. These nerve cells are called neurons, and the average human brain contains many trillions of them. That's your working intellectual capital. You won't get much more of it. There are few undifferentiated precursor cells waiting to develop into mature nerve cells. For the rest of your life, you'll dance with what you brought to the ball. Only recently we have discovered that new neurons are possible, but in a very small way.

Our neurons form a web of billions of trillions of interconnections-called synapses—so vast that our brain puts to shame the most sophisticated manmade computer ever built. Neurons grow long filamentous extensions like telephone wires that connect to myriad other neurons in the brain. The final leap from neuron to neuron is made by tiny molecules (neurotransmitters) specially fitted for their task. Our brain's neurons also extend via connections similar to telephone switchboards to every organ and tissue throughout the body.

Whenever we have a new experience or learn a new fact, new connections are woven and new messenger molecules are produced within neurones. This process is supported by small protein molecules called nerve growth factor (NGF). A steady supply of nerve growth factor is necessary to maintain the connections that have been built up in our brains. Once a sufficient number of these connections are lost—or once an excessively high percentage of our irreplaceable neurons die due to illness, free radical oxidation, drugs, alcohol, environmental poisoning, stroke, or blows to the head—the result is mental inefficiency, possibly a very measurable decline in your mental functioning, perhaps eventually senility or Alzheimer's. The exact processes that are taking place within our brain to cause this damage are somewhat mysterious. But, since we know it occurs, it would be quite sufficient, for the moment, to learn how to protect ourselves from it.

An important discovery of recent years is that growth hormone and its byproduct IGF-1, can also act as a nerve growth factor. If they too support the functioning of the central nervous system, then growth hormone's decline may be in part responsible for the mental decline that many people experience with age. Certainly, as you're about to see, replacement of HGH can have startling effects on people with many forms of neurological disordernot just mental but physical as well.

A 2005 study at the University of Washington provides more evidence for benefit to brain function.

Repair of Nervous System Injury

A doctor in Montana telephoned me recently to describe a patient of his, a man in his fifties afflicted with a progressive form of paralysis that ran in his family. By the time growth hormone therapy was started, he was no longer able to walk and confined to a wheelchair. Within a few months on HGH replacement he was again walking unassisted. In the year that has passed since then, he has continued to hold off the decline that his hereditary genetic defect seems to have planned for him.

This was extremely interesting to me because it corresponded to effects I was seeing when growth hormone was applied to other neurological disorders.

David Webster, a friend of my daughter, had had a car accident in August 1994. Initially he seemed to have suffered only severe soft tissue damage, but soon he began to display further symptoms. His eyes totally lost their peripheral vision and had hardly any depth of field. He had severe pains in his back. He was tremendously fatigued and began to suffer balance problems. Going to some of the top neurologists in southern California, he was given a series of MRIs, and—three months after his accident— David Webster was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Six very characteristic MRI lesions seen on his brain made the diagnosis definite. Though seldom reported, this is a medical pattern that neurologists are quite familiar with: MS is frequently triggered in the aftermath of some form of severe physical trauma.

The exact cause of MS is still not known, but it is widely agreed that the immune system is involved in an attack on the myelin sheaths that surround each nerve fiber. Those sheaths act just like the insulation on an electrical wire. When the sheath is destroyed by a disordered immunity, the nerve fibers short circuit and cease to conduct messages to and from the neurons. It therefore makes good sense to think that a substance that improves the functioning of the immune system might also improve the symptoms of multiple sclerosis.

David, who at the age of forty-two is a successful international trader, had an extraordinarily demanding work schedule, which his doctors were advising him to curtail. He was in severe pain and was barely ambulatory, his hands constantly shook, and he was now spending most of his time in bed, conducting his business from a supine position. He had been put on a full cocktail of modern medications-muscle relaxants, pain killers, and sleeping medications. He was diagnosed as having one of the most severe, rapidly progressive forms of MS, and his prospects were not good. He continued to decline.

Real improvement began, however, when one of his neurologists, at my suggestion, agreed to put David on growth hormone. His blood levels of IGF-1 increased. And his improvement was startling. His eyesight and coordination greatly improved. He had far less fatigue and greater endurance for physical activity. He could walk reasonably well for short distances and was no longer bedbound. He was still leading a very careful lifestyle, and, if he began to overdo things, he suffered a partial relapse, but, by and large, he was a far more functional person than he had been before the start of growth hormone therapy, and this improvement has now continued for more than a year.

Will results like this be found in the treatment of other neurological disorders? Edward Chein, M.D., in Palm Springs, California, has said with reference to growth hormone that, "We have a therapy that can repair systems. Damage to the neurologic system resulting from age or injury can be repaired." Chaovanee Aroonsakul, M.D., of the Alzheimer's and Parkinson's Disease Diagnostic and Treatment Center in Naperville, Illinois, has discussed her own successes using growth hormone. She has been able to demonstrate the regeneration of nerve cells, restored hormonal balance, and improved functional capacity in patients with Alzheimer's disease, senile dementia, Parkinson's disease, and stroke. Dr. Aroonsakul writes that, "Further experience with these methods has demonstrated their usefulness for a variety of age-related conditions including osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, sexual dysfunction, lack of stamina, and mental and physical slowing."

I find particularly interesting the fact that in her study of over three hundred patients, Dr. Aroonsakul has recorded consistently lower levels of HGH in patients with Parkinson's, MS, and stroke and a "profound deficiency" of HGH in Alzheimer's patients. In her work with Alzheimer's patients, some improvement frequently occurs within weeks after first administration of growth hormone. However, maximal benefits often require several years of ongoing treatment. This is not surprising. Growth hormone is not a miracle drug. It is a natural hormone that works by stimulating the slow rebuilding, healing, and replacement of healthy, efficient cells.

Exactly what it does for brain cells is not yet fully understood. It's probable, however, that HGH's capacity to accelerate protein synthesis is crucial. It's known that when the enzymes required for protein synthesis (and therefore for healing and continued cellular regeneration) are lacking in the brain, cellular death can occur. Dr. Aroonsakul believes that growth hormone's beneficial effects include:

● A general increase in cerebral blood flow, thereby enhancing the metabolism of brain cells

●Enhanced growth and repair of protein (anabolism) leading to increased activity of brain cells and an increase in the formation of DNA and RNA

●A revitalization of neuronal dendrites and axons

As our population ages, Alzheimer's looks more and more like an epidemic, and my conversations with leading neurologists around the country have left me with no doubt that growth hormone should be one of the most closely researched treatments in this growing field. By the age of 85 to 90, approximately 50% of our aging populations suffers with dementia of the Alzheimer’s type.

Such treatments will become all the more important if, as predicted, human longevity shows a marked increase in the coming decades. Odd as it may seem, there are some indications that Alzheimer's and Parkinson's are not so much "diseases" as part of the normal process of aging for some people. Aren't the shakiness and the clumsy steps of a typical ninety-year-old basically due to the same shortage of dopamine-producing neurons that we call Parkinson's when we find it in a fifty-year-old? Yet no one speaks of Parkinson's in regard to the ninety-year-old unless the symptoms are very advanced indeed. As for Alzheimer's, more than half of the men and women in their late eighties to nineties are in at least the first stages of it. Aren't Parkinson's and Alzheimer's therefore just part of the normal process of aging? Probably no one would have called them diseases if it wasn't that they occur in a certain percentage of people who haven't yet reached advanced old age. Instead, we'd still be calling Alzheimer's senility, and Parkinson's would be merely the characteristic tremors of extreme antiquity. I exaggerate, but only slightly.

The intriguing thing about HGH and its effect upon these neurological disorders is that what it may actually be doing is slowing the aging process in people who for one reason or another are the victims of premature aging. But if HGH can do this for people who have been dealt an unlucky hand in the genetic card game, then presumably it can also slow aging in the rest of us and help to ensure that we won't be slow of wit and step when we're ninety but rather pushing on vigorously toward a hundred. Certainly this is speculation but not without foundation. In addition to all its other benefits, HGH replacement therapy may eventually earn recognition as a major form of preventive medicine.

The Full Spectrum of Therapy

We've talked at length about HGH's capacity to increase energy and muscle strength, its enhancement of immune function, and its effects on the central nervous system. If those three things were all it did-and if it did them as efficiently and forcefully as the evidence indicates it does- then I suppose we would have a good and valid reason for saying that this was the most important  substance ever discovered to correct age-related, adult growth hormone deficiency, and perhaps one of the half-dozen greatest medical breakthroughs of this medically crowded century! Very likely will be considered all of that.

 Growth Hormone Promotes Healing

It seems very likely that in the future no one will even consider undergoing major surgery without first receiving human growth hormone injections for as many weeks or months as time allows. Astonishing improvements in healing have become commonplace in the reports of people on growth hormone.

One of my own patients, a skeptical and medically conservative forty-eight-year-old dentist named Herb Halliday, started taking HGH when his brother, a doctor, told him how much success he was having mending the broken hips of older female patients with the help of the hormone. Halliday had led a vigorously athletic life since childhood, and the price he had had to pay for pursuing half a dozen sports into middle age included two broken collarbones, knee injuries, and back injuries. Now he was set for back surgery, an operation very similar to one he had had ten years before. He began taking HGH, and when the operation was performed, he was astonished to discover that he healed much more quickly and easily this time than he had when he was a decade younger.

I had another patient who had been troubled by a gimpy knee for several years. Within a few months of starting growth hormone therapy, the problem went away. This man, who's only forty-one, has a serious hip problem. A cartilage hole in the hip socket causes him more or less continuous pain, which in a few more years may be severe enough to make him a candidate for a hip replacement. We're watching closely to see if supplemental HGH will help his body repair the cartilage. If it does, this will be an unexpected breakthrough, but not entirely surprising considering the powers of the hormone.

Loss of bone is a bane of aging. Women have taken it more to heart, for not only do they have less bone to start with, they begin losing it sooner and at a faster pace than their male counterparts. For them, ten years before the average man, the consequences of ignoring bone loss can be literally shattering. A large percentage of women in nursing homes arrive courtesy of a broken hip.

For many women, estrogen (and progesterone) replacement therapy can be an important part of the solution. HGH may turn out to be the other part. Rudman's original study showed a 1.7 percent increase in the bone density of the lumbar vertebrae. Though this may seem slight, bone replacement, like bone loss, accumulates over time, and Rudman's subjects were men. In another recent study, forty-two postmenopausal women with low bone mass were treated with HGH for twelve weeks. In just three months, the rate of new bone formation increased by 30 to 40 percent.

In California, Dr. Edmund Chein has treated scores of patients with osteoporosis with human growth hormone and has measured increases in bone density averaging 2 to 3 percent a year. Since the average postmenopausal woman is losing bone at a rate approaching that, this apparently modest increase is actually not so modest, and such a reversal of fortune in the bone department is a result devoutly to be wished for.

When it comes to heart disease, the gender advantage reverses itself—men are at risk approximately a decade earlier than women. It's extremely interesting that growth hormone deficiency in adults is associated with a sharply increased risk of death from cardiovascular illness. And, of course, in old age when the highest percentage of cardiovascular illness occurs, we are all, by definition, HGH deficient.

Some of the typical physical characteristics that put older men and women at risk for blocked arteries and eventual heart attacks appear to be at least partially reversible when growth hormone levels are normal. One of these is obvious enough—abdominal obesity. Studies have shown that HGH not only reduces fat, it especially reduces it around the waist and abdomen. One analysis showed a 27 percent decrease fat-related in skin-fold thickness in that area after six months of HGH administration. For folks in their middle years and older who are trying to avoid a heart attack, this is highly significant.

The gender associations are interesting. Most men when they gain weight put it on around the chest and abdomen. This cardiovascularly unfortunate distribution correlates well with their higher heart attack risk. Women—premenopausally—gain weight mostly in their buttocks and thighs with no increase in heart attack risk. After menopause, however, they, too, begin to gain weight in their abdomen and upper body. How much they gain has a direct statistical association with their chance of heart disease. The closer they get to the male pattern of upper body heaviness, the more at risk they are.

In addition, in some studies, low blood levels of HGH are also associated with low levels of "good" HDL cholesterol. To the extent that cholesterol affects the likelihood of heart attacks—and the cholesterol theory has certainly been exaggerated in that regard—then more HDL cholesterol might prove protective in the person who takes replacement HGH. People with lower levels of HGH are reported to be at greater risk for cardiovascular mishaps. In fact, ultrasound imaging has shown them to have greater thickening of blood vessel walls when compared to more normal population groups.

One final fact is easily overlooked but shouldn't be. The heart is just as much a muscle as the bicep in your arm, and, in the demands that are made on it, it's the premier muscle of the human body. Three billion beats in an average lifetime. Therefore, shouldn't it suffer adverse effects when the body's main muscle-building hormone declines? Well, I think so, and a new study of growth-hormone-deficient adults before and after treatment with HGH certainly supports that conclusion. Dr. Antonio Cittadini and his colleagues at the Federico II University Medical School in Italy measured the cardiac impairments in eleven patients, both at rest and during exercise. After light to moderate exercise, the patients complained of weakness. Their systolic blood pressure (which measures the force of blood when the heart is actually pumping) was significantly less forceful than that of healthy normal patients. In addition, their ejection fraction, a measurement of the heart's pumping efficiency, was unusually low.

The Italian doctors put those patients on human growth hormone for six months and, at the end of that time, not only was there a significant increase in their exercise endurance, but their indexes of cardiac function were now identical to those of the healthy control patients. Apparently, growth hormone had done it again.

WHAT ARE WE WAITING FOR?

It seems apparent that in human growth hormone we have uncovered one of the important sources of human vitality—contributing to and improving physical endurance, cardiac function, immune function, and protection of the central nervous system. Nor is that all. Growth hormone is a jack-of-all-trades. It produces more rapid recovery after surgery, it helps burn patients recover, it reverses age-related atrophy of major organs such as the liver and the kidneys, and some doctors are now using it to treat patients with advanced emphysema. It can't cure the damaged lungs, but because of the HGH-induced increase in muscle eficiency, the diaphragm contracts more forcefully and more air is brought into the lungs, allowing patients with late-stage lung disease to have a few more years of functional life.

 Does Growth Hormone Work Alone?

Perhaps this is the chief fallacy that weakens modern medicine's approach to understanding nutritional and hormonal therapies. HGH is a startling therapy with a capacity to do certain things that perhaps no other hormone or drug we're aware of can do. And yet that doesn't mean it should be given in isolation, nor does it mean that it's nearly as effective alone as it is when the individual taking it is also exercising, eating well, and taking other nutrients and possibly other hormones. Despite my occasional analogies to an automobile engine that needs gas to run, the body is not a simple machine. It is an incredibly complicated whole with incredibly diverse needs.

I would never treat a patient with just one substance. If he or she is receiving HGH from me, then you can be certain that that person is also receiving vitamins and minerals in abundance and almost certainly some of the other deficient hormones more commonly prescribed. And advice on diet and exercise will be part of the package. Pro-longevity hormones deserve a pro-longevity lifetime health plan.

Consider Meg Bowen, a sixty-six-year-old patient under treatment with a colleague of mine. Meg has been on estrogen replacement therapy for more than a decade. I'm convinced that has helped maintain her bones and her overall physical conditioning. She looks wonderful. She says her friends tell her she looks ten years younger than her age. I don't think they're far off. Nonetheless, two years ago Meg was starting to feel the first indications of her years. Her energy was down a little bit, her hair had thinned, and in the spring and fall, pollen allergies would reduce her to misery. Then one winter she had a severe flu followed by pneumonia. That really took it out of her.

Her physician put her on DHEA and convinced her to try growth hormone. The changes she experienced soon afterward were dramatic. Within three months she felt a flood of energy. Her hair thickened again with better texture. The changes in her muscle strength were obvious. She started an exercise program using a treadmill and three pound weights about half an hour a day.

And there was one other change Meg hadn't expected. She had the beginning of a cataract in her right eye. The progression of the condition not only halted, but in Ruth's opinion her eyesight improved. Assuming that it was human growth hormone that produced this effect, Ruth is not the only person to notice eye improvement after HGH replacement therapy. Dr. Julian Whitaker, a well-known physician and medical writer, reports that his own eyesight improved to such an extent after he began HGH that he seldom needs his glasses anymore. There has been speculation that HGH strengthens eye muscle fibers, contributing to focus and lessening eyestrain.

Meg's reactions are simple and straightforward: "I just feel good all the time. I've got lots of energy, more than I've had in years, and I wouldn't go without growth hormone." I think that the most dramatic changes Meg Bowen has experienced are, in all probability, due to the human growth hormone she's taking daily. But I wouldn't discount the importance of everything else she's doing right. Your body appreciates every good thing you do for it. Someone like Meg who has a full anti-aging program in place and complete determination to live life to the fullest is simply two or three steps ahead of all the rest of us. If you could meet her, you'd see what I mean. And let me mention one other thing you may already have noticed. For whatever reason, there are far fewer women on HGH than men. I don't know if women are reluctant to incur the expense; or if they think that a therapy that increases strength is inherently appropriate to men; or if they're more cautious than their male counterparts about undertaking a treatment that's still controversial. But I have noticed that the women who do get growth hormone do just as well on it as men and are equally happy with the results.

ALLEGED STUDY FAILURE ACTUALLY PROVED BENEFIT

I couldn't do full justice to the complexities of growth hormone without mentioning a study (1996) published in the prestigious Annals of Internal Medicine and written up in some of the news media as proof of the ineffectiveness of human growth hormone as an anti-aging therapy. The study was done at the University of California, San Francisco, on fifty-two healthy older men (average age: seventy-five) who had well-preserved mental and physical abilities.

The scientists gave half the patients growth hormone (approximately twelve units weekly) for six months and the other half a placebo. There were some side effects in the form of minor fluid retention and joint aches, which I attribute to the size of the initial dose. At the end of the period of study, there was little change in the untreated group. The patients on growth hormone had gained an average of 4.3 percent of lean muscle mass and had decreased their fat by 13.1 percent, but, in spite of these body-composition changes, the authors of the study reported seeing no significant improvement in mental or physical functionality. They therefore concluded that growth hormone was not a desirable therapeutic approach to address normal aging in healthy older men.

When I looked at the study, I found its conclusions unacceptable for a number of reasons. First, it hardly qualified as a true indication of what HGH can do for the average aging person. It was, in effect, an attempt to learn if the small minority of elderly men who have retained all their youthful functions at a high level could be turned into supermen simply by taking a hormone. I don't think that's possible, and I think you'll notice that most of the people whose improvements are described here either had physical problems that needed improving or took active charge of their health by exercising and adding other nutrients and hormones to their regimen. I don't doubt that the subjects of the University of California study would have significantly improved their functionality, too, if, in addition to taking HGH, they had improved their diets and increased physical activity. They might, indeed, have ended up closer supermen for their age; instead they simply ended up with less fat and more muscle.

The other area in which the study falls short is in interpretation of the actual results. The results, after all, were very attractive. Let me summarize them. The men who got growth hormone:

●.Lost an average of twenty-three pounds of fat in six months.

●.Gained eight pounds of functional, protein-based lean tissue.

●.Gained one and three-fourths pounds of bone mineral {calcium).

●.Gained 3 percent in knee strength

●.Gained 12 percent in skin thickness

●.Gained 12 percent in a mental dexterity test.

I think it is dubious to claim that these results—achieved by sitting on one's duff—are simply nothing. And the last item on that list is very interesting. The authors of the study actually conducted several mental function tests on their subjects. The test that was interesting was one that measured visual tracking skills, hand-eye coordination, and concentration, and it was this test that showed the highly significant 12 percent gain. The other tests involve such things as knowing what year it is or what day of the week and are really only useful in people showing significant mental decline. Naturally, the subjects of this study did equally well on such tests both before and after they took HGH, but when the absence of improvement in these tests was averaged in with the more complex test on which there was a 12 percent gain, the final score failed to achieve statistical significance. It strikes me that this is a poorly designed method of measuring changes in mental function, and that the study protocol may have been specifically designed to show poor results.

In any event, if this is the study that allegedly disproves the efficacy of HGH in the elderly—and it has been touted as such—then those who oppose hormone replacement had better go back to the drawing boards. They will need a heftier club than this.

Another study from the Annals of Internal Medicine that same year reported very positive results, concluding that HGH replacement, “. . . increases bone density and stimulates bone turnover, decreases body fat and increases lean mass, and is associated with a low incidence of side effects.”

In January 2005, a study performed in Norway showed a 7% increase in exercise endurance and a 4% loss of fat after 9 months on HGH replacement therapy.

The opposition to hormone replacement and HGH is caused by a combination of psychological and legal factors, including medical politics. Mainstream physicians are reluctant to prescribe new and innovative treatments before they have FDA approval for marketing claims. To do so makes practitioners vulnerable to criticism from their colleagues—which can cause loss of patient referrals—and makes it more difficult to defend against malpractice lawsuits—since the standard of care is legally defined by what the majority of physicians prescribe.

If the majority does not yet endorse or prescribe a newer and non-traditional but emerging therapy, then in their own minds, as a psychological defense—if the therapy is truly in the best interests of their patients—they may defensively judge the therapy to be unsafe or ineffective. To do otherwise could imply that they themselves are not providing the best medical care. This may result in unjustified criticism of an emerging practice as unnecessary or even dangerous.

SAILING ON

My conclusions remain unremittingly positive. In fourty years of practicing medicine, I haven't seen a new therapeutic tool come along with anything like such power to improve such a range of human ailments. Nor have I in that time seen anything that so dramatically improves the quality of life of patients who don't have anything fundamentally out of whack except the age they've reached and the way it makes them feel.

Perhaps a growth-hormone patient named Oliver Madan described the feeling HGH gives older people best of all. Oliver's seventy-seven, and he didn't have much wrong with him except the fact that he was really starting to feel his age. No energy; no get-up-and-go; no muscles; falling asleep all the time, even when he was driving his car. Oliver's conclusion: his life was winding down.

After eight months of HGH, he came to a different conclusion. Now he no longer needs so much sleep-and certainly not while driving. Now the muscles in his legs and his arms are hardening. Now he runs up the steps in his house, ''as if I were twenty years younger."

"I thought my life was almost over," Oliver told me. "But now I'm planning to go on to a hundred."

An extensive list of clinical studies showing safety and effectiveness

Copyright © 2012 Elmer M. Cranton, M.D., all rights reserved

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