Influence on body functions

Growth hormone (somatropin, somatotropin, growth hormone) is a 191 amino acid peptide hormone secreted by the pituitary gland. The front of the pituitary gland secretes growth hormone based on heart rate, and concentrations vary greatly throughout the day. Most of the daily growth hormone is released 1–2 hours after falling asleep. Many factors affect natural growth hormone levels, such as age, gender, body composition, exercise, diet and sleep.

Growth hormone regulates many functions in the body, including growth. Growth hormone acts through growth factors (IGF-1), which are produced primarily in the liver. Growth hormone also has IGF-independent effects. Some of the effects are even the opposite of those of IGF, such as the effect on blood glucose levels. The independent anabolic effect of growth hormone is not entirely clear; it requires IGF-1 to function effectively.

Growth hormone has a multifaceted effect on carbohydrate and fat metabolism. Growth hormone is an anabolic hormone (that is, a hormone that stimulates tissue growth) that increases the transport of certain amino acids into cells, accelerates protein synthesis, and affects fat metabolism and fluid balance in the body. Growth hormones enhance the muscle-building effects of testosterone and anabolic steroids.

Manufacturing methods

All growth hormone preparations that are registered in Finland are manufactured using recombinant DNA technology. The sale of human growth hormone, which is produced from cadaveric pituitary glands, has been banned in Finland since 1988 due to the risk of developing a fatal disease – Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. On the black market, human growth hormone is sold, often disguised as recombinant growth hormone.

Dosage for use in medicine

The dose of growth hormone in medicine varies depending on the disease and its severity. When treating growth hormone deficiency in adults, the starting dose is 0.15–0.3 milligrams (approximately 0.5–1 IU). For long-term treatment, the recommended dose is no more than 1-1.3 milligrams per day (3-4 IU).

The average dose of growth hormone used to treat adults is 0.67 milligrams per day (2 IU).

Medical applications

In medicine, growth hormone is used to treat children with growth disorders caused by insufficient secretion of growth hormone. In some cases, growth hormone is used to treat adults with severe growth hormone deficiency.

The diagnosis must be confirmed by the precise use of various types of exercise tests, which measure the secretion of growth hormone prior to administration. A physician can be blamed for a therapeutic error if he prescribes growth hormones to a patient without seeing him or doing a thorough diagnosis.

The condition of patients who receive growth hormone must be carefully monitored, in particular, to determine the indicators of thyroid function and conduct an examination to exclude a possible impairment of glucose tolerance (impaired sugar metabolism). It is recommended to assess the adequacy of the dose of growth hormone every 6 months.

Application in bodybuilding

Growth hormones are used to develop anabolic effects. It is believed to increase muscle mass and strength, improve exercise tolerance, and accelerate recovery from injury. Growth hormone is rarely used alone. It is commonly used with anabolic steroids, insulin and IGF-1. Growth hormone can also be used with the intention of reducing the signs of aging and improving the quality of the skin. 

In addition to its anabolic action, growth hormone has a fat burning effect as it increases the breakdown of triglycerides in fat cells and reduces fat storage. Professional cyclists also use growth hormone due to its lipolytic action to reduce body fat.

Growth hormone is a popular doping drug, but its performance-enhancing effects have not been fully proven clinically. The main result of a systematic review and meta-analysis published in 2017 was that growth hormone moderately increases muscle mass and decreases fat, but does not increase muscle strength or improve aerobic capacity in healthy young adults.

The increase in lean mass can be largely attributed to fluid accumulation. The greatest benefit of growth hormone appears to be in accelerating recovery and preventing injury from increased collagen synthesis. In this study, only moderate doses of growth hormone were used.

When overused, doses are usually higher and growth hormone is often used with other anabolic substances. In these cases, various side effects can occur. However, growth hormone is very effective for people who are deficient.

Growth hormone use has likely increased due to its low cost and ease of ordering online. Growth hormone can no longer be seen as a doping agent for major league athletes only. Read more here

Side effects

When HGH is used in adequate therapeutic doses, the most common side effects are joint and muscle pain and various types of edema due to fluid retention. Edema can lead to increased intracranial pressure or fundus edema. It can also lead to the development of carpal tunnel syndrome.

Acute overdose can initially lead to the development of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar levels) and subsequently even lead to the development of coma. In the future, the consequence of therapy may be hyperglycemia (increased sugar levels). 

Long-term therapy can lead to high blood pressure, degeneration of the heart muscle, diabetes mellitus, acromegaly (overgrowth of cartilage, fingers, and chin), and rough and thickened skin. The risk of certain types of cancer (including cancer of the thyroid gland, breast, prostate) also increases. However, there is no exact data on this issue.

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