I receive a lot of letters from people asking what I think about human growth hormone (HGH). The advertisements make it sound like a fountain of youth. But a new study suggests otherwise.

The study followed 131 men and women ages 65-88 for 26 weeks. The researchers were interested in physical improvements from steroid and hormone use. They compared HGH to a placebo, sex steroids, and sex steroids plus HGH.

In the HGH group, both sexes lost a few pounds of fat and gained a few pounds of muscle. However, the researchers noted better functional performance only in the men who received testosterone.

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While that sounds great, the side effects of HGH were significant. During the study, 18 of the men who took growth hormone developed either diabetes or glucose intolerance.

Other side effects, which were most common in men, included swelling of the arms and legs, carpal tunnel syndrome, and joint pain. Growth hormone also raises blood insulin levels, which may promote cancer development and heart disease.

I've questioned the unbridled use of growth hormone since its big media splash several years ago. And today I'm seeing patients who were prescribed HGH from other doctors tell me that although they felt better at first, they later stopped the hormone due to joint pains.

The data shows that sustained use of HGH is very dangerous. Besides, there are more natural ways to increase HGH without taking the hormone. Exercise and a low-carbohydrate diet are at the top of the list.  High-glycemic carbs promote insulin, HGH's antagonist, so they are not a wise class of foods to eat if you're in the HGH game.

Supplements containing the amino acids ornithine, lysine, glutamine, and arginine can help naturally release HGH from the pituitary gland. A prescription trans-dermal formulation called Trans D Tropin may be among the best of the growth hormone releasers. I've not heard of any untoward effects using this product, which is available from your integrative physician.

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