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(Human Growth Hormone, HGH, Somatotropin)

What is it?

It is a glycoprotein hormone released by the anterior pituitary gland that is necessary for normal cartilage and skeletal growth in humans. hGH acts upon many aspects of cellular metabolism.

Does it occur naturally in the body?


What are the claims?

When hGH is being marketed to bodybuilders and athletes, the claims range from outrageous to ridiculous. Ultimate HGH, which is marketed by Great American Products, is promoted with claims that it can "turn back the clock 20 to 30 years," build muscle, increase memory retention, increase "cardio output," help in losing weight, deliver increased energy, improve vision, enhance immune function and even lower cholesterol.

Does it work?

Yes, the benefits listed below were documented when hGH was used on adult-onset growth hormone deficient patients.

  • Decreased body fat and increased lean body mass while taking hGH. (The loss of body fat did not persist for adult-onset patients when hGH injections were stopped.)
  • Increased aerobic exercise capacity or performance.
  • Increased HDL cholesterol ("good cholesterol") concentrations.
  • Perceived increase in physical mobility and decrease in social isolation as measured by the Nottingham Health Profile (NHP).

The problem is in how you TAKE hGH.

The following information is from Eli Lilly, the company that makes and markets Humatrope, "the first commercially available "man-made" product in which the active constituent was chemically identical to growth hormone produced by the pituitary gland."

On the Humatrope Frequently Asked Questions page it says:

Why do I have to inject Humatrope? Why can't I just take a pill?

What is Eli Lilly's response?

Humatrope is a protein. If it were taken orally, Humatrope would be digested in the stomach in the way that food proteins are digested and would not be useful to the body. Consequently, Humatrope must be injected to be properly absorbed and used by the body.

hGH must be injected to work.
hGH must be injected to work.

Then there's the handling problem. If it gets jostled or shaken when it's being transported, it's no more effective than a sink full of dishwater. The same is true if it's left a room temperature for a few hours. Anyone who doesn't take meticulous care risks rendering it useless.

So what does that mean for all those companies selling hGH in pill or powder form? THEY'RE FULL OF CRAP. If you take hGH orally, it's "not useful to the body."

It gets worse. Most of the companies supposedly selling hGH to athletes and bodybuilders (such as Great American Products) sell products with NO hGH in them.

The official position on hGH is this: According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the only approved uses (indications) of hGH are for the long-term treatment of children who have growth failure due to an inadequate secretion of normal endogenous growth hormone.

What are the dangers?

That depends on when you took hGH and from what companies. Up until 1985, hGH was a human brain-derived product. Unfortunately, that year it was linked to Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), which is a variant of what is now called mad cow disease.

After 1985 synthetic versions of hGH were developed that don't expose the user to CJD, but long-term studies pointed to other risks. Specifically a significant risk of cancer, especially colon cancer and Hodgkin's disease.

It's also known to cause acromegaly (a thickening of the bones in the jaw, forehead and hands) as well as enlargement of the heart, kidneys, hypoglycemia and diabetes. This does not mean that people with medically diagnosed hormone deficiencies should stop taking hGH, but otherwise healthy people should definitely avoid it.

The Bottom Line

Human Growth Hormone has definitely been shown to offer benefits to people with hormone deficiencies, both adults and children. Unfortunately, "over the counter" versions of hGH being marketed today have three significant drawbacks.

  1. Most have no hGH in them at all.
  2. hGH must be injected, not taken orally, to be "useful to the body." Oral hGH is completely worthless.
  3. There's no clinical evidence that topical hGH cream will provide any benefit to humans. Creams are nothing more than a scam.

If you do manage to get a legal prescription for hGH, there are three more drawbacks.

  1. You're putting yourself at risk of cancer, diabetes, enlargement of the heart and kidneys the longer you take it.
  2. If it's poorly handled or kept at the wrong temperature, it becomes worthless.
  3. The loss of body fat did not persist for adult-onset patients when hGH injections were stopped, virtually guaranteeing you would have to continue taking it, all the while increasing your long-term health risks.

Unless prescribed by a doctor for a medical condition, we cannot recommend the supplement hGH for people simply looking to build muscle.

Links for More Info

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Logo and Link
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

Herbs, Botanicals & Other Products - Extensive Information from the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health - Overviews on Herbal Treatments and Supplements

National Institutes of Health

National Institutes of Health - Office of Dietary Supplements
National Institutes of Health - Office of Dietary Supplements

Operation Supplement Safety
Operation Supplement Safety

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Logo and Link
United States Department of Agriculture

WebMD Logo and Link
WebMD - Helping you make better decisions for life.

We at WeBeFit DO NOT recommend ANY supplements to ANY of our clients. ONLY a licensed Nutritionist or Medical Doctor can make those recommendations based on your individual needs.

This is being provided for INFORMATIONAL and EDUCATIONAL purposes only.

CAUTION: These supplements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for safety, effectiveness or purity. There may be unknown risks associated with taking any supplements. There are no regulated manufacturing standards for companies that make supplements. There have been instances where herbal or health supplements have been sold that were contaminated with toxic substances. If you should choose to purchase herbal or health supplements, please only purchase them from a reliable source to minimize the risk of contamination.

If you should decide to use ANY supplement, ALWAYS consult your doctor or Nutritionist first.

Updated 12/30/2007
Updated 5/6/2012
Updated 12/28/2012
Updated 1/21/2013
Updated 12/11/2018