When Juan Ponce de Leon climbed aboard a ship and set sail off the coast of Spain in the 1500s, he was on a mission to find the Fountain of Youth. He was not successful. Instead, he landed in Florida, where in time he was killed with the points of arrows shot by enraged Native Americans. Not exactly the eternal youth he'd sought.
But just because Ponce de Leon did not succeed in locating the Fountain of Youth doesn't mean we've stopped looking for it. In fact, the quest for everlasting youth is unchanging. More than 500 years later, we're still attempting to turn back our bodies' clocks. We infuse our faces with poison, get fat suctioned out, ingest vitamin supplements-anything to eradicate the signs of aging and stick out our tongues at the Grim Reaper.
In fact, nowadays there are a number of people who think they've found youth's fountain-a hormone that aids you in weight loss, diminishes wrinkles, lowers blood pressure, increases muscle mass, raises energy and truly reverses the aging process. It sounds like a dream come true, but it's in fact something our bodies produce naturally-human growth hormone (HGH).
HGH is a hormone manufactured by the pituitary gland, a pea-sized gland located at the base of the brain. The pituitary gland makes different hormones, and each affect a particular portion of the body. The human growth hormone is linked to muscles and bones, and the pituitary gland makes the most HGH during puberty. HGH is critical for normal growth. For example, if a child's body creates too little HGH, the child may wind up being very short in stature. Conversely, if a child's body produces too much HGH, he or she may experience excessive bone growth and become unusually tall. Both situations may result in medical problems.
Even after we mature, our bodies continue to make HGH. It plays a crucial role in regulating our metabolism. We manufacture it as we sleep, which is part of the reason why getting adequate sleep is so significant for our health. Production of HGH begins to decline substantially around age 30 and slows increasingly as we advance in age.
HGH is the source of our youth, vitality and strength. When its presence declines, well, we get old. Proponents of HGH believe that it can reverse the aging process, but this position is not without controversy.