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What are the potential pros and cons of taking human growth hormone?

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
You may have seen a lot of it in the news because of athletes accused of taking it to improve performance, but human growth hormone also has gotten a lot of press for its purported anti-aging benefits.

Many marketers want you to believe that boosting HGH blood levels can reduce body fat; build muscle; improve sex life, sleep quality, vision, and memory; restore hair growth and color; strengthen the immune system; normalize blood sugar; increase energy; and turn back your body's biological clock.

But the flip side is that it causes swollen and painful joints, carpal tunnel syndrome, gynecomastia (big breasts are a big price to pay for men), and a trend toward the onset of diabetes (a big price for both genders). It also offers no benefits in clinically relevant outcomes, such as bone density, cholesterol and lipids, and maximal oxygen consumption.

We think growth hormone might help with cholesterol and lean muscle mass, but the differences are so small that adopting even a few of the many non-HGH options that exist for increasing vitality will offer you equivalent results—and without the $1,000-a-month price tag of growth hormone.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.