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Do Over-the-Counter HGH Supplements Work?

Do Over-the-Counter HGH Supplements Work? Do Over-the-Counter HGH Supplements Work?

Overview

Sylvester Stallone and Suzanne Somers are two celebrities whose youthful appearance defies their age. Both promote the use of human growth hormone, or HGH, as an "anti-aging" treatment. But Stephen Barrett, M.D., co-founder of the National Council Against Health Fraud, says that over-the-counter HGH supplements don't work. HGH is a drug that only works when it's injected -- and it's only effective for certain medical conditions.

About HGH

Human growth hormone, or HGH, is released by your pituitary gland, primarily during childhood and adolescence. Barrett explains that HGH exerts its effects on the liver and other body tissues to help your body make insulin-like growth factor I, or IGF-I, which allows HGH to have "growth-like" effects. As you grow older, or if you become considerably overweight, IGF-I levels decrease. HGH is often promoted as a way to supplant fat with lean muscle, which is why many people are interested in HGH as a way to stave off the physical effects of old age.

Health Fraud

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved injectible HGH as a drug to treat very specific medical conditions, such as Turner syndrome, short bowel syndrome in adults, pituitary tumors and muscle wasting associated with HIV/AIDS. The HGH must be injected for it to be effective. According to Barrett, Internet marketers in particular show a keen interest in hawking HGH supplements that purportedly contain real HGH, homeopathic HGH or ingredients that make your body "release" HGH. Barrett notes that these cannot possibly be effective, because even if HGH were present.

Placebo Effect

If over-the-counter HGH supplements seem to work for you, this could be due to the placebo effect, says Robert Butler, M.D., president of the International Longevity Center. All sorts of medications and even "dummy pills" can make you think you feel better, he says. Harvard Medical School indicates that a review of research conducted on HGH injections indicates that adults treated with the injectable form of the drug replaced 4.6 lbs. body fat with the same amount of muscle mass. However, Butler notes that although HGH injections might increase muscle mass, it's not functional muscle mass unless you engage in exercise to make the muscles stronger. But HGH in any form won't slow down the aging process or make you perform better physically.

Other Information

The FDA notes that HGH products are often sold as oral dietary supplements; however, because HGH was approved as a drug in 1940, it cannot legally be sold as a dietary supplement or food product. According to a January 2008 CNN.com news report, some marketers even sell HGH sprays and creams -- these products won't work either. If you have questions about HGH supplements, talk to your treating physician. The best "anti-aging" cure is to eat a healthy diet and get plenty of regular exercise.

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