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Human Growth Hormones: Uses & Side Effects

Instructor: Amanda Robb

Amanda has taught high school science for over 10 years. They have a Master's Degree in Cellular and Molecular Physiology from Tufts Medical School and a Master's of Teaching from Simmons College. They also are certified in secondary special education, biology, and physics in Massachusetts.

This lesson is about human growth hormone, or HGH. We will discuss what HGH is, its normal function in humans, conditions for which it is prescribed, its side effects, and ways it has been abused for unintended use.

What is HGH?

Human growth hormone, or HGH, is a natural hormone produced in a part of the brain called the pituitary gland. This hormone circulates through the blood and causes growth and repair of cells. HGH is important during development in childhood and for repair of tissue during adulthood. Below is an image of how HGH is released and what it does to the body.

HGH is released by the pituitary gland to trigger growth and repair in the body.
HGH effects in the body

During racing video games, your car runs on gasoline. This is like normal food and hormones for your body; they keep you going at a steady pace. HGH is like a turbo boost; it speeds up growth, lets your body develop muscle faster, and increases metabolism. Sometimes, the turbo boost is good and appropriate, but other times it can make you go off the track and crash your car, or in our case, your body!

HGH can be like a turbo boost for a car, but sometimes it can make you go too fast.
Racing Game

What Do Doctors Use HGH for?

HGH is legal with a prescription in the United States for certain conditions. In children, HGH is used to treat conditions where children have poor growth. The conditions HGH can be prescribed for include genetic disorders, such as Turner syndrome, kidney problems, and HGH deficiency. Children who were born prematurely and are at a low birth weight may also benefit from HGH. In adults, HGH is prescribed for digestive disorders where nutrients are not absorbed, diseases that have muscle degeneration, such as HIV/AIDS, and HGH deficiencies. Below is an image of prescription HGH in injection form. If people don't make enough HGH, adding extra HGH can return them to a healthy balance, but too much HGH can be harmful.

HGH is given as an injection when prescribed by a doctor. Nutropin is a brand name for prescription HGH.
HGH injection

Why Do People Abuse HGH?

Any other use of HGH is illegal. However, people still take the risk of using HGH. Since HGH stimulates cell growth and repair, athletes or body builders sometimes take this as a supplement illegally to try to bulk up and gain muscle mass. Below is the physique body builders hope to achieve with HGH supplements.

Some body builders use HGH off label in hopes of achieving the perfect physique.
body builder

Supplements that supposedly stimulate HGH production are also available, but their efficacy is not supported. HGH levels decline with age, so some people try to take HGH in hope of obtaining eternal youth. However, this use is not approved by the FDA. To think about what might happen to people who take HGH without a prescription, think back to our race car analogy. Here, we have the turbo boost speeding us up too much, and we zoom out of control and crash over a cliff.

What Are the Side Effects of HGH?

Side effects of HGH can be dangerous.
side effects of HGH

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