One of the most exciting developments has been the use of growth hormone and growth hormone releasers to reverse aging in older people. Growth hormone is the most abundant hormone made by the pituitary gland in the brain. It hits its peak during the rapid growth phase of adolescence, then steadily declines as we age.
Until recently, HGH was very difficult to obtain and very expensive. It was reserved for the treatment of children who failed to grow to normal height and that was the only indication approved by the FDA.
However in the mid 1980's two drug companies were able to produce HGH though recombinant DNA technology, making it widely available for research and treatment. The FDA now allows American doctors to use HGH for anti-aging treatment, and a booming business in rejuvenation clinics is well underway.
Nine European countries have approved the use of HGH for adult growth hormone deficiency. The definition of HGH deficiency is left up to the doctor who may use it for people who have low levels because of aging as well as for people with pituitary disease.
Swedish endocrinologist and leading HGH researcher Dr. Begnt-Ake Bengtsson presented the results of his study of 333 patients who had pituitary deficiency caused by pituitary tumours or their treatment. They had received treatment with thyroid, adrenal, and sex steroids but not HGH. When he replaced their HGH, their body composition changed dramatically, and cholesterol levels and blood pressure decreased while cardiac output increased.
In addition, Bengtsson noticed that these patients had "increased energy levels, better mood, greater powers of concentration and improved memory." In fact the effect was so startling in some patients who seemed to be jolted awake, that Bengtsson and his colleagues described it as, "the Lazarus effect."
An estimated one third of men between the ages of 60 to 80 have HGH deficiency according to endocrinologist Dr. Daniel Rudman. In July 1990, he and his colleagues published a landmark study in the New England Journal of Medicine . Rudman divided a group of twenty one men between the ages of 60 and 80 into two groups. One received HGH injections three times a week for six months and the other no treatment.
The men receiving the HGH all showed a marked improvement in health and appearance. They gained an average of 8.8 percent in muscle mass, lost an average of 14 percent body fat, and increased skin thickness without changing diet or fitness levels.
Rudman commented that these changes were equivalent in magnitude to the changes that occur in 10 to 30 years of aging. As a result of this study, The National Institute of Aging has funded nine clinical studies on growth hormone, now in progress.
Dr. Ronald Klatz, founder of the A4M dedicated his book, Grow Young With HGH (Harper Collins, 1997) to Rudman and awarded the Academy's highest award to him posthumously for "ideas, vision and daring that opened the door to the future of aging."
Belgian physician Dr. Thierry Hertoghue whose father was one of the first doctors to describe the signs of thyroid deficiency discussed "the growth hormone deficiency syndrome." Symptoms included sagging cheeks, deep and large wrinkles, thin hair, lips, jaw, bones and skin, flappy belly, muscle looseness, permanent fatigue, poor resistance to stress, anxiety, lack of self assurance and lowered sociability.
Using minute doses of growth hormone injections combined with oral replacement of other hormones like estrogen, testosterone, progesterone, and DHEA, if necessary, his results have been close to miraculous in reversing the signs of aging.
Dr. Cyril Bowers, professor of medicine at Tulane University in New Orleans, presented his work on a new class of growth releasing peptides that stimulate the release of HGH, and can be administered orally or nasally.
Natural ways to boost HGH secretion include caloric restriction, vigorous aerobic exercise and resistance training. Various nutrients such as lysine, arginine, glutamine and niacin also boost HGH. Formulas containing these boosters are currently available.
For aging baby boomers, the conference theme "aging is not inevitable" may soon become a reality.
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