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The Hunger Project Bolen Report
Ohm Society
Human Growth Hormone (HGH) Print E-mail
by Ron Kennedy, M.D., Santa Rosa, CA

Dr. Kennedy

The full story on aging is as yet incompletely known. Why do we age? What changes us, and what can we do about it to halt, reverse, or at least slow down this process? One factor which is important in the aging process, is the slowing down of the hormonal system, particularly the adrenal glands and the thyroid gland. A program to slow the aging process must take into consideration the function of these two glands or be woefully inadequate. Thyroid extract and DHEA have become mainstays in the treatment of premature aging. Human growth hormone (abbreviated HGH) is produced in the pituitary gland, a tiny gland at the base of the brain which regulates the endocrine glands. The pituitary is the master gland which regulates the entire hormone system. In fact, 40% of the anterior pituitary cells are "somatocytes," cells which make HGH. Based on the number of cells devoted to the job, nature seems to think the production of HGH is critically important.

HGH is in abundant supply in the normal young human being and is responsible for the final adult size of the body. It controls the size of muscles and internal organs and the length of bones. The bones of the legs and arms are lengthening in direct response to HGH until age eighteen. These bones fuse at age eighteen just at that place where lengthening is taking place. Final height and length of arms is determined by this event, since no further lengthening is possible after this fusion.

With aging, almost everything shrinks in size, and all the organs slow in metabolic rate: the heart, the kidneys, the liver, pancreas, digestive tract, etc. — all the organs, as well as muscle. The only thing which does not shrink in size is the percentage of body weight stored as fat. All other factors being equal the percent of body weight which is fat increases progressively.

In childhood, HGH causes the growth of long bones and this brings a person to his or her final height. Traditionally, this was all HGH was thought to do. New research shows that every cell in the body has HGH receptors and that HGH is doing a host of jobs in human metabolism in every organ in the body. There are even receptors in the brain the activation of which results in the production of endorphans, molecules which keep one's mood even and upbeat. Skin cells respond to HGH with even growth producing the smooth appearance of children's skin. Cells in the brain respond by literally coming back to life (about 10% of the brain cells become non-functional each decade of life). Thus, HGH is the latest and most effective treatment for Alzheimer's disease, although the large double-blind clinical trials have not yet been done.

One consistent effect of HGH deficiency is irritability and when a person receives replacement therapy this reverts to a profound sense of well-being. Bone cells respond by making new bone and osteoporosis reverses, although this effect requires two or more years for completion. Fat cells respond by giving up their little lives as they are burned for energy. The weight gain around the middle which is so characteristic of HGH deficiency, melts away in a few months. Muscle cells respond by becoming larger and stronger, especially in the upper body. The strength and endurance of youth reappears. Many people are able to read without reading glasses again as the ciliary muscle of the eye becomes stronger again.

Given the many function of HGH, it, more than any other hormone, determines the physical changes which are an expression of aging. Predictably, levels of HGH fall off progressively with age. With what we know about HGH, it really should be renamed to HVH: human vitality hormone.

The Biochemistry of HGH

The biochemistry of HGH is complex. It seems that we all have plenty of HGH, but as we age it is prevented from being released from the pituitary by deficiency of HGH releasing hormone (HGHRH) which is made in the hypothalamus of the brain and by a substance called HGHP, a peptide of seven small amino acids. One day it may be possible to supplement with one or both of these two substances and cause the release of your own HGH; however as yet these are not commercially available.

For people who want to get the full benefit of HGH, it is necessary to raise plasma levels to those enjoyed by the average person in his or her 20s. We need 30-50% of the amount children have and very few adults produce and release this much on his/her own.

Some of the effect of HGH are immediate: increased energy, ability to concentrate, interest and ability in sex; others take a few months to a year to show up: increased aerobic capacity and strength, thickening of hair, tightening of wrinkles and loose skin, decrease in visceral fat; and one takes two years: strengthening of osteoporotic bones.

I prefer to treat illnesses at the most fundamental level and for many of the ailments of "old age" the most fundamental cause is HGH deficiency. The only treatment which fully reverses HGH deficiency is HGH replacement therapy.

HGH is a powerful rejuvenating agent. Unfortunately, it also is super-expensive. Many hormones are exactly the same in animals and humans, but human growth hormone is different from that produced in the pituitary gland of any other animal. Until recent years it had to be harvested in minute quantities from human pituitaries.

In the 1980s, it became possible to synthesize HGH using recombinant DNA techniques, coaxing bacteria to do the job by inserting the proper human gene into their genome. The average cost of one year of therapy is $10,000 which makes this a rich person's therapy. The price may come down in the future, but it will never be cheap.

In addition, HGH is stringently controlled. Because there is a potential for abuse, the legitimate need for HGH must be thoroughly documented. However, most people over age fifty, and many younger than that, can be shown to be in need of HGH for optimal health. In the ideal world, everyone in need of HGH would receive it. Because of economic and other considerations, only a fortunate few will receive it.

Anaerobic Exercise

Now, let us talk about the most powerful way possible to increase growth hormone release: exercise. Vigorous, sustained, anaerobic exercise causes the release of growth hormone, as every serious body builder knows well.

There is one way to block the release of growth hormone, even in the presence of this type of exercise, and that is carbohydrate intake. For maximal effect, body builders consume pure protein, no carbohydrates, and pump iron to exhaustion. (I am not suggesting you do that, only making a point.)

To get the best HGH release, use of the largest muscles in the body is best, namely the lower extremities. A body-builder favorite is to place a heavy barbell on the shoulders and do repeated squats. They do not reach for the sport drink after that because the infusion of carbs wipes out the HGH response.

If you are doing "aerobics," and you want to get into the anaerobic range to reap the benefits of HGH release, it is necessary to press yourself into the painful zone, which is how it feels to be running, bicycling, etc. in an anaerobic condition. The maximum workout time is fifteen to thirty minutes. (This is not something you should try until you have received clearance from your doctor.) After that, if you have done it correctly, you cannot continue, due to exhaustion. Recovery should take five minutes, and at that time your heart should have returned to its resting rate. If it does not, see your doctor.

Also, if you do not feel absolutely wonderful thirty minutes later, see your doctor about possible adrenal fatigue. Of course, your doctor must also be aware of these things, and therefore I recommend that you choose your doctor carefully. Not all docs are informed about exercise hormone physiology, since there is no synthetic drug to prescribe for it.

Of course, you must get your doctor's okay before you do these types of strenuous exercises pumping iron and "anaerobic aerobics." You must be certain that your heart can take it, and you must begin slowly and build up. I strongly recommend that you find a trainer to help get you started.

Ornithine--keto-glutarate, Creatine, and L-Arginine

Ornithine--keto-glutarate is the only commercially available substance known to cause the release of HGH. The effect is modest and is nothing compared to direct supplementation with real HGH. Nevertheless, many body builders use it with every workout. If building lean muscle mass, and decreasing body fat is what you want, there is a better choice: creatine. Creatine is cheaper and more effective. It has a dramatic effect, even in the absence of exercise. Creatine is the substance in meat which causes muscle growth. It is the very reason some people say they "get something from meat" which they feel they cannot get from a vegetarian diet. A mere two grams daily is sufficient to do the job. It is odorless, tasteless, and mixes well with food, water or juice. Wait thirty days for the full result, or if you want quick results, use six grams per day for one week, then back off to two grams per day. Creatine is excellent for treating the "dwindles" of old age — that condition in which old people literally shake with weakness. After a few weeks, the shaking stops as strength returns. It is a dramatic effect.

L-arginine has many beneficial effects, increased stamina being one of them. It also helps expand constricted blood vessels and protects from infectious agents entering through the mouth. Both of these actions are accounted for by the fact that the body produces nitric oxide from arginine. This also has a powerful effect on the prevention of cardiovascular disease and should be a mainstay of your preventive program, along with vitamin C.

Growth Hormone Production

However, for the best effect, there must be a youthful level of HGH ready for release, and for this you need a plentiful supply of circulating amino acids. You can achieve this by taking free-form amino acids, which are expensive, or you can achieve the same results by taking a thrice daily protein drink along with an enzyme preparation of proteinase, or at least containing proteinase. This splits protein into its amino acids immediately. I recommend organic soy protein powder.

Don't overdo it. Remember your recommended daily protein intake, expressed in grams, is eighty percent of your body weight expressed in kilograms. One pound = 0.454 kilograms. For example, if you weigh 150 pound, in kilos your weight is 150 x 0.454 = 68.1 kilograms. Your recommended daily protein intake is 0.8 x 68.1 = 54.45 or about 50-60 grams.

If you are doing vigorous athletics and building/repairing muscle, it may be temporarily more, up to twice as much, but never more than that.

If I were you, given the extreme cost of laboratory-produced HGH, unless you are rich like Ross Perot, I would forget about external supplementation and use the above methods, especially exercise, to make my own. Besides, what could be better for you than you own Human Growth Hormone?

Hyperlinks to related topics:

For a more general discussion of aging, see Aging in America and Hormones and Aging. For the impact of aging in our society: Hormone Replacement Therapy. The Rudman Study of Human Growth Hormone was the landmark study, published in 1990, and more than any other study propelled HGH to the forefront of anti-aging medicine. For a more clinical discussion of HGH deficiency: HGH Deficiency Syndrome of Adulthood

Claims for Oral HGH Releasing Agents

There is a market frenzy going on right now with many companies putting combination of nutrients on the market which are supposed to raise HGH levels. There are minimally effective at best and I have not found one of them to be clinically effective. Some, apparently, in some people, produce a temporary increase in HGH, but because the effects of HGH occur over a long period of time, this increase is of no significance as the increase is not lasting.


  • Rudman D, et. al Effects of human growth hormone in men over sixty years old The New Engl J of Med July 5, 1990; vol 323:1-5.
  • Hall K, Sara VR Somatomedin levels in childhood, adolescence, and adult life J Clin Endocrinol Metab 1984; 13:91-112.
  • Cynober L Can arginine and ornithine support gut function? Gut 1994; suppl. 1:S12-S15.
  • Welbourne TC Increased plasma bicarbonate and growth hormone after oral glutamine load. Am J Clin Nutr 1995; 61:1058-1061.

The information in this article is not meant to be medical advice.�Treatment for a medical condition should come at the recommendation of your personal physician.

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