On January 15th scores of articles based on research carried out by Stanford University hit the web claiming that human growth hormones (HGH) did not help to increase life span or fitness and may have adverse effects including joint swelling and pain, carpal tunnel syndrome and a tendency toward diabetes. After reading a few, it was unclear to me which HGH therapy they were talking about: HGH injections or HGH releasing supplements. Today I found an article in the LA Times which cleared this up for me.
The LA Times article clearly states that it is the very costly HGH injections that don’t work and have potentially dangerous side-effects. There is no mention of HGH releasing supplements.
HGH releasing supplements contain amino acids such as glutamine, glysine and L-arginine. These are branched-chain amino acids that anti-aging doctors and supplement manufacturers claim release HGH and may prevent or slow some of the effects of old age.
So if you are taking HGH releasing supplements, do you have cause to worry?
The Stanford University research doesn’t answer this. In 2003, Mary Lee Vance in her editorial in The New England Journal of Medicine, dismisses research on branched-chain amino acids because it was based on intraveneous arginine and states: “The effect of oral branched-chain amino acids is akin to that of eating a steak.”
She’s right about the steak – eating red meat releases HGH as does exercise and deep sleep. However, since her editorial was published new research based on oral branched-chain amino acids has become available and the results are interesting.
Effects of an oral mixture containing glycine, glutamine and niacin on memory, HGH and IGF-I secretion in middle-aged and elderly subjects Nutr Neurosci. 2003 Oct;6(5):269-75.
- Concluded that an oral mixture of glycine, glutamine and niacin can enhance GH secretion in healthy middle-aged and elderly subjects.
The effects of 8 weeks of creatine monohydrate and glutamine supplementation on body composition and performance measures.
Lehmkuhl M, Malone M. Auburn University, Auburn, AL 36849, USA.
J Strength Cond Res. 2003 Aug;17(3):425-38.
- Results suggest CM and creatine-glutamine significantly increase body mass, LBM, and initial rate of power production during multiple cycle ergometer bouts.
Effect of oral L arginine on blood pressure and symptoms and endothelial function in patients with systemic hypertension, positive exercise tests, and normal coronary arteries. Am J Cardiol. 2004 Apr 1;93(7):933-5.
- Concluded that in medically treated hypertensive patients with micro-vascular angina, oral L-arginine may represent a useful therapeutic option.
The influence of two different doses of L arginine oral supplementation on nitric oxide (NO) concentration and total antioxidant status (TAS) in atherosclerotic patients. Med Sci Monit. 2004 Jan;10(1):CR29-32.
- Concluded that oral supplementation of L arginine for 28 days leads to substantial increases in NO and TAS levels in the blood of patients with atherosclerotic peripheral arterial disease at Fontaine’s stages II and III. The TAS concentration rise points to an antioxidative effect of L arginine oral supplementation.
Now, I’m no scientist, but it would seem to me that from reading the above abstracts (please link through and have a look at them) there are benefits to taking branched-chain amino acids and that the benefits relate to conditions that we associate with aging. They are not always associated with HGH, and for me, there lies the problem:
Scientific research studies shows us only part of the picture – the small part that they are trying to prove. It is up to us to connect the dots, make sense out of it all and relate it to our own health needs.