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The answer is growth hormone. Produced by the pituitary gland, the growth hormone (GH) plays a major role muscle growth, cell reproduction and regeneration, as well as metabolism, the processes that transform fats and sugars into energy for the body.
It’s the vitally important hormone that makes the most difference in the lives of children and adolescents. Growth hormone has profound effects on development of a youngster’s skeleton and muscles.
It is what gives kids going through their critical growing years longer, stronger bones, making them tall. Too much of it gives rise to acromegaly (gigantism, or the thickening the bones of the jaw, fingers and toes) while too little results in the reverse. This latter, named growth hormone deficiency, causes failure to thrive (growth failure) and short stature.
And while helping children build stronger, longer bones, it also helps their body produce bigger muscles to move these bigger bones around.
However, in addition to these effects on children and adolescents, growth hormone has many other effects on the body. It:

  • Promotes lipolysis (breakdown of fats)
  • Stimulates the growth of all internal organs excluding the brain
  • Plays a role in homeostasis (maintenance of the acid base balance of blood, or ph levels)
  • Reduces liver uptake of glucose
  • Promotes gluconeogenesis in the liver (the store of glycogen in the liver for use as energy)
  • Contributes to the maintenance and function of pancreatic islets
  • Stimulates the immune system

Grow, glow, and go

Production of growth hormone reaches its peak by age 20, which is the reason why that’s the usual age that most of us reach our peak height.
Yet, even after physical maturity is attained, growth hormone can still have a great effect on our bodies.

For fatter or worse

Because it regulates metabolism by transforming fat cells into energy, your levels of growth hormone have an indirect bearing on the growth of your waistline, as well.
The more of it you have, the thinner you are likely to be.
And the less growth hormone you have, the more the accumulation of fats.

Through sickness and health

And because it is also vitally important for cell regeneration and cell reproduction, it affects how well your body deals with the effects of aging. Inadequate amounts of growth hormone results in:

  • Sagging skin and wrinkles
  • Poorer digestive system; resulting in lowered absorption of nutrients and sometimes constipation
  • Reduced ability to bounce back from critical illnesses
  • Lowered vitality and energy levels
  • Slower wound healing
  • Lower collagen synthesis/deposition
  • Higher blood pressure
  • Higher blood triglyceride (fat) levels
  • Heightened risk of chronic cognitive disease
  • Increased wear and tear on joint cartilage, resulting in osteoarthritis
  • Reduced sleep quality

You should experience improvement in these areas if your growth hormone levels are normalised - in theory.
You would also expect the following benefits:

  • Reduced abdominal visceral fat
  • Skeletal muscle growth, increase in lean body mass
  • Improved bone mineral density
  • Formation of new cartilage
  • Increased production of bone marrow
  • Improved sleep quality
  • Improved cognition

How would you go about normalising your growth hormone levels if you suspect yours is not?

Growing growth hormone

In 1990, the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), a high profile medical journal, published a study in which GH was used to treat 12 men over 60 years of age.
At the conclusion of the study, all the men on GH showed statistically significant increases in lean body mass and bone mineral, compared to the control group. The authors of the study noted that these improvements were the opposite of the changes that would normally occur over a 10- to 20-year aging period.
This has led to an interest in recent times for using growth hormone as an anti-aging agent. In the United States, some doctors have even started to prescribe growth hormone in otherwise-healthy GH-deficient older patients to increase vitality.
It is also used by athletes, illegally, to improve their sporting performance. Amateur sportsmen reading this should note that this is a disqualifiable offence in professional sports, on par with doping, which is to say, not very sporting at all.
For everyone else who thinks they need it, look no further: human growth hormone is a controlled substance in Singapore under the Poisons Act.LW

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