Somatotropin, a polypeptide hormone secreted by the pituitary gland, is essential for human growth: it is at the origin of the secretion of somatomedins by the liver and kidneys, which contribute in particular to the growth in length of bones. .
But its interest does not stop at the period of growth in stature and weight. Indeed, growth hormone acts on the distribution of lean tissue and fatty tissue, to the benefit of lean tissue: it promotes the uptake of amino acids and accelerates protein synthesis; it promotes the release of fatty acids from adipose tissue for their use as a source of energy. It is involved in the transport of fatty acids to the liver and the hydrolysis of triglycerides. It has an “anti-insulin” effect, manifesting itself at high doses by resistance to glucose. It also has an action on the reabsorption of sodium at the renal level, cardiac contraction and bone mineralization.
It is around the age of 40 that our growth hormone production reaches its lowest threshold, which will be maintained thereafter. GH production is correlated to our sex hormone levels.
What effects can we expect from growth hormone supplementation in adults? The amount of fat mass decreases, on average by 4 kilos, while lean mass increases in the same proportion, in the form of muscle. Physical and intellectual abilities as well as resistance to fatigue and stress improve. Heart rate and output are increased. The total cholesterol level is lowered. In case of hypertriglyceridemia, the level of triglycerides is reduced. Protein synthesis is increased. Bone mineralization is greatly increased.
Other beneficial effects need to be confirmed by further research:
– improvement in the appearance of the skin with reduction of wrinkles;
– improvement of hair quality;
– improvement of visual acuity;
– improvement of memory;
– improved sexual function and increased libido;
– improvement of the immune system.
What are the risks associated with growth hormone supplementation? The risk of transmission of Creutzfeld-Jakob disease that existed in the past has disappeared since the availability of synthetic growth hormone (also called recombinant hormone). In the first days of treatment, a phenomenon of water retention can be observed with the formation of edema in the malleolus, joint pain and in the carpal tunnel. These signs would fade in a few days by continuing the treatment, the dosage of which must be adapted according to the undesirable effects observed. The US National Institutes of Health, however, points out that the risks associated with growth hormone treatment also include diabetes, high blood pressure and heart failure.
How does supplementation work in practice? It is done in the form of a daily subcutaneous injection, the dosage having to be adapted by the doctor on a case-by-case basis and decreasing over the months. There are also secretagogues and pro-GH which are taken in oral form, in the evening, after the last meal, aiming to improve the production of the hormone without resorting to injections.
Can growth hormone levels be increased without using recombinant hormone injections?
Various factors act for or against the release of growth hormone; it is therefore advisable to favor those which favor the increase in the level of GH and, on the contrary, to limit those which hinder it.
It is observed that sports practice increases the level of plasma GH. Playing sports is therefore an excellent way to preserve one’s youth, this aspect being only one of the many advantages brought by physical activity. Sleep is a factor in increasing the release of GH, the hormone reaching its maximum level during the night, with peaks during the phases of deep sleep. Stress also promotes the production of GH. If it goes without saying that we cannot encourage men and women to expose themselves to all forms of stress, on the other hand, it seems desirable to continue to experience positive stresses on a regular basis, such as those caused by professional activities or hobbies (desire to excel, competitiveness, search for solutions to various problems, etc.), which helps to explain why active older people often look younger than their inactive peers.
Hyperaminoacidemia, especially with regard to arginine, promotes the release of growth hormone, which reminds us of the importance of a diet sufficiently rich in protein in the aging subject, arginine being considered acidic essential amine during growth but also seems to be very important in the elderly. A diet sufficiently rich in amino acids, provided by proteins with a good digestive utilization coefficient (meat, fish, eggs, dairy products), therefore contributes to the increase in GH secretion.
Certain pathological states also lead to an increase in the production of growth hormone: these are fasting or anorexia. If it is not conceivable to advise the elderly to fast, on the other hand, we better understand the interest of caloric restriction as a factor of longevity. But beware, when we talk about calorie restriction, we are actually talking about an adapted diet, which we will come back to in more detail later.
Other factors contribute to the decrease in GH secretion. It is :
– postprandial hyperglycemia: we find in this respect the interest of taking balanced meals, comprising sources of complex carbohydrates with a low glycemic index (such as pulses, for example) and of limiting its consumption of sweets, which disturb glycemic balance.
– the increase in free fatty acids: weight loss leads to an increase in the rate of circulating free fatty acids which operates a retro-control on the release of growth hormone.
– obesity: we note, again, that dietary factors are very important vis-à-vis the amount of circulating growth hormone and that it is advisable to have a weight both included in the values desirable and stable.
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