Human Growth Hormones: What are the Benefits?

You may have seen the ads claiming that you can regain lost youth, remove wrinkles and cellulite, lose weight and build lean muscle without exercise by using human growth hormones (HGH). In actuality, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved any of these claims.[1]

The interest in human growth hormones (HGH)  stems from a 1990 report in the New England Journal of Medicine. Men over the age of 60 improved their lean body mass, bone density, and skin thickness, and decreased their fat mass when they were injected with HGH.[2]  

Who Uses HGH?

HGH in children are particularly important for their growth, as it controls processes in the body, such as protein and the breakdown of fat to promote tissue growth. Insufficient HGH in adults is called adult growth hormone deficiency (GHD) and is due to harm to the pituitary gland.[3] Treatments for children and adults include injections, but not all adults need treatment, especially those not diagnosed with GHD, but want to slow the aging process.[3]

You might be disappointed with the results you get from over-the-counter HGH, and you might even be endangering your life. The Mayo Clinic states that HGH may cause different side effects for healthy adults. These may include, carpal tunnel syndrome, increased insulin resistance, swelling in the arms and legs (edema), joint and muscle pain and for men enlargement of breast tissue (gynecomastia).[4]  

A study from 2013 found that growth hormone replacement therapy (GHRT) does benefit adults with growth hormone deficiency (GHD). However, the long-term impacts have been shown to possibly be linked to cancer in some rare case studies. The study concluded that those with the deficiency using GHRT does help with their deficiency, but nothing was found to give people strength or youthfulness.[5]

Bottom Line

HGH pills and sprays that you can buy over the counter or off the Internet have another problem: they might not work. HGH is usually administered by injection, and even the long-term use of HGH injections can cause a condition called acromegaly. Adults cannot grow taller by using the synthetic growth hormone, therefore high doses may only thicken the person’s bones instead of lengthening them.[6]  

The risks are extremely high when taking HGH when you are seeking a shortcut to youth. It is advised to steer clear of these supplements unless you have growth hormone deficiency.

All articles are reviewed and approved by Dr. Diana Zuckerman and other senior staff.


  1. Harvard Health Publishing. (May, 2010). Retrieved March 28, 2018 from
  2. Vance, M.L. (1990). Growth hormone for the elderly? The New England Journal of Medicine, 323(1), 52-4
  3. Human Growth Foundation. (n.d.). Retrieved March 30, 2018, from
  4. Mayo Clinic. (2016, October 25). Retrieved March 30, 2018 from l
  5. Reed, M., Merriam, G., & Kargi, A. (2013). Adult growth hormone deficiency – benefits, side effects, and risks of growth hormone replacement. Frontiers in Endocrinology, 4. doi:10.3389/fendo.2013.00064
  6. UCLA Pituitary Tumor Program. (n.d.) Retrieved April 4, 2018 from