Fitness Q&A by Richard Weil

I'm 19-year-old male who's 5-foot-8. I've considered taking human growth hormone (hGH) pills as a supplement for my workouts and to increase my height. Will hGH pills really make me taller, and are there any major associated health risks?

Answer:

I am not an expert on the effect of human growth hormone (hGH) on height, but in my work with pediatric endocrinologists, I have seen hGH stimulate growth in teens who have growth-hormone deficiency. You should consult with a pediatric endocrinologist if you are concerned about your height. Your primary-care doctor can refer you.

As for supplementing your workouts with hGH, there's no evidence that it will improve your athletic performance, and as far as making your muscles bigger, not everyone responds and results vary widely. Not only that, but the risks of taking hGH without medical supervision are similar to steroid abuse: severe facial and body acne, gynecomastia (you grow large breasts), premature balding, decreased high-density lipoprotein (the good fat), increased low-density lipoprotein (the fat that causes heart disease), increased total cholesterol, thrombolytic disorders, dependency like an addict, irritability, aggressiveness, kidney and liver dysfunction, liver tumors, testicular atrophy (your testicles shrink), decreased sperm count, pain when urinating, prostatitis, impotence (inability to get an erection), sterility (inability to have children), and premature closure of bone growth plates (which would stop your linear growth).

And furthermore:

    1. hGH is illegal to use without a doctor's prescription.

    2. You have no idea what you are putting in your body if you buy it on the Internet. It could be anything since it is not monitored or regulated.

    3. It is very expensive.

    4. It can only be injected, so you need syringes, which means that you increase your risk of contracting HIV and other illnesses.

I know that it's tough when you're not as tall as other kids. There's not a simple answer. For some men, it's enough to work out, perform their best (train hard, stay disciplined, and eat healthy), play sports, and over time they learn that height isn't everything. But at 19, you may not be there yet and it's understandable. I suggest that you speak with your doctor right away if you want to explore hGH treatment. An endocrinologist can determine if treatment is indicated, and if so, you could get started. But don't let your desire for growing taller or getting bigger muscles cloud your judgment. Acquiring and taking hGH without a doctor's supervision is dangerous and potentially life-threatening. Go ahead and give your doctor a call if you want to explore hGH treatment.

Take care, and thank you for your question.


Last Editorial Review: 2/6/2007


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