Human Growth Hormone (HGH)

July 29, 2012 in Knowledge by Fish

Human growth hormone, also abbreviated as HGH or GH, is the main hormone that affects human height growth and metabolism. This article is intended to provide you with up-to-date information about HGH.

What is Human Growth Hormone

HGH is an anabolic hormone produced by the brain. Located deep center of the head, around the level of the eyes, is the pituitary gland. The front portion of the pituitary (called anterior pituitary) is the production house for HGH. The HGH leaves the anterior pituitary gland by blood vessels and circulates to its target organs and tissues as a signal molecule. Once the tissues receive the message, they take actions appropriate to their roles in the body. Although HGH is central to human growth, it is not the only thing that it controls. HGH is also important in maintaining the body (homeostasis), and this is why HGH is still secreted in adulthood. Aside from height growth, HGH is believed to play a role in aging; by maintaining HGH levels, one may be able to stay youthful longer.

HGH is a peptide hormone, or a hormone made out of amino acids (191 amino acids). In other words, it is essentially a protein molecule. As a result, HGH cannot be administered orally. If it did get ingested, it would simply be destroyed by your stomach and the rest of the digestive track, much the same way as you would digest a piece of meat.

Medically, HGH is prescribed and administered by doctors intravenously (by needle). All other over-the-counter “HGH” products on the market are “supplements” that supposedly help you boost your HGH secretion. However, HGH secretion is a complicated story, as you will see in a minute.

Effects of Human Growth Hormone

HGH has a variety of effects on the body. It promotes fat breakdown so that energy can be available to anabolic activities in the body. This is especially important during exercise and puberty. At the same time, HGH promotes cells to uptake amino acids and prevents muscle and fat tissues from using blood sugar (glucose). This looks a bit confusing, but you can basically think of HGH as agent that triggers fat burning and tissue synthesis.

The major effect of HGH actually takes place in the liver. When the liver senses HGH, it produces IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor-1) and releases it into the blood stream. It is IGF-1 that actually acts on the epiphseal plates to cause bones to grow.

Human Growth Hormone Secretion

HGH is produced in the anterior pituitary gland, which is in turn controlled by the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is the brain structure above the pituitary that monitors many chemical signals in your body and coordinates hormone levels to keep your body functional. In fact, it is hypothalamus that is responsible for releasing GHRH (Growth Hormone Releasing Hormone) into the anterior pituitary to stimulate the secretion of HGH.

But how does the hypothalamus decide when to release GHRH? Hormones such as cortisol (from adrenal glands), androgen/estrogen (from sex organs, testicles or ovaries), IGF-1 (from liver), and even HGH itself all influence the hypothalamus and/or anterior pituitary in GHRH/HGH regulation. Glucose level, stress, exercise, sleep, and many other body states also affect how much HGH circulates in the body. In short, growth hormone regulation is extremely complex; it is interconnected to everything that your body does. For the same reason, doctors and scientists are still trying to map out all the mechanisms involved in HGH secretion.

HGH secretion, though complex, follows an anabolic pattern. This means that HGH is released when body is trying to build something. This is evident as the HGH level in a teenager is as high as it will ever be. During teenage years, HGH secretion peaks under the influence of sex hormones (testosteron/estrogen). HGH is secreted in a pusatile fashion and in the largest amounts during sleep. HGH is also released under the following conditions:

Excercising
During exercises, HGH is probably required to stimulate muscle growth and repair.

Eating
Specifically, eating protein. Because amino acids are essential for building stuff within the body, HGH is secreted to facilitate amino acid uptake by the cells. One amino acid, arginine, appears to be selectively important to HGH release.

Fasting
Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, triggers the release of HGH. As was mentioned before, HGH regulates fat breakdown. Therefore, it makes sense that when blood glucose is low during starvation/fasting, HGH kicks in to maintain the body’s energy supply.

Sleep
And to be exact, HGH is secreted in high levels during deep sleep. This is why quality sleep is essential to growth and other bodily functions in humans. It also makes sense that HGH level is high during sleep as the body repairs itself from the day’s work.

Maximizing Your HGH and Growth

In summary, HGH is a complex hormone that is central to human growth and homeostasis. Although its secretion and regulation are not totally elucidated, I think it is safe to say that genetics play a huge role in HGH patterns. Therefore, we may be able to assume that given a person’s physiology, if the HGH levels are below the maximum, the person might not reach his/her genetic height. If his/her HGH levels are maximized, he or she might grow as tall as he or she was meant to be.

Let’s say you are a male teenager, and your average HGH level can be measured by an arbitrary scale of 1 to 10. If you always eat junk food, stay up, and watch TV all day, your HGH level might be at a 5. Assuming that your maximum height is 6 feet, you might end up only being 5 feet 8 inches. But if you lead a healthy lifestyle, such as eating nutritious food, exercising, and sleeping plenty, your HGH level might be around a 9, and you might end up being 5′ 11.5″ or 6′.

Maximizing your HGH levels through nutrition and lifestyle is the safest way to maximize your height and health, because all you are doing is supplying your body with the right stuff to work with. Your genes and physiology will automatically manage all your hormone levels and allow you to grow into the person you were designed to be.

HGH Disregulation

But what happens if you manipulate the system through drugs or other unnatural means to get to, let’s say, a HGH level of 12. If you are young and still capable of bone elongation, you might be able to exceed your maximum height. However, you do so at the risk of some serious health problems. Because HGH is a complex anabolic hormone, overstimulation may lead to endocrine disregulation and possibly cancer. If you are older and your epiphseal plates have already fused, you may develop acromegaly. Acromegaly is a condition where overproduction of HGH causes cartilage in hand, feet, nose, and parts of skull to overgrow. The result is unnatural physical appearances of large facial features and extremities relative to the rest of the body. And because HGH is such a multipurpose hormone, complications with other organ systems tend to appear as well.

However, such extreme HGH overproduction is unlikely be produced by diet, sleep, and exercise along. Hormone injections and pituitary adenoma (pituitary cancer) are likely the cause of extreme HGH levels. So, even if you take too much protein powder, your HGH levels should still be fairly normal.

In short, human growth hormone is a critical hormone for growth. While it may be desirable to maximize its levels to reach your maximum height, be careful not to disrupt its natural regulation by artificial means. Remember, maximize your growth potential by taking care of your body, not by abusing it.