HGH: The decision to start

I previously shared how HGH supplementation improves health of aging men and women

It has been shown to diminish wrinkles and age spots; make skin firmer and smoother, reduce fat, increase lean muscle mass,  improve bone density, re-invigorate your sex drive and performance, improve memory and mental sharpness; and more.

Now we need to consider its safety so you can make an informed decision about whether it’s right for you…

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Safety concerns

Short-term use of HGH supplementation can seldom cause:

  • Joint, muscle or nerve pain
  • Headache
  • Nerve, muscle, or joint pain
  • Swelling of hands and feet; body swelling
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome; numbness or tingling of the skin

Longer term adverse effects are not clear. I have seen studies that argue for and against these potential health risks:

Increased risk of diabetes: Your blood insulin concentrations could increase with HGH injection therapy and therefore your risk of type 2 diabetes must be considered.  Have your doctor check your HbA1c level before and after 3 to 6 months of treatment. However, two large long-term studies showed no increased risk for diabetes in HGH-deficient adults who received physiological replacement doses of HGH supplementation.

May encourage cancer growth: Even Matched controls were compared to 110 patients with brain irradiation for cancer who were treated with HGH supplementation and followed for 14.5 yrs. The treatment group proved to have no increased rate of cancer recurrence.  Two other large long-term studies showed no increased risk for new cancer in HGH-deficient adults who received physiological replacement doses of HGH supplementation.  According to Life Extension Foundation (www.lef.org), Pfizer’s Genotropin (HGH) study published in 2003 had gathered 40,000 patient-years of data. They reported that HGH replacement does not increase your risk for new cancer or diabetes mellitus, and by 2009 they reported in the European Journal of Endocrinology that with over 60,000 patient-years of data, HGH had dramatically improved the quality of life these adults with former growth hormone deficiency.

Acromegaly: this is an irreversible overgrowth of bones and muscles.  Acromegaly naturally can develop slowly over the years if a pituitary tumor secretes very high amounts of HGH — a theoretical concern for HGH supplementation.

Plastic skin: HGH is reported by teaching physicians at the American Academy of Anti-aging Medicine to result in a shiny, plastic facial skin appearance after 20 years of continuous use at physiological replacement doses. They suggest that intermittent should prevent this effect.

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First step to starting HGH: Find an anti-aging physician, be tested and get a Rx

Start by finding a doctor who will prescribe HGH. Consider searching for a local compounding pharmacy to ask them who locally prescribes bio-identical hormone replacement including HGH.

Next, ask this doctor to test your HGH blood level. This is done by measuring your serum IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor-1, a.k.a. somatomedin-C), since HGH has a very short half-life and IGF-1 is a measurable marker for HGH. Have IGF-1 measured initially and again a few months after you are taking HGH.  You can also get an IGF-1 level through the Life Extension Foundation.

Related: Rejuvenating hormone reason seniors are thriving at 100?

The definition of growth hormone deficiency (GHD) can vary by physician. Most anti-aging physicians will still prescribe it even if you have clinical findings (symptoms, signs, risk factors, etc.) consistent with GHD along with an IGF-1 level in the lower portion of the reference range (or borderline).  When you and your physician realize the large body of scientific evidence (described above) showing the effectiveness of HGH for treating various manifestations of aging, which symptoms you have, then a prescription for HGH will be given.

Once you decide on HGH supplementation, deciding on what form and dose of HGH is the next task for you and your doctor.

HGH dosing and cost

HGH injections are by far the most effective form — and the most expensive, ranging from approximately $600 per month or more, depending on HGH brand used and dose. It is sold in milligrams or International Units (IU). Three IU = 1 milligram.

For example, somatropin (Genotropin®) is one of the injectable recombinant human growth hormones used today. The recommended dose in adults is from 0.15-0.3 mg per day, but may need to be increased to as high as 1.33 mg per day. At the average dose of 0.6 mg (2 IU) per day, you can purchase a month supply of this for around $1,000. Other brands include: Humatrope (from Eli Lilly), Genotropin (Pharmacia/Upjohn), Saizen (Serono Laboratories), Norditropin (Novo Nordisk), and Nutropin (Genentech). You will want to start with a low dose (i.e. ½ IU per day) and work up to 1-2 IU per day, 4 – 7 days per week, and taking more than 2 units per day has been reported to begin to put you at some risk of side effects.

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A newer prescription HGH analogue

Injectable Growth Hormone Releasing Hormone (GHRH) acts much like HGH but with even more specific results. One example is Tesmorelin (Egrifta). Tesamorelin was approved by the FDA in the United States on November 10, 2010 and has some great therapeutic effects. This GHRH agonist restores normal Growth Hormone secretion into your blood (to mimic natural GH), selectively reduces visceral (belly) fat, intima media thickness (atherosclerosis) and triglycerides, and improves cognitive function in older persons. Currently, the price of Tesamorelin is quite a lot more than the price of an equivalent amount of human growth hormone (three times the HGH cost).

All this information about HGH is pretty exciting if you asked me. I will be recommending HGH for my patients who qualify for a prescription based on their IGF-F level and Growth Hormone Deficiency clinical findings (symptoms, signs, or risk factors).

To feeling healthy and aging slower,

Michael Cutler, M.D.

Editor’s note: Are you feeling unusually tired? You may think this is normal aging, but the problem could be your master hormone. When it’s not working, your risk of age-related diseases skyrockets. To reset what many call “the trigger for all disease” and live better, longer, click here to discover The Insulin Factor: How to Repair Your Body’s Master Controller and Conquer Chronic Disease!


  1. Grow Young With HGH, p. 116; HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., New York, NY
  2.  Karastergiou K, Bredella MA, Lee MJ, Smith SR, Fried SK, Miller KK. “Growth hormone receptor expression in human gluteal versus abdominal subcutaneous adipose tissue: Association with body shape.” — Obesity (Silver Spring). 2016 May;24(5):1090-1096. PubMed PMID: 27015877.
  3. Khorram O, Laughlin GA, Yen SS. “Endocrine and metabolic effects of long-term administration of [Nle27] growth hormone-releasing hormone-(1-29)-NH2 in age-advanced men and women.” — J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1997 May;82(5):1472-9.
  4. HUMAN GROWTH HORMONE (HGH) — futurescience.com, accessed Feb 27, 2018
  5.  Mackenzie S, et al. “Long-term safety of growth hormone replacement after CNS irradiation.” — J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2011 Sep;96(9):2756-61
  6. Somatomedin C Frozen Growth Hormone Marker — Life Extension
  7. Somatropin (Genotropin) (0.15 mg/day to 0.3 mg/day): Replacement of Endogenous Growth Hormone in Adults with Growth Hormone Deficiency [Internet]. — Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health
  8. Sattler FR. “Growth hormone in the aging male.” — Best Pract Res Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2013 Aug;27(4):541-55. Review. PubMed PMID: 24054930.
Dr. Michael Cutler

By Dr. Michael Cutler

Dr. Michael Cutler is a graduate of Tulane University School of Medicine and is a board-certified family physician with more than 20 years of experience. He serves as a medical liaison to alternative and traditional practicing physicians. His practice focuses on an integrative solution to health problems. Dr. Cutler is a sought-after speaker and lecturer on experiencing optimum health through natural medicines and founder of the original Easy Health Options™ newsletter — an advisory on natural healing therapies and nutrients. His current practice is San Diego Integrative Medicine, near San Diego, California.