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Human growth hormones: are they really a "fountain of youth?" - abc27 WHTM

Human growth hormones: are they really a "fountain of youth?"

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CAMP HILL, Pa. (WHTM) -

Often called a 'youth serum,' many of Hollywood elite and superstars are injecting themselves with human growth hormone. But does it really help you drink the waters in the fountain of youth?

Sweating at the gym helps us feel good, look good, and helps our overall health. However, the older we get, the more we chase the fountain of youth. That's how we got Florida after all.

But even gym rats like Jeffery Rose would do anything to turn back the hands of father time.

"If it was affordable, absolutely. Yeah," said Rose.

The talk around local gyms is an expensive so-called 'youth serum' sworn by household names like Yankees Alex Rodriguez and golfer Tiger Woods. Both are among many athletes recently linked to an anti-aging clinic in Miami accused of dishing out human growth hormone injections. Most call it 'HGH.'

So it's no surprise even local trainer Tammy Messner has heard of HGH's performance-enhancing powers.

"You hear about it in bodybuilding terms, workout term...grow big, get big fast and do it in alternative methods other than going natural," said Messner.

Guess what? You heard wrong. Dr. Cayce Onks, a sports medicine specialist at Penn State Hershey Medical Center's Camp Hill location, explained HGH is not a performance-enhancing drug.

"It's absolutely not a steroid," said Dr. Onks. "It's a hormone produced by the pituitary gland. Steroids come from the adrenal gland. They work differently and they have a purpose."

Synthetic versions of the naturally produced human growth hormone were created in the early 80's. The use of HGH injections has a list of reported potential benefits; muscle gain, fat loss, increased sex drive and performance, improvements in memory, bone density and overall health.

"That's true in people who are growth hormone deficient, that's particularly true."

In 1985, the Federal Drug Administration approved HGH to help those with hormone deficiencies. In 1998, the FDA banned all off-label use of HGH.

"The truth is we don't know the complete danger [of HGH injections] because we haven't done a high dose of growth hormone in studies in people who have normal levels."

Much like medicinal marijuana, HGH is controversial. There's no consistent data or research because off-label HGH injections are illegal and even viewed as unethical in most medical practices.

So most success stories you may hear are purely anecdotal.

"All the people I've seen that had been on it—it's been nothing but great results," said Rose. "They love it."

This story is part one of a two part series on human growth hormone. The second story of Dave Marcheskie's abc27 In Depth report will air on Wednesday at 7 on abc27 News.

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