Ask Vivomed’s Pharmacist – Human Growth Hormone (hGH) abuse in sport

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Ask Vivomeds Pharmacist – Human Growth Hormone (hGH) abuse in sport

Performance Benefits of Human Growth Hormone

In our previous blog we explored the effects associated with the use of Erythropoietin (EPO) on sporting performance. This week we will look at the effects of human growth hormone (Somatotropin), more commonly known as hGH.

Similarly to EPO, hGH is produced naturally in the body. The pituitary gland which is located in the brain, stimulates the production of hGH and is responsible for the regulation & maintenance of; muscle growth, blood pressure, metabolism, energy management & sex organs. HGH production declines as you get older & may be deficient in those with retarded growth. Reduced hGH has many effects on the body including;

  • Reduced Lean Mass
  • Reduced Bone Mineral Density
  • Increased Body Fat
  • Low energy levels
  • Difficulty losing weight
  • Disturbed sleep
Benefits of hGH

Injectable, synthetic hGH became available in the early 1980’s for conditions relating to retarded growth and muscle deterioration. It wasn’t long until hGH was being misused as a performance enhancing drug with word spreading that it produced similar, desirable benefits as anabolic steroid use.

Injectable Human Growth Hormone (hGH)
Injectable Human Growth Hormone (hGH)
Benefits associated with hGH include;
  • Increased lean body mass (hGH enhances the utilisation of fat by stimulating the breakdown of triglycerides).
  • Stimulates the production of Insulin Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1) which is responsible for both increased bone & muscle growth.
  • Increased muscle strength.
  • IGF-1 can aid recovery by promoting protein metabolism and protein synthesis as a result of increased amino acid uptake.
  • IGF-1 helps regulate blood glucose levels by stimulating the production of insulin.
  • Reduced cardiovascular risk.
  • Improved quality of sleep.
  • Injury Resistance
Side Effects of hGH
  • Hypoglycaemia due to increased insulin secretion.
  • Increased water retention.
  • Carpal Tunnel syndrome (Pins & needles sensation in the fingers).
  • Gynecomastia
  • Joint pain
  • Excessive bone growth (Acromegaly) e.g. Gigantism.
  • Headaches
  • Back pain
  • Dizziness
  • Hypertension
    Dwain Chambers
    Dwain Chambers
Testing for hGH

There are currently two methods of testing for hGH; The isoforms test & The Biomarkers test

The Isoforms Test
Was introduced back in 2008 for the European football championships & 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. It is very difficult to develop a test which is solely dependent on measuring hGH concentration due to fluctuations over a given period. However, the ratio of the different isoforms should remain constant. Any deviation from this ratio will result in a positive test through use of recombinant hGH.

The Biomarkers Test
The Biomarker test was first introduced back in 2012 for the London Olympic Games and utilises the measurement of two biomarkers; IGF-1 & N-terminal pro-peptide of type III collagen (P-III-NP). Both biomarkers are increased with previous hGH use & as a result can be used to determine if a given individuals hHG levels are within the normal range.

Useful Links

World Anti-Doping Agency-

For more information about drugs in sport and how to make sure your club and players are staying within the rules please see this article about sports team drug ordering.

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