Growth hormone: unproven benefits, possible risks

People's Pharmacy

August 25, 2002|By Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon | Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon,Special to the Sun; King Features Syndicate

Q. I am a 30-year-old man, and I am starting to feel old. I am in the Army and can tell that I've lost a step on the younger guys.

I want to improve my overall health, and after looking here and there, I think growth hormone (GH) is probably the best way to go. I'm not trying to boost my performance so much as get some of my old recovery time back.

Would my body quit producing GH if I started taking it? That is the last thing I want to happen, as it would eventually tie me to a supplement.

I am not looking to become the incredible hulk, just to keep myself younger for longer.

A. Growth hormone has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration primarily for treating short stature in children who meet specific criteria. One formulation is also prescribed for the wasting associated with AIDS.

The idea of bodybuilders and other athletes (not to mention military personnel) using GH to improve muscle tone and performance concerns us.

A study published in the Lancet last month showed an increased risk of cancer, especially colorectal cancer, among people treated with GH as children in Great Britain.

This preliminary data should not discourage prescribed use for appropriate patients. For you, however, the benefits are unproven, and there is a potential risk from long-term use. It is possible that taking supplemental growth hormone would suppress your body's natural release of this compound.

Q. I don't have health insurance, so I can't afford to see an allergy doctor. Is there any allergy medicine I can buy over the counter that won't affect my blood pressure or my prostate? I also can't afford to be drowsy because I have to commute two hours a day.

A. NasalCrom (cromolyn sodium) is a safe and effective over-the-counter nose spray for allergies. It won't make you drowsy or affect your blood pressure or prostate. Stinging nettle extract (Urtica dioica) might also be helpful.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10019, or e-mail them from their Web site, www.peoplespharmacy.org.

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