Review Articles
Human Growth Hormone (HGH) and Insulin-like Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1) Supplements Review Article
 

Initial Posting: 12/7/03   Updated: 2/22/13

Sections: Jump to a section by clicking on its name. What Growth Hormone Does
Human Growth Hormone (hGH or HGH) is a substance that the body secretes to promote the growth of children and teenagers. After full growth is reached, it is not clear what role growth hormone plays in the body. Levels do decline with age (as is the case with many other hormones) and this has led to the idea that taking extra HGH could retard signs of aging. This hypothesis was given considerable encouragement in 1990 when a small trial was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.1 This six-month study of 12 men found that use of HGH injections (at a dose of about 2 milligrams three times a week) increased muscle mass, decreased fat mass, and thickened bone. Despite the fact that this research was far too preliminary to prove anything at all (it was small, short term, and failed to follow a double-blind, placebo-controlled protocol) it spawned an entire industry of HGH-related products.

Subsequent research was less positive, finding that while growth hormone injections improve muscle to fat ratio in older people, it does not increase strength or improve function.2 In addition, growth hormone injections may cause problems such as carpal tunnel syndrome (wrist and hand pain caused by swelling around the median nerve), coarsening of facial features, enlargement of bones, joint pain and leg swelling.

However, these later findings couldn't halt the HGH marketing juggernaut that the first small study had stimulated. The New England Journal of Medicine was so alarmed by this misuse of the study that they actually posted an article online warning against its misinterpretation to sell products (http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/full/348/9/777). But this was to no avail. The enthusiasm goes on.

HGH itself must be taken by injection, because it is a very large molecule that cannot be absorbed intact (whether taken orally, allowed to dissolve under the tongue, or sprayed into the nose or throat). It is also extremely expensive, costing thousands of dollars every month. Because most people cannot afford this, a host of products have become available that claim to raise HGH levels. These supplements fall into four main categories:
  • HGH Releasing Agents (also called "HGH enhancers" or "HGH stimulators")
  • Homeopathic HGH
  • Nanogram Strength HGH
  • IGF-1 Enhancers

Growth Hormone "Releasing Agents:" (Amino Acid Supplements)
There are several natural ways to raise growth hormone in the body. Exercise is perhaps the strongest stimulus for growth hormone release, capable of raising levels by up to 10-fold.3 Not only will exercise raise HGH, it will also enhance energy and well-being, increase muscle mass, reduce fat, and enhance appearance. (However, it is not clear that these benefits are related to HGH. Exercise, for example, may increase muscle size because it causes microscopic muscle damage, not through effects on growth hormone.)

Getting a good night's sleep and eating plenty of protein should also help raise growth hormone levels. The term "growth hormone releasers," however, is used in reference not to lifestyle changes but to supplements. The amino acids arginine, glutamine, histidine, methionine, phenylalanine, and lysine all appear to cause a rise in growth hormone that lasts for an hour or so.4

The best evidence regards intravenous administration of these amino acids, but oral intake has a similar, though less intense, effect. In one study, ingestion of 1.5 grams of arginine plus 1.5 grams of lysine by young adults increased growth hormone levels by a factor of 2.7.5 In another study, two grams daily of glutamine increased HGH concentration by a factor of 4.3 in people age 32-64.6 (See ConsumerLab.com's test results for supplements containing arginine and glutamine.)

Nonetheless, the effects are very short-lived. In the study of young adults just mentioned, the elevation was only measurable at the 60 minute point, but not at the 30 or 90 minute point. In other words, HGH spiked for a half hour or so after use of supplement, but then fell back to its original level. Similarly brief effects were seen in other trials as well. A preliminary study using the product SeroVitale (see product information below) in adults with an average age of 32 showed a 682% increase in growth hormone levels at 120 minutes after taking the supplement. However, over the full 2 hours, growth hormone levels (based on mean AUC) averaged only 3% higher than with placebo. The study was published on the SeroVitale website and was presented at a scientific conference but has not, as of yet, been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

It's difficult to believe that such a short-term change in growth hormone levels could provide any real benefit. The only evidence that it actually does bring about any meaningful changes comes from two small studies conducted by a single researcher.7,8 The author claimed to find increases in strength and improvements in body composition when athletes took arginine and ornithine; however, subsequent scrutiny of the statistical analysis used in these studies found serious errors, and, as a result, the conclusions cannot be trusted.9

There are other problems with growth hormone releasers as well. Athletes are unlikely to benefit from growth hormone releasers, because they are already engaging in practices that raise HGH levels: heavy exercise and high consumption of protein. Studies have found that athletes need to take extremely high doses of growth hormone releasers to have any effect on growth hormone levels even in the short term, doses so high that they cause diarrhea. 10,11

Seniors also show a reduced response to growth hormone releasers.12 In other words, growth hormone releasers may be most effective in people who don't need them: young people who don't exercise. Even for this group, the effect is probably too short-term to have a meaningful effect.

Examples of HGH Releasing Agents *
Name: SeroVital-hgh
Company: SanMedica International, Utah
Claims to contain (per 4 capsule serving): 2,900 mg blend of l-lysine HCl, l-arginine HCl, oxo-proline, N-acetyl-l-cysteine, l-glutamine, and schizonepeta (aerial parts) powder
Suggested serving: 1 serving per day
ConsumerLab.com comment: Appears to temporarily raise HGH levels according to study published by the company. Side-effects not reported. There is little clinical research with its herbal ingredient, shizonepeta, but, it is known to contain pulegone, which can cause liver toxicity at high doses. The amount of shizonepeta in the product is not disclosed.
Found at: www.serovital.com
Name: Botanic Choice HGH Booster Formula
Company: Indiana Botanic Gardens, Inc., Hobart, IN
Claims to contain (per tablet): 300 mg L-arginine pyroglutamate, 300 mg L-lysine, 150 mg Mucuna pruriens extract (15% L-dopa) , 73 mg calcium, 56 mg phosphorus
Suggested serving: 1 tablet every 8 hours
ConsumerLab.com comment: Amounts of amino acids in daily dose are lower than those shown to increase HGH levels. Mucuna pruriens contains L-dopa which may benefit patients with Parkinson's disease but at a dose several times greater than in this product.
Found at: www.walgreens.com, www.botanicchoice.com
Name: Max HGH Human Growth Hormone Releaser [DISCONTINUED]
Company: maxhgh, Fort Lauderdale, FL (no street address)
Claims to contain (per two tablets): 125 mg L-glutamine, 233 mg glycine, 125 mg L-arginine, 50 mg L-ornithine, 100 mg pepsin 1:3000, 100 mg peptide
Suggested serving: 1-2 tablets per day
ConsumerLab.com comment: Amounts of amino acids in daily dose are lower than those shown to increase HGH levels.
Found at: www.orderhghnow.com
Name: HGH Human Growth Agent [DISCONTINUED]
Company: Not listed on website.
Claims to contain:Ornithine Alpha Ketoglutarate, L-Glutamine, L-Arginine, L-Lysine, L-Valine, L-Isoleucine, L-Tyrosine, Glycine, Alpha GPC, Gaba, L-Dopa Bean Ext, Moomiyo Ext
ConsumerLab.com comment: Does not list amounts of each ingredient. Unable to determine if amounts are near those (approximately one to two grams per day) used in clinical studies.
Found at: http://www.eyefiveinc.com/humangrowthagent.com

In April 2003 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it had accused the maker of Nature's Youth hGH, an HGH releaser, of making false and misleading claims. The company claimed that the product would "improve physical performance, speed recovery from training, increase cardiac output, and increase immune functions." The FDA had the company destroy the misbranded product and agree to change the labeling for future marketing. There have been numerous other government actions against sellers of HGH products. (See the postings in the Recalls & Warnings area of this website).

Homeopathic HGH Products:
An entirely different approach involves using homeopathic dilutions of real human growth hormone. Homeopathy is a centuries-old approach that makes use of extremely high dilutions of a substance for a supposed therapeutic effect. Originally, homeopathy was conducted in the following manner: People were first given an overdose of a substance, the symptoms were recorded, and then very dilute versions of that substance were used to treat people with similar symptoms. Thus, if caffeine makes people anxious, homeopathic theory suggests that highly dilute caffeine will help calm down people who are already anxious.

In recent years, a modification of the original theory has come into vogue. According to this concept, very extreme dilutions of a substance given to healthy people will produce the same effect as the original substance. Thus, highly diluted caffeine should act as a pick-me-up; similarly, highly dilute HGH should produce the same effects as normal doses.

Keep in mind that when homeopaths speak of high dilutions, they are not talking about watering down your coffee a bit. The level of dilution involved in creating a high-dilution homeopathic remedy resembles putting one drop of coffee in a bathtub full of water, and taking one drop from the bathtub and putting it in a swimming pool, and finally adding one drop of the swimming pool into the Pacific Ocean. Such a bathtub/swimming pool/ocean process would end up with one part coffee for every 1035 parts of water. That's 10 followed by 35 zeros (what a homeopathic practitioner would call a 35X remedy). This is an immense dilution, but it is trivial compared to some homeopathic HGH products which contain HGH diluted by a factor of 10400. It's almost impossible to comprehend a number this high, but consider this: the total number of atoms in the entire universe is less than 10100. Thus, even if you started with a whole universe full of HGH, in a 10400 dilution not a single molecule of growth hormone would be likely to remain.

As it happens, even a homeopathic remedy diluted "only" by a factor of 1030 (a 30X, or 15C remedy) is not likely to contain a single molecule of HGH. However, homeopathic practitioners believe that some kind of "energy" or "imprint" remains, even if no physical substance does. In fact, they believe that the higher the dilution, the stronger the effect, and call highly dilute homeopathic preparations "high potency" remedies. (Note that this is a reverse of ordinary language, in which the more of a substance there is in a pill the stronger the effect.)

From the perspective of modern science, none of this makes much sense, and the overwhelming majority of scientists believe that homeopathy (at least at dilutions above 106 or so), can't possibly be effective. Homeopaths argue that a number of double-blind studies of homeopathic products appeared to find benefits.13 Critics remain skeptical, however, because, in general, the better the quality of the study performed, the less the effects that were seen.14,15,16,17,18

Example of a Homeopathic HGH Product *
Name: Renewal HGH Advanced formula
Company: Not listed on website.
Form: Sub-lingual spray
Suggested dose: 1 to 2 sprays under the tongue 3 times a day
Claims to contain: HGH (Somatropin) 9x/30x, RNA 9x, Ornithine 9x, MSM 9x, Colostrum 30c, Albumin 3c, Protease 9x, ConsumerLab.com Comment: All of the ingredients are extreme dilutions of the actual ingredient. 9x HGH is only 0.0000001% HGH and 30x is even less.
Found at: http://www.vitadigest.com/hgh-renewal-advanced.html


Regarding homeopathic HGH, a single double-blind, placebo-controlled study has been reported in which HGH provided wellness benefits.19 In this trial, 69 people were given either placebo or homeopathic HGH. Two different forms of homeopathic HGH were used in this trial, each one a somewhat complex formula containing more than one dilution of HGH (ranging from 106 to 10400 dilution). Over the three weeks of treatment, people receiving the homeopathic remedies experienced a number of positive changes, as compared to those taking placebo. For example, they showed an increase in muscle mass, reduction in fat mass, and improvements in various measurements of overall health and well-being.

On the strength of this single study, numerous homeopathic products are available on the market that contain homeopathic HGH in various dilutions.

Note: To make matters even more confusing, some manufacturers advertise their products as containing 50% more homeopathic HGH than other products, and go on to imply that this gives the consumer more bang for the buck. However, such a claim makes no sense at all. The theory of homeopathy emphatically states that the lower the dose the stronger the effect, so adding more substance would only defeat the purpose!

Nanogram Strength HGH Products, Including Sublinguals and Sprays
Some supplements claim to contain a dose of HGH measured in nanograms, such as 2,000 nanograms of HGH per dose. That might sound like a lot if you did not know that a nanogram is only one-millionth of milligram. As noted earlier, when HGH is administered by injection by doctors, each dose is about 2 milligrams (equal to 2,000,000 nanograms). So a supplement with 2,000 nanograms of HGH provides only one-thousandth of that normally prescribed by doctors. Making matters worse, HGH is a large molecule and is not known to be absorbed orally, sublingually (under the tongue) or even as a nasal spray -- which are the ways in which these supplements are used. In short, there is too little HGH in these products to be effective and it won't even be absorbed.

Example of a Nanogram Strength HGH Product *
Name: Retropin 2000 [DISCONTINUED]
Company: Not listed on website.
HGH claimed: 2,000 nanograms HGH per spray
Form: Liquid spray pump, 180 sprays per 30 ml bottle.
ConsumerLab.com Comment: HGH is not effectively absorbed as a nasal spray. Even if it were, you would need one thousand sprays to provide a dose equal to that given by injection.
Found at: http://www.hgh4us.com


Beyond HGH: IGF-1
When growth hormone levels rise, levels of another substance rise too: insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1). IGF-1 is thought to carry out some, though not all, of the effects of HGH. However, if the situation with HGH is unclear, current knowledge about potential benefits and risks involved in raising IGF-1 levels remains even less complete.

The supplement colostrum contains some IGF-1. Colostrum is a substance present for a few days in the breast milk of a nursing mother. Colostrum supplements, made from a cow source, are often added to HGH products to enhance the effect. There is no evidence, however, that taking colostrum orally substantially raises IGF-1 levels in the blood, nor that, if it did, any benefits would accrue.

Example of an IGF-1 Product *
Name: IGF-1 MAX
Form: Spray made from 1.2g (per bottle) of specially prepared VesPro Colostrum XI
Claims to contain: 200ng of IGF-1 per spray (i.e. 36000ng of IGF-1 per bottle)
ConsumerLab.com Comment: Extremely small dose per spray (0.0002 milligrams) and it may not even be absorbed.
Found at: http://www.igf1max.com/


ConsumerTips™
The best way to raise growth hormone levels is to exercise and get a good night's sleep. These lifestyle changes will raise your growth hormone levels, which may or may not have an effect, but they will also make you feel better, look better, and stay youthful. Supplements may seem an attractive short cut, but it might be wiser to save your money for a gym membership.

However, if you are determined to try an HGH supplement, watch out for the following:
  • Don't be fooled by claims of health benefits that refer to HGH but not to the product itself. In fact, according to the FDA, no HGH supplement may claim to treat, cure, or prevent a disease or improve body function or structure.
  • Be wary of products that don't specifically list the amount of each active ingredient. Products claiming "complexes" or "formulas" are notorious for this. And even if a product has a large number in its name, like "HGH 2000," this doesn't necessarily mean that there is 2000 of anything in the product.
  • See if caffeine or other stimulants, such as guarana, are added. Products marketed to boost energy levels sometimes include these to give you the sense that they are working.
  • Make sure that the product lists the address of the manufacturer or distributor. While this does not guarantee quality, it should be there and you'll want this information in case you have a problem.

References:

      *     Products shown for illustration only. Not tested by ConsumerLab.com.
  1. Rudman D, Feller AG, Nagraj HS, et al. Effects of human growth hormone in men over 60 years old. N Engl J Med. 1990;323:1-6.
  2. Vance ML. Can growth hormone prevent aging? N Engl J Med. 2003;348:779-80
  3. Raastad T, Bjoro T, Hallen J. Hormonal responses to high- and moderate-intensity strength exercise. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2000;82:121-8.
  4. Chromiak JA, Antonio J. Use of amino acids as growth hormone-releasing agents by athletes. Nutrition. 2002;18:657-61
  5. Suminski RR, Robertson RJ, Goss FL, et al. Acute effect of amino acid ingestion and resistance exercise on plasma growth hormone concentration in young men. Int J Sport Nutr. 1997;7:48-60.
  6. Welbourne TC. Increased plasma bicarbonate and growth hormone after an oral glutamine load. Am J Clin Nutr. 1995;61:1058-61.
  7. Elam RP, Hardin DH, Sutton RA, et al. Effects of arginine and ornithine on strength, lean body mass and urinary hydroxyproline in adult males. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 1989;29:52-6.
  8. Elam RP. Morphological changes in adult males from resistance exercise and amino acid supplementation. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 1988;28:35-9.
  9. Jacobson, BH. Effect of amino acid on growth hormone release. Phys Sportsmed. 1990;18:63-69
  10. Bucci L, Hickson JF Jr., Pivarnik JM, et al. Ornithine ingestion and growth hormone release in bodybudilers. Nutr Res. 1990;10:239
  11. Chromiak JA, Antonio J. Use of amino acids as growth hormone-releasing agents by athletes. Nutrition. 2002;18:657-61
  12. Antonio J, Chromiak J, Street C. Androgens and GH releasers. In: Antonio J, Stout J, editors. Sports supplements. Baltimore: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2001. p. 160-78.
  13. Linde K, Scholz M, Ramirez G, et al. Impact of study quality on outcome in placebo-controlled trials of homeopathy. J Clin Epidemiol. 1999;52:631-636.
  14. Dantas F, Fisher P. A systematic review of homeopathic pathogenetic trials ("provings") published in the United Kingdom from 1945 to 1995. In: Ernst E, ed. Homeopathy: A Critical Appraisal. London: Butterworth Heinemann;1998:69-97.
  15. Fisher P, Dantas F. Homeopathic pathogenetic trials of Acidum malicum and Acidum ascorbicum. Br Homeopath J. 2001;90:118-125.
  16. Linde K, Scholz M, Ramirez G, et al. Impact of study quality on outcome in placebo-controlled trials of homeopathy. J Clin Epidemiol. 1999;52:631-636.
  17. Ernst E, Pittler MH. Re-analysis of previous meta-analysis of clinical trials of homeopathy [letter]. J Clin Epidemiol. 2000;53:1188.
  18. Grabia S, Ernst E. Homeopathic aggravations: a systematic review of randomised, placebo-controlled clinical trials. Homeopathy. 2003;92:92 98.
  19. Brewitt B, Hughes J, Welsh EA, et al. Homeopathic human growth hormone for physiologic and psychologic health: Three double-blind placebo-controlled studies. Alt Compl Ther. 1999;5:373-385.

Information on this site is provided for informational purposes only. It is not an endorsement of any product nor it is it meant to substitute for the advice provided by physicians or other healthcare professionals. The information contained herein should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease.

Want to see more?

To view this article in its entirety, please click below on the "Log In" button if you are already a subscriber or the "Subscribe" button to learn how to subscribe.




#45#
 
 
Join |  Sign In
   
Join Us on Facebook! Join Us on Instagram! Join Us on Twitter! Join Us on YouTube! Join Us on YouTube!
Product Reviews
Brands Tested
Health Conditions
Encyclopedia
CL Answers
Clinical Updates
News
Recalls & Warnings
Recommended Intakes
Where to Buy Products
Testing Program
How Products Were Tested
Quality Certification Program
Join CL Today
Testimonials
Join Free Newsletter
Group Subscriptions
Gift Membership
About Us
The CL Seal
CL Survey
Privacy Policy
Sitemap
Contact Us/Help

©2020 ConsumerLab.com, LLC. All rights reserved. A single copy of a report may be printed for personal use by the subscriber. It is otherwise unlawful to print, download, store or distribute content from this site without permission.
ConsumerLab.com name and flask logo are both registered trademarks of ConsumerLab.com, LLC. This site is intended for informational purposes only and not to provide medical advice.
 
Join our FREE Newsletter and Become a Member to View
Human Growth Hormone (HGH) and Insulin-like Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1) Supplements Review Article!
First Name 
Last Name 
Email* 
Retype Email* 
ConsumerLab.com Member Benefits:

Instant Access to All Product Review Reports Covering Over 1,000 Products
Quality Ratings and Product Comparisons by Brand
Expert Tips on Using Supplements
 
Membership fee required for full benefits.
Price Checks on Popular Brands
e-Newsletter with Updates and Alerts
New and Archived Recalls and Warnings