It is no longer news that several professional sports organizations have banned the use of human growth hormone (HGH). Researchers have found that the decision may be a good one for guarding against undue competitive advantage.
Growth hormone is a naturally-occurring substance in the body. It helps to facilitate growth and development of tissue and organs. For decades, professional athletes have used its synthetic version supposedly to boost muscle growth, faster recovery, and performance, even though this comes with risks.
In research published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, scientists from Australia reported that the compound improved recreational athletes’ ability to sprint. The study was considered the first to confirm that the hormone does indeed boost athletic performance.
“This improvement could turn the last place finisher in the Olympic finals into a gold medal winner,” said study lead author Dr. Ken Ho, Department of Endocrinology head at St. Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney.
HGH Improved sprint ability
The study included 96 healthy, recreational athletes aged 18 to 40 years, with the average age being 27. The volunteers were made up of 63 males and 33 females, who were randomly put in an HGH or a placebo group. There were also groups of male volunteers who got testosterone or both HGH and testosterone.
The subjects did not know what they got and the investigators could not tell who received what. Physical and laboratory examinations were used to assess changes in the participants.
At the end of eight weeks, the researchers found that HGH injections improved sprint capacity in the athletes who received them. The ability to sprint on a bicycle improved in male and female subjects who got the hormone by an average of 3.9 percent, compared to those who received a placebo.
“We found the enhancement in sprint capacity would correlate to a 0.4 second improvement over 10 seconds in a 100-meter dash,” Ho said.
Improvement in sprint capacity was greater in men who received both HGH and testosterone. Those subjects experienced an 8.3 percent increase in capacity, on average.
Boost in sprint capacity faded six weeks after subjects stopped getting treatment.
Other benefits of HGH
Scientists also observed that HGH promoted considerable reduction in fat mass, a common reason some people use the substance.
However, it was found that the hormone seemed to have no effect on fitness or ability to jump or pull a weight. The therapy also did not increase muscle mass. This was probably because of the low doses that there used, which still produced side effects all the same.
“In our study, we used doses of growth hormone on the low end of what is believed to be abuse in sports,” Ho explained. “And for that reason, we think that the real effects of growth hormone could be far greater than what’s reported in our study.”
He noted that higher doses will also increase risk of serious side effects.
Athletes that got growth hormone experienced had more reports of fluid retention and joint pain, compared to those who received a placebo.
- Growth hormone boosts sprinting capacity in athletes but may have serious side effects (https://www.news-medical.net/news/20100503/Growth-hormone-boosts-sprinting-capacity-in-athletes-but-may-have-serious-side-effects.aspx)