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Elderly/Long-Term Care

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Growth hormone is not recommended as an antiaging therapy

Human growth hormone (GH) has recently become popular as an antiaging therapy for healthy adults, even though it has not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for this use. The limited studies that have evaluated GH therapy in healthy elderly persons suggest that GH is associated with a small increase in lean body mass and a small decrease in body fat. However, it is also associated with increased rates of problems such as soft tissue swelling, joint pain, and diabetes. Based on this evidence, GH cannot be recommended as an antiaging therapy, concludes Hau Liu, M.D., M.B.A., M.P.H., of Stanford University.

Dr. Liu and fellow researchers systematically reviewed studies on the safety and efficacy of growth hormone in the healthy elderly. Of the studies reviewed, 31 articles describing 18 unique study populations met the inclusion criteria. A total of 220 persons who received GH completed their respective studies.

Study participants were elderly (mean age, 69 years) and overweight (mean body mass index, 28 kg/m2). Initial daily GH dose (mean of 14ug/kg of body weight) and treatment duration (mean of 27 weeks) varied. In those treated with GH compared with those not treated with GH, overall fat mass decreased by 2.1 kg and overall lean body mass increased by 2.1 kg without a significant change in weight. Men experienced more of these changes than women.

Total cholesterol levels decreased insignificantly, after adjustment for body composition changes. Other outcomes, including bone density and other serum lipid levels, did not change. On the other hand, persons treated with GH were significantly more likely to experience soft tissue swelling, joint pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and gynecomastia (breast development in males).

GH-treated persons were also somewhat more likely to develop diabetes and impaired fasting glucose. The researchers caution that the studies had some methodological problems and most of them had small sample sizes. The study was supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS00028).

See "Systematic review: The safety and efficacy of growth hormone in the healthy elderly," by Dr. Liu, Dena M. Bravata, M.D., M.S., Ingram Olkin, Ph.D., and others, in the January 2007 Annals of Internal Medicine 146, pp. 104-115.

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