Human Growth Hormone- What do we really know?

Human growth hormone, also known as HGH, is a highly recognized and debated topic in both professional and Olympic sports. HGH is a naturally occurring hormone released by the pituitary gland found deep within the human brain. At normal secretion levels HGH helps regulate body composition, body fluids, metabolize sugar and fat, along with spurring muscle and bone growth. However, it is the anabolic muscle growth effect of HGH that the public is most familiar with. Watching ESPN on television, the news stories of athletes “doping” with human growth hormone in professional sports like Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association litter the headlines. With an increased amount of HGH in athletes’ bodies users can experience an increase in lean muscle mass and a decrease in body fat allowing for greater athletic performance. With current scientific research on the subject, the following question becomes apparent: How does a scientific journal present the issue of HGH compared to popular media?

A popular online article published in May, 2010 by ESPN titled, “Study: HGH boosts athletic performance” gives a brief description of  HGH, what its used for, then abruptly dives into an independent study that shows just how much athletes benefit from hormone doping. The article focuses heavily on results of the experiment, seemingly giving little to no attention to the methods, data, or analysis of the same experiment.  

“”This is the first demonstration that growth hormone improves performance and justifies its ban in sport.” said Dr. Ken Ho, who led the study at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney.”

And later…

““The researchers speculated that the boost from growth hormone alone is enough to shave off about half a second in a 10-second sprint over 100 meters. That little time “divides the winner from the last place finisher,” said Ho.”

This ESPN article neglects to fully establish the experiment that all of the conclusions are based upon, and conveniently notes at the end of the article that during the experiment athletes treated with HGH were also given testosterone supplements. The addition of testosterone to HGH undoubtedly aided the athletes’ performance; thus making the claim that HGH is the sole reason why athletes performed better untrue and biased.

When writing an article in the scientific community, contributors describe their experiment in enough detail so that a similar study can be performed and the results will be consistent. A scientific journal article titled, “Systematic Review: The Effects of Growth Hormone on Athletic Performance” published by M. Saugy in 2008 analyzes the effects of human growth hormone in participants aged 13 to 45 years old. This scientific article clearly and diligently describes the methods, data, results, and conclusion of the experiment with an unbiased opinion. The conclusion of the experiment is surprising and factual:

Growth hormone is reported to be extensively used for illicit enhancement of athletic performance, both for its anabolic and endurance effects. However, our review of the limited published literature suggests that although growth hormone may alter body composition, it has minimal effect on key athletic performance outcomes and may, in fact, be associated with worsened exercise capacity.”

The scientific journal article shows an unbiased and fair analysis of the topic, while fully and accurately describing the methods and data obtained. ESPN’s article on HGH focused entirely on a faulty experiment with questionable conclusions. Although the ESPN article builds excitement and extrapolates data for the reader, the scientific journal separates the public opinion and provides merely what was found during the experiment.


-Chase Stanker


Posted on February 17, 2014, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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