Sylvester Stallone swears by it. Nick Nolte likens it to “a systems repair” and actress Suzanne Somers said it’s “sex in a capsule.” They are all regular users of human growth hormone, Hollywood’s newest drug.
The hormone is produced by the pituitary gland, Early in life, it aids childhood growth and maintains tissues and organs. But by middle age, growth hormone production falls off in step with the onset of aging.
A human growth hormone, also known as HGH, was synthesized in 1970 and first became popular with athletes for its perceived performance enhancing capabilities. It was eventually banned from sports. But celebrities in increasing numbers are turning to the drug to maintain their youthful looks.
Once a drug gets popular in Hollywood, it doesn’t take long to spread to the mainstream. And, medical authorities fear a head-long rush to use the drug as baby boomers age, despite its side effects. Some studies have shown it may increase cancer and diabetes risk.
Stallone, 65, reportedly used HGH to get in shape for his role in the 1985 movie “Rocky IV,” according to Vanity Fair, which is publishing an in-depth article on the subject in its upcoming issue. The hormone sells for about $240 a shot.
Advocates of the drug say it increases muscle mass, rejuvenates the skin and increases sex drive. Alana Stewart, the ex-wife of UK singer Rod Stewart, said it restored color to her gray hair.
“Any actor over 50 you’re still seeing with a ripped stomach and veins in his forearms is probably taking HGH,” one Hollywood agent told the magazine.
“I am one of the pathetically insecure Hollywood people who, like everyone else who lives here, is overly concerned with looks,” said a filmmaker. “My internal organs got healthier quickly. And I could feel it. It very much imbues you with a sense of clarity and confidence.”
The procedure is designed to restore levels of the hormone that are present in individuals who are 30 to 25 years old. In clinical applications, it’s prescribed for patients with a deficiency. Under those circumstances it can increase bone density and muscle mass, decrease body fat and improve stamina, according to the Mayo clinic.
Too few studies have been done to say conclusively what the benefits are for normal, healthy individuals, according to the medical institution. But side effects have been noted, including swelling in the arms and legs, joint pain, muscle pain and breast enlargement in men.
Other doctors who advocate its use believe it’s safe. “I’ve been taking HGH for many years. I have the energy and vibrancy of a man half my age. I don’t get sick, don’t get jet-lagged,” Dr Uzzi Reiss, who also injects his patients told the magazine.