It’s been called the Peter Pan drug, rumoured to have hooked a generation of ageing stars such as Demi Moore, Jennifer Aniston, Madonna, Suzanne Somers, Sly Stallone and Nick Nolte. But such is the controversy around human growth hormone (HGH) that only a handful have publicly acknowledged using it.
Caught bringing it into Australia in 2007, Stallone told NBC’s Today show that he uses it under the supervision of his doctor to help with endurance and recovery after exercise. Nolte has called it ‘a system repair’, and reportedly injected it into his stomach. And Somers, the perky blonde in Three’s Company, has published a best-seller about it (Ageless: The Naked Truth about Bioidentical Hormones), in which she extols its ability to combat the ‘Seven Dwarfs of Menopause’: Itchy, Bitchy, Sweaty, Sleepy, Bloated, Forgetful and All-Dried-Up.
‘A change is a-comin’,’ she told Vanity Fair. ‘As the boomers age and lose their edge, they’re looking around at the ones who are looking like they have a secret. More and more, my phone rings with Hollywood folks who want to know who to go to.’
HGH is produced in the pituitary gland at the base of the brain. It spurs growth in childhood and adolescence, and helps maintain and repair healthy tissue, assisting with the regulation of our body composition, body fluids, muscle and bone health, sugar and fat metabolism, and heart function, among other things. ‘It has myriad effects,’ says Cape Town endocrinologist Dr Wayne May.
By stimulating cell processes to activate our metabolism, HGH is also said, by advocates on countless websites, to improve the quality and look of the skin, slow the ageing process and keep age-related diseases at bay, although there is little solid research to substantiate this.
As we age, our production of HGH slows, and from our 30s there’s a progressive decline by about 15% for every decade, according to a 2019 University of Washington study. From our 60s onwards, the signs are often evident in more body fat, distributed mostly around the midriff; less muscle; loss of strength and energy; slower brain function; and lower bone density, which raises our risk of osteoporosis – although there may be multiple other reasons for these, says Dr Sundeep Ruder, a Johannesburg-based endocrinologist and associate lecturer at Wits University.
HGH advocates claim that taking it synthetically can slow and even reverse the above effects of ageing by boosting exercise capacity and energy, improving bone density, building muscle mass and reducing body fat. Users inject it either into the muscle or below the skin several times a week or daily; it cannot be taken orally, as enzymes in the digestive tract degrade it.
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
WRITING WHAT SHE LIKES
South African author Karen Jennings’ novel An Island has been long-listed for the 2021 Booker Prize. Currently living in São Paulo with her Brazilian husband, she tells us about her book and how many naps it takes to conceive a plot.
WRITING TRUTH POWER
We pay tribute to eight of the many women journalists out there right now putting themselves on the line for all of us.
THE SEARCH FOR THE FOUNTAIN of YOUTH
Human growth hormone (HGH) is being hailed in some quarters as a weight-loss and youth elixir. But is it? And should you try it?
THE SHINING MOUNTAIN
Summiting Kilimanjaro will change your life in strange ways. It’s not about how high you can climb; it’s more about how deep you can reach inside yourself.
❛I was part of the KwaSizabantu cult❜
As a child and adolescent at KwaSizabantu Mission, Erika Bornman witnessed the brainwashing and public beatings of young children. She herself was molested by her counsellor and branded a ‘slut’ when she tried to stop him. Erika has spent decades trying to get people to pay attention to what went on at the ‘mission’. It seems people are finally listening.
On the bright SIDE
WE’RE HEADING INTO SUNNY DAYS ARMED WITH AN ARSENAL OF SUMMERY STAPLES: THINK CUTE COZZIES, BREEZY COVER-UPS, OVERSIZED SHIRTS, ALL-WHITE ENSEMBLES AND JUST A LITTLE BIT OF DRAMA, LIKE A PAIR OF GLITTERY EARRINGS.
HOW TO MAKE AMENDS
IT’S NOT EASY TO BE THE ONE TO EXTEND THE OLIVE BRANCH AFTER A FALLOUT, BUT LET IT BE THE GIFT YOU GIVE YOURSELF – AND ANY RELATIONSHIPS YOU WANT TO SALVAGE – THIS HOLIDAY.
BE A ❛SMALL GOD❜
It’s a truism that helping other people makes you feel good too, but figuring out how to apply your talents isn’t always easy.
AFLOAT in France
BOATING ON THE INLAND WATERWAYS OF FRANCE ALLOWS YOU TO ENJOY THE SCENERY AND THE SIGHTS OF THE COUNTRYSIDE WHILE AVOIDING THE MORE STRESSFUL SIDE OF TRAVEL. A CRUISE BY CANAL BOAT ON THE CHARENTE RIVER IS A GORGEOUS, RELAXING CHOICE.
Bounce Back Mountain
How a retreat in beautiful surroundings can provide new perspectives on wellness, wine and hunger.