The metabolic effects of growth hormone in adipose tissue

Endocrine. 2013 Oct;44(2):293-302. doi: 10.1007/s12020-013-9904-3. Epub 2013 Feb 21.


There is a general consensus that a reduction in growth hormone (GH) secretion results in obesity. However, the pathophysiologic role of GH in the metabolism of lipids is yet to be fully understood. The major somatic targets of GH are bones and muscles, but GH stimulates lipolysis and seems to regulate lipid deposition in adipose tissue. Patients with isolated GH deficiency (GHD) have enlarged fat depots due to higher fat cell volume, but their fat cell numbers are lower than those of matched controls. The treatment of patients with GH results in a relative loss of body fat and shifts both fat cell number and fat cell volume toward normal, indicating an adipogenic effect of GH. Adults with GHD are characterized by perturbations in body composition, lipid metabolism, cardiovascular risk profile, and bone mineral density. It is well established that GHD is usually accompanied by an increase in fat accumulation; GH replacement in GHD results in the reduction of fat mass, particularly abdominal fat mass. In addition, abdominal obesity results in a secondary reduction in GH secretion that is reversible with weight loss. However, whereas GH replacement in patients with GHD leads to specific depletion of intra-abdominal fat, administering GH to obese individuals does not seem to result in a consistent reduction or redistribution of body fat. Although administering GH to obese non-GHD subjects has only led to equivocal results, more recent studies indicate that GH still remains a plausible metabolic candidate.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipogenesis / drug effects
  • Adipose Tissue / drug effects*
  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism*
  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Growth Hormone / pharmacology*
  • Human Growth Hormone / deficiency
  • Humans
  • Hypopituitarism / drug therapy
  • Hypopituitarism / metabolism
  • Lipid Metabolism / drug effects


  • Human Growth Hormone
  • Growth Hormone