Human growth hormone and human aging

Endocr Rev. 1993 Feb;14(1):20-39. doi: 10.1210/edrv-14-1-20.


In humans, both aging and GH deficiency are associated with reduced protein synthesis, decreased lean body and bone mass, and increased percent body fat. In healthy individuals, spontaneous and stimulated GH secretion, as well as circulating IGF-I and IGFBP-3 levels, are significantly decreased with advancing age. The extent to which these age-related changes in GH and IGF-I contribute to alterations in body composition and function remains to be elucidated. GH treatment of GH-deficient adults or old men with reduced IGF-I levels with exogenous GH increases plasma IGF-I, nitrogen retention, and lean body mass, decreases percent body fat, and exerts little effect on bone mineral density. Short-term adverse effects of GH therapy have been minimized by using low-dose regimens, but it is still uncertain whether long-term GH supplementation in adult life increases the risk of metabolic abnormalities or malignancy. Administration of GHRH, which has been shown to maintain the pattern of pulsatile GH secretion in old men, may represent another possible physiological approach to therapy. It may be justifiable initially to limit use of GH to certain elderly patients such as those suffering from catabolic illnesses, malnourishment, burns, cachexia, etc. A great deal more research will be necessary to determine whether normalization of GH and IGF-I levels in healthy older persons will lead to improvements in their physical and psychological functional capacity and quality of life.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Growth Hormone / adverse effects
  • Growth Hormone / physiology*
  • Growth Hormone / therapeutic use
  • Growth Hormone-Releasing Hormone / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Immune System / physiology
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I / biosynthesis
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I / physiology*
  • Receptor, IGF Type 1 / physiology
  • Receptors, Somatotropin / physiology
  • Risk Factors


  • Receptors, Somatotropin
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I
  • Growth Hormone
  • Growth Hormone-Releasing Hormone
  • Receptor, IGF Type 1