New York: A new drug can boost levels of one of the most important “youth hormones” in older people, according to a new study by the University of Virginia.
Patients aged between 60 and 61, took doses of an experimental drug called MK-677, that prompts the body to release growth hormone, over a two-year period. This lead to them gaining lean fat-free muscle mass and a redistribution of “middle-age spread” to the arms and legs. There was also a decrease in insulin sensitivity.
Altogether the trial involved 65 healthy people, some of whom were given a placebo. Doctors found that patients who had received the therapy experienced an increase in growth hormone levels equivalent to levels seen among healthy young adults. The findings are reported in the Nov. 3 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.
This compared to those who didn’t get the growth-hormone boosting therapy losting about one pound of muscle in a year, wheras those who got the drug gained about two pounds of muscle mass
Growth hormone levels are highest during mid-puberty, but drop by about half by the time men and women turn 30. The decline continues , with levels diminishing at a rate of about 50 percent every 7 years.
Study author, Dr Michael Thorner said: “As we all get older, our body composition changes. So, people in their 80s and 90s all look the same: their fat is distributed in the center and the abdomen, and they lose a lot of muscle mass.”
“This has become an increasing problem as life expectancy has increased from 45 at the turn of the century to now over 80,” he continued. “Obviously people would like to remain independent and functional as long as possible, but these changes work against them.
“Because this age-related reduction in muscle mass is associated with a decrease in growth hormone secretion, the rationale for the therapy we’re studying is to try and address the problem by boosting the normal secretion of this hormone,” Thorner said.
Human growth hormone, produced naturally by the body’s pituitary gland, is essential to healthy development and the maintenance of tissues and organs. But as people enter their 30s and 40s, levels of the hormone start to decline.
Synthetic versions are legally prescribed for children with “dwarfism” and for adults with a abnormal deficiency – the decline brought about by ageing is not considered abnormal.
Nevertheless, a growing number of adults spend thousands of dollars on buying self-injectable human growth hormone which can be bought on the internet or prescribed by anti-ageing doctors.
Its use is controversial and has also become the focus of “sports doping” headlines, with well-known athletes allegedly turning to the drug for its reputed performance-enhancing properties.
According to the American College of Physicians, it’s estimated that some patients spend as much as $1,000 to $2,000 per month on the drug for anti-aging purposes.
Read more about muscles and ageing the US National Institute on Aging