Let’s cut straight to the chase.
In most situations, I don’t recommend the use of popular growth hormone stacks like IGF-1, GHRHs, GHRPs or any of the like, especially for long term use. If you're injured, lifting very heavy (e.g. bodybuilding), trying to put on a lot of mass or using yourself as some kind of muscle gain self-experiment, I get it. Sometimes a bit of better living through science can make sense. But as I discuss in this article, there are better natural alternatives out there that I think must be tried before pulling out the “big guns” of injections (plus, this stuff is banned by just about every international sporting body).
But for maintenance of adequate and natural IGF-1 and growth hormone, and to achieve that sweet spot of not becoming to pro-growth while also not becoming a weak, muscle-less noodle, the sweet spot of producing adequate insulin without producing too much, and the sweet spot of increasing cellular repair without letting cellular division get “out of control”…
…I personally incorporate GH boosting strategies such as colostrum supplementation, grass-fed whey protein, raw milk, and limitation of starch and sugar, along with plenty of good sleep, heavy lifting, high-intensity interval training, avoidance of chronic cardio, use of the legs during weight training sessions and anabolic compounds such as essential amino acids, particularly prior to fasted exercise sessions.
When these strategies are combined with the other effective IGF-1 and growth hormone boosting strategies – such as eating adequate calories, proper mineral intake and moderation of alcohol intake – you can get most of the anabolic effects of IGF-1 and growth hormone without having to resort to needles, syringes, prescriptions, online pharmacies and potentially dangerous self-experimentation.
But I still get plenty of questions about IGF-1 and GH. So in this brief article, I'd like to specifically tackle the topic of growth hormone injections, the latest research on whether they could actually increase the risk for cancer and whether you should get growth hormone injections.
Should You Get Growth Hormone Injections?
GH is becoming an increasingly popular therapeutic tactic for stimulating muscle growth, improving wound and bone fracture healing and enhancing longevity. Although, as many have argued and as I've alluded to in past podcasts, the general consensus in anti-aging medicine is that excess GH may shorten lifespan. Still, the hormone does have several effects on maintaining health and reducing several disease factors.
The story behind how GH is actually processed is very important to understand and may give you a new understanding of whether GH is really capable of shortening, not lengthening, lifespan.
Here’s how it works: whether injected intravenously or produced naturally by the pituitary gland, upon introduction to the bloodstream, GH travels to the liver and switches on the production of nine different proteins. Two of these proteins are IGF-1 and IGF-2, but the rest are known as binding proteins. For example, binding protein-1 (BP1) is involved in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. When you are deficient in BP1, you experience impaired cardiovascular function and an increased risk of heart attack. Meanwhile, a BP2 deficiency leads to reduced insulin sensitivity and increased risk of diabetes.
Then there’s BP3, which is the most commonly tested-for binding protein, is a significant carrier of IGF-1 and is involved in mitigating the risk of cancer. The Melbourne Collaborative Cohort Study out of Australia found that small increases in the levels of BP3 infer a 48% reduction in colon cancer by absorbing IGF-1. This is because IGF-1 is pro-mitotic, which means that it stimulates cell reproduction and could, if not properly bound, increase the risk for cancer.
So what this means is that if you have existing cancer or a genetic disposition to a higher risk of cancer and if cells carrying the cancer-causing genetic mutation are allowed to replicate by IGF-1, you could have an increased risk of cancer growth by choosing to begin using a GH therapy.
Your cells have a regulatory mechanism (a protein called P53) that determines whether or not the mutation-carrying cells are reproducing, and when it finds one of these cells, P53 tries to fix the mutation.
If it fixes it, then all is good. But if it can’t, P53 turns on the production of BP3, which then absorbs IGF-1 so that it can’t stimulate cell reproduction. This, in turn, reduces the chance of the mutation spreading (incidentally, two other proteins, P21 and P23, stimulate apoptosis, or programmed cell death, to kill the mutation-carrying cells). BP4 also has strong anti-colon cancer factors and aids in increasing apoptosis. BP5 stores IGF-1 and transports it to the bone to support bone health, and BP6 improves neural function, neuroprotection and neurogenesis.
All these proteins are stimulated by GH, which means that GH does have a significant impact on longevity and long-term health. This also means that the presence of IGF-1 isn’t necessarily an issue – the problem is how it's handled and removed when levels get too high, particularly via modulation of IGF-1 and GH by your binding proteins.
In other words, if your binding protein levels are inadequate, which would likely be due to low antioxidant intake, a diet void in wild plants, or lack of proper supplementation with nutrients such as quercetin (which is particularly potent at increasing BP levels) during a GH protocol, it is indeed highly possible that a GH treatment may be increasing your risk of cancer.
In addition, there are other reasons I am not convinced that the current anti-aging infatuation with GH injections is a healthy practice. While I am a fan of incorporating lifestyle strategies to increase GH, such as intermittent fasting (particularly the fascinating research by Dr. Jason Fung showing that GH levels climb 200-300% with one day of fasting and remain elevated for up to 48 hours!), heavy lifting (even in a fasted state), and adequate protein consumption, I just haven’t seen enough data to prove that injecting GH is particularly effective or safe.
(Although I’d love to see studies done on folks using GH and also implementing the type of GH and IGF-1 increasing dietary strategies I recommend here).
For example, to evaluate the safety and efficacy of GH in healthy older people, one team of researchers reviewed 31 GH studies. The dose of GH varied considerably, and the duration of therapy ranged from 2 to 52 weeks, but all doses did succeed at boosting levels of IGF-1 (which, as you now know, reflects the level of GH) by up to 88%.
Compared to the subjects who did not get GH, the treated individuals gained an average of 4.6 pounds of muscle and shed a similar amount of body fat. But unfortunately, the GH-injected individuals also experienced a high rate of unpleasant side effects such fluid retention, joint pain, breast enlargement, and carpal tunnel syndrome. Other research suggests that GH injections induce an increased risk of cancer in general and prostate cancer in particular.
The data on GH for performance is unimpressive as well. Because GH is banned in most sanctioned sports, scientists have been unable to evaluate GH in many real-world conditions. But they have conducted randomized clinical trials that administer GH or a placebo to athletes and then measure body composition, strength, and exercise capacity in the lab.
It turns out that after receiving daily injections for an average of 20 days, subjects who received GH increased their lean body mass, but this did not translate into improved performance.
GH did not produce any significant increases in strength or exercise capacity. In addition, the subjects who received GH were more likely to experience fluid retention and fatigue.
Research has also associated variations in the gene that encodes for IGF-1 receptors (which reduce IGF-1 levels) with a significantly longer lifespan in humans. This is likely because reduced IGF-1 levels increase the expression of genes involved in stress resistance, especially resistance to oxidative stress. So in the same way that having too much muscle mass increases antioxidant needs, so do excessive levels of GH and IGF-1.
So in the end, although GH injections (or other peptides) to increase IGF and GH may have a time and a place in situations where a person desires some fairly significant gains in muscle mass, recovery, or even drive and sleep, and that person has exhausted or tried all natural alternatives, what are my recommendations to you for increasing GH naturally, without injections?
Here are a few of my most potent strategies:
- Grass-fed whey protein
- Essential amino acids (prior to fasted exercise sessions)
- Raw milk – Find raw milk in your area.
- Proper mineral intake
That's it! Do you have questions, thoughts or feedback for me about growth hormone or IGF-1? Leave your comments below and I will reply!