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Growth Hormone (Somatotropin) Effects & How to Increase

Written by Helen Quach, BS (Biochemistry) | Reviewed by Genius Labs Science Team | Last updated:

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Growth Hormone, or somatotropin, is a hormone that is needed for proper growth and development. While it has many health benefits, an excess amount of this hormone can cause health problems as well. Read more below to learn about its pros and cons.

What are Growth Hormones?

Growth Hormone (GH), also known as somatotropin, is a hormone that stimulates growth, increases muscle mass, reduces fat mass, and helps maintain normal blood glucose levels [1].

Growth Hormone is synthesized and secreted by the anterior pituitary gland in the brain [1].

Secretion of GH is primarily controlled by two hormones, called GH-releasing hormone (GHRH) and somatostatin [1].

GHRH stimulates the release of GH to the bloodstream while somatostatin inhibits the release of GH [1].

Growth Hormone is secreted episodically [2].

Growth Hormone continues to be secreted even during adult life after growth has ceased, meaning GH has other important physiologic functions other than stimulating growth [2].

During infancy, GH secretion is low but continues to increase slightly until before puberty [2].

At puberty, GH secretion is greatly increased and decreases in late adolescence and remains stable until about 30 years old in age [2].

From then on, a progressive decline occurs but GH secretion continues through old age [2].

Role of Growth Hormone in Growth

Growth Hormone acts both directly and by stimulating IGF-1 [2].

When released, GH travels from the anterior pituitary gland to liver and cartilage via the bloodstream and binds to its receptor, Growth Hormone Receptor (GHR), which triggers the production of Insulin-Like Factor 1 (IGF-1) [1, 3].

Both GH and IGF-1 are needed to stimulate normal growth [1].

Growth Hormone acts at the growth plate and increases growth by promoting differentiation and expansion of cells [1].

It increases bone mass by stimulating proliferation of bone cells, causing bone accumulation [1, 4].

GH acts on the fat tissue to increase the breakdown of fat and mobilization [1, 5].

It also increases the transport of amino acids in muscles to affect muscle fiber distribution [1].

Positive Effects of Growth Hormone

1) Increases Metabolism

Growth hormone increases the basal metabolic rate (BMR), which is the amount of energy consumed while at rest [6].

Patients with GH deficiency exhibited lower BMR [6].

It also was shown to lower the fat-free mass (FFM) and body fat (BF) [6].

2) Regulates the Immune System

Growth hormone causes proliferation of white blood cells of the immune system [7].

Growth hormone also regulates the immune system by modulating antibody secretion of B-Cells and cell-killing activities of various T-cells [7].

GH deficiency does not drastically affect the immune system [8].

GH deficiency patients do not exhibit immunodeficiency but only minor abnormalities in immune functions [9].

3) Promotes Heart Performance

Growth hormone increases the force of contraction of the left ventricle, increasing the force with which the blood is pumped throughout the body [10].

Increased force of contraction leads to reduced blood left in the left ventricle after contraction, which helps prevent cardiac failure [11].

Growth hormone also decreases vascular resistance, allowing the blood to flow in the body more freely without being constrained by the vessels [11].

This results in increased oxygen uptake by the blood and exercise capacity of the body [12].

In GH-deficient patients, the left ventricle exhibits abnormalities in structure and function [10].

GH-deficient patients also exhibit thicker vessels, which constrain blood flow [11].

4) Improves Wound Healing

Growth hormone increases the rate of tissue regeneration and wound healing [13].

It has been shown beneficial effects in patients with severe burn and trauma [14].

Growth hormone also positively affects bone fracture healing [15].

5) Increases Bone Mass

Growth hormone plays a role in bone metabolism and can fight osteoporosis [16].

Growth hormone helps maintain bone mineral density, preventing osteoporotic fractures [17].

Patients with growth hormone deficiency exhibit low bone mass and density due to lack of bone formation [17]

This puts the growth hormone deficiency patients higher risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures [18, 16].

6) Reduces Body Fat

Growth hormone can induce an increased breakdown of fat [19].

The activity of growth hormone mainly affects fat on abdominal regions and redistributes the fat throughout the body [20].

Children and adults with GH deficiency have increased the amount of fat on their abdomen [20].

As a result, impaired secretion of growth hormone can lead to abdominal fat [19].

7) Increases Muscle Mass and Strength

Growth hormone stimulates collagen synthesis in the tendon and muscle [21].

As a result, muscle strength increases [21].

Growth hormone also speeds up protein synthesis in muscles and increase muscle mass [22].

Due to its effects, athletes and bodybuilders widely use growth hormone as a performance-enhancing drug [23].

Patients with growth hormone deficiency show reduced muscle mass and strength compared to healthy individuals [23].

Acromegaly patients (people with excess growth hormone) have large muscles, but their muscle strength does not match their muscle mass due to the uneven composition of muscles, which hinders power generation [24].

8) Lowers Cholesterol Levels

Growth hormone is important in the regulation of cholesterol levels [25].

Growth hormone decreases cholesterol levels in the blood [25].

Patients with growth hormone deficiency have higher levels of cholesterol [26].

8) Helps Fertility

Growth hormone (GH) is involved in the regulation of male and female infertility and has been used in the management of both male and female infertility [27].

GH is also produced by the ovary apart from it being produced from the pituitary. GH helps in follicular growth. GH therapy is one of the treatments used in ovarian stimulation and Assisted Reproductive Technologies [27].

GH supplementation has been shown to improve pregnancy rates in poor responders. Growth hormone co-therapy has a definite role to play in ovarian stimulation and is effective in appropriately selected cases [27].

GH is produced not only by the pituitary but also locally by the ovary. Growth hormone, IGF-1, and GHRH, all increase the sensitivity of ovaries to gonadotropin stimulation and enhance follicular development [28].

Growth hormone also enhances aromatase and 3-β-hydrogenase activity, thus increasing the conversion of androgen into estrogens in females [27].

This effect on the ovarian steroidogenic enzymes occurs through a direct and/or IGF-I mediated mechanism. Growth hormones, IGF-1 and IGF-2, all affect the maturation of the follicle and gamete as well [27].

Negative Effects of Growth Hormone

1) Acromegaly

The hypersecretion of GH results in a condition called acromegaly [29].

Acromegaly is characterized by skin and skeletal deformities [30].

Patients with acromegaly have thick, rough and oily skin [30].

When acromegaly patients are treated, the thickness and elasticity of their skin return to normal levels [30].

2) Swelling

Some patients exhibited swelling while being treated with growth hormone for short bowel syndrome [31].

3) Cancer

GH might play a role in progression on a variety of cancers due to its ability to induce proliferation of cells [32].

So far, however, no studies have found a direct relationship between GH and cancer [33].

4) Muscle and Joint Pain

Growth hormone can induce muscle and joint pain [34].

5) Blurred Vision

An excessive amount of GH can cause blurred or double vision [35].

Patients with acromegaly have symptoms of blurring vision or sometimes complete loss of vision [36].

Acromegaly patients have increased the thickness of retina of their eyes, which affects the eye’s interaction with light [37].

6) Dizziness and Headaches

Acromegalic patients have reported severe headache [38].

Some patients being treated with growth hormone have also reported headache as well as dizziness during the treatment [39].

7) Sleep Apnea

Some patients being treated with growth hormone have reported sleep disturbance [40].

In some cases, patients have reported obstructive sleep apnea [41].

8) Diabetes

Growth hormone secretion increases when the blood glucose level is low [42].

Growth hormone causes insulin resistance [42].

This leads to increased glucose, decreased muscle glucose uptake and rising blood glucose levels [43].

Thus, abnormal growth hormone levels can contribute to type 2 diabetes [42].

My Experience With Growth Hormone

When I experimented with growth hormone, it caused negative effects, probably because I’m a normal GH producer. This might be in part from me having low insulin.

My joints ached, brain function went down, and my skin felt very sensitive. I had tried it because someone told me their food sensitivities went down on it.

GH felt like it put my immune system in overdrive, and I don’t do well with immune stimulants.

Indeed, Growth hormone is capable of stimulating the Th1 immune system (and I’m Th1 dominant) [44, 45].

Ways to Increase Your Growth Hormone Levels

Some ways to increase growth hormone level are:

1) Fasting

Fasting stimulates GH secretion [46].

This allows for the mobilization of fats in the body [19].

2) Taking Arginine and Ornithine supplement

Arginine and ornithine supplements have been shown to increase GH levels in athletes [47].

Arginine suppresses somatostatin secretion, an inhibitor of GH secretion [48].

3) Reducing sugar intake

Sugar intake causes a rise in insulin levels [49].

Insulin has an inhibitory effect on GH secretion, so high sugar intake lowers GH levels [50].

4) Not eating before bedtime

GH secretion increases during sleep [51].

However, if food is consumed before bedtime, rise in blood glucose level will lead to increased insulin, which will then lead to decreased GH secretion [49, 50]

5) Exercising

Exercising is a very potent stimulator of GH secretion [52].

Both aerobic and resistance exercise results in a significant increase in GH secretion [53].

The magnitude of increase in GH secretion correlates with exercise intensity [53].

6) Sleeping

During sleep, GH secretion increases [51]. GH secretion surges during slow-wave sleep [51].

7) Taking Melatonin Supplement

Melatonin stimulates GH secretion [54].

8) Glycine

4g of Glycine significantly increases growth hormone in people [55]. 8g of glycine increases it more and 12g increases it even more.

9) Sauna

There was a significant increase in serum growth hormone (142%) after a Sauna. One hour after the Sauna bath the average serum growth hormone had returned to the control level [56].

10) T3

Thyroid hormones (T3) increase Growth Hormone secretion [57]

11) Ghrelin

Ghrelin is known to increase growth hormone release [58], which is why athletes take growth hormone secretagogues.

12) Acetylcholine

Acetylcholine is capable of releasing growth hormone, especially in depressed patients, and in particular males with high baseline cortisol levels. In these people, enhanced growth hormone release may be due to a super sensitive cholinergic system [59].

13) Vitamin A

In children, there is a correlation between growth hormone and vitamin A [60].

14) Stress Reduction

Ways to Decrease GH

Some ways to decrease growth hormone level are:

1) High Carb Diet

  • Sugar intake increases blood glucose level, which increases insulin secretion [49].
  • Insulin inhibits GH secretion, lowering GH level [50].

2) High-fat Diet

  • The increase in free fatty acid levels in the blood leads to lower GH levels [62].


  • Dopamine virtually abolished GH secretion [63].
  • Insulin inhibits growth hormone secretion in cells [57].
  • DMT [64]

Irregular Growth Hormone Levels?

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About the Author

Helen Quach

BS (Biochemistry)

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