The popularity of human growth hormone (hGH) is based on the widespread knowledge that it is effective, efficient, hard to detect and without major side-effects if well dosed - even if less people know what this exactly means.

Athletes and body-builders claimed that hGH increased lean body mass and decreased fat mass. Today, the use of hGH in sport is not only based on these anabolic properties, but also on its effect on carbohydrate and fat deposits in the body.

The extent to which hGH actually improves performance is still under debate. In adults who lack hGH because their body does not produce sufficient amounts, injection of the hormone increases the muscle mass while it decreases the fat mass.

It also shows favourable effects on exercise capacity as well as kidney and heart function. These positive effects are, however, less clear in athletes. There is a remarkable difference between the objective results from scientific studies and subjective reports by abusers. The true benefits of hGH are even more difficult to determine since hGH frequently is used in combination with anabolic steroids or EPO.

The long-term risks of hGH abuse are not well known since there are no data describing the wellbeing of healthy sportsmen. Acromegaly, a complex of symptoms including swelling of the hands and feet, coarsened facial appearance, joint pain, fluid retention and excessive sweating is often cited as a major risk of excessive use. An abuser may also be at risk for diabetes, hypertension, heart muscle damage and osteoporosis.

HGH has been forbidden in sports since 1989 and belongs to category S2 "hormones and related substances" on the list of prohibited substances. While its detection in the urine is unreliable and expensive, you need to know that new blood tests can identify hGH abuse.

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