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What is human growth hormone?
• Growth hormone is a powerful anabolic hormone that occurs naturally in the human body. It is produced by the pituitary gland in the brain and stimulates the growth of muscle, cartilage and bone.
• A body produces growth hormone throughout its entire life, but produces more of it during youth.
• HGH was initially isolated in 1956. By 1959, it was starting to be used on children suffering from stunted growth.
• Originally, prior to genetic engineering, the only source of HGH was human corpses. The pituitary glands were removed from cadavers, processed and the hormones made available in injectable form. However, synthetic HGH can now be made in unlimited quantities in the laboratory. The International Olympic Committee's medical commission banned HGH in 1989.
Why would an athlete take HGH?
• To increase muscle size. Because there is a correlation between muscle size and strength, competitors in events that require power and short bursts of explosive strength would be most likely to benefit. It also allows tired muscles to recover faster -- allowing you to train harder and more often.
Are there any side effects?
• If a body has too much HGH, a condition can result called acromegaly, a disease where the hands become spade-like in appearance as they get bigger. Growth of the facial bones causes the face to change shape too.
• Organs such as the heart, liver and kidneys also undergo excessive growth, leading to potentially life-threatening problems.
• Accelerated cell growth also increases the risk for cancers.
SOURCE: ESPN Research Department and BBC.co.uk