Human growth hormone (hGH) is manufactured in a pea-sized gland at the base of the brain called the pituitary gland. This important hormone is essential for normal growth and development, affecting every cell within the human body. Most people have an adequate supply of growth hormone within the pituitary gland, but as we age it doesn't release as easily as it once did. In fact, between the ages of 21 and 61, the levels of hGH within the body diminish by as much as 80%.

Low growth hormone levels in adults can produce the following symptoms: thin, dry skin; reduced energy; decreased strength and tolerance for exercise; reduced muscle mass; weight gain around the middle; anxiety and depression.

In a 1990 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, it was hypothesized that as a person gets older, declining levels of human growth hormone may contribute to a decrease in lean body mass and an increase in fat tissue mass that occurs with aging.

A group of 21 healthy men from 61 to 81 years of age with low growth hormone levels were examined during a six-month base-line period and a six-month treatment period. During the treatment period, 12 men received subcutaneous doses of biosynthetic human growth hormone three times a week, and 9 men did not receive treatment.

Growth hormone levels were measured monthly. At the end of each period, measurements were also taken for lean body mass, fat-tissue mass, skin thickness and bone density. Hormone levels in the treatment group rose to a youthful range. This group also experienced increased skin thickness, an increase in lean body mass, a decrease in fat-tissue mass and an increase in bone density in some areas.

Researchers concluded that diminished growth hormone levels contribute in part to thickening of the mid-section, reduced lean body mass and thin skin that typically occurs with age. While the biosynthetic human growth hormone appeared to benefit the treatment group, in reality these injections are extremely expensive.

In 1997, Dr. L. E. Dorman appeared before colleagues at the American College for the Advancement of Medicine and presented important information regarding hgH production in the body. Although production declines after age 30, it is the body's inability to release the hGH it produces that is more important.

A natural method to stimulate the pituitary gland to release hGH stores was needed instead of expensive injections. This groundbreaking research led to the development of human growth hormone releasers, which are over-the counter; natural supplements currently marketed as less expensive alternatives to injections. These supplements, called secretagogues, generally combine amino acids, nutrients and herbs to boost production of hGH within the pituitary gland and stimulate its release.

A 1998 paper entitled "The Role of Oral Growth Hormone Secretagogues in Anti-Aging Therapy," presented by D. Mark Ladley M. D. to the European International Conference on Quality of Life and Longevity Medicine, states "It is known that the aging pituitary somatotroph cells are capable of secreting as much hGH as the young somatotroph cells when they are adequately stimulated."

Although more research is needed in the area of secretagogues and anti-aging, advocates and users have reported such benefits as increased energy and sex drive, pain relief, firmer, more youthful skin and less graying of the hair. Secretagogues can be found in natural foods stores or through natural supplement websites.