Growth hormone is a protein produced in the body by the pituitary gland in the brain. (1) The pituitary gland is also known as the master gland because it controls the working of other glands. It works on the signal by Hypothalamus, a part of the brain. This growth hormone or GH then flows in the bloodstream to activate other glands to produce their respective hormones.
Role of Growth Hormone in Childhood
Growth Hormone is directly responsible for the growth of bones, muscles and other tissues which is essential in childhood days. It also affects the growth indirectly as already mentioned that it controls the functioning of other endocrine glands. The hormones than produced by these glands, in turn, affect various other functions of the body responsible for the growth and overall working of different body parts.
Role of Growth Hormone in Adults
In adults, as much as in children, growth hormone is responsible for metabolism in the human body. Metabolism is a process in which our body converts food into energy and other waste products. It is majorly responsible for the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Let us understand each one in detail:
Protein metabolism: Protein is essential for building muscle tissue in the body. Growth hormones help to increase protein synthesis and increase the utilization of amino acids in the body. (2)
Fat metabolism: Growth hormone helps in breaking down the triglycerides and reduces the body’s capability to absorb different types of fats. In simple words, it helps us to utilize the fat we eat to make energy instead of making us obese. This is the reason some people do not gain weight even after eating a lot of oily food, which primarily contains fat.
Carbohydrate Metabolism: Growth hormone maintains blood glucose levels by suppressing the insulin abilities to uptake glucose and thus making glucose available in the blood for any organs that might need it.
Abnormal Levels of Growth Hormone
Deficiency or excess of Growth Hormone, can both be very harmful to the human body. Reasons for such condition might be hereditary or related to some other diseases. Deficiency of Growth Hormone can lead to Dwarfism and excess of it can cause Giantism. Robert Wadlow, a giant, had a height of 8 feet 11 inches, he died at the age of 22.
Earlier Growth hormone was obtained from corpses’ pituitary glands, but now it is made using recombinant DNA technology. It is used to treat children with clinically short stature. With growing commercialism in medical fields, there is a threat that it will be used in healthy children also. It can also be used for enhanced performances by various athletes.
Generally, it is safe to use such therapy, but it may have adverse side effects on the body.
It can also be utilized to treat some of the cosmetic effects of aging, but there is no commercial use approved as of now. Research is happening in this field. One current commercial use of growth hormone is to increase the milk-producing capacity of lactating cows; this is a promising business investment. Also, it has been verified that drinking such milk has no harmful effect on humans. It can also be used for enhanced growth of pigs and other farm animals reared for meat purposes.