'A fountain of youth in a syringe': How human growth hormone injections became the latest anti-ageing weapon for Hollywood's A-list
By Daniel Bates
Last updated at 11:51 AM on 2nd February 2012
Human growth hormone has become the latest fad amongst dozens of ageing celebrities in Hollywood who are desperate to look young.
Well known actors and household names are paying $240 a time to inject their bodies with chemicals they have dubbed 'a fountain of youth in a syringe'.
HGH users report that they feel 20 years younger, their skin feels tighter and that their sex drive increases.
Anti-ageing: Actress Suzanne Somers (left) and Alana Stewart, Rod Stewart's ex-wife (right), are among the names to have used human growth hormone
Alana Stewart, Rod Stewart's ex-wife, has admitted using it to get rid of her grey hairs whilst Sylvester Stallone has long been an advocate.
But there is a dark side too - studies have suggested that long term HGH use may increase the risk of cancer and diabetes.
There is also a stigma that you are too old to work in Hollywood, meaning many users would rather admit their penchant for Viagra than HGH.
Dark side: Studies have suggested that long term HGH use could increase the risk of cancer and diabetes
A report by Vanity Fair magazine found that use of the drug in Hollywood is nevertheless widespread.
Its reporter Ned Zeman spoke to one talent manager who claimed that 'any actor over 50 you're still seeing with a ripped stomach and veins in his forearms is probably taking HGH'.
A Hollywood filmmaker added: 'I am one of the pathetically insecure Hollywood people who, like everyone else who lives here, is overly concerned with looks.
Fans: Despite the potential risks, actors Nick Nolte (left) and Sylvester Stallone (right) wax lyrical about the positive benefits of HGH
'My internal organs got healthier quickly. And I could feel it - the main impact of HGH. … is really useful, I found. It very much imbues you with a sense of clarity and confidence.'
'I had started noticing a few gray hairs coming in. But I noticed that when I was taking [HGH] - no gray hairs'
The theory behind HGH is unproven but centres on the idea that hormones wane as we age and if we replace them, returning to the levels we had when we were 30 or 35, we can regain the good health and energy levels and libido we had then.
Its advocates initially claimed that it made male muscle tighter but then widened the 'appeal' to its age defying properties too.
Mr Stallone is said to have used HGH to get in shape for his role in Rocky IV. Actor Nick Nolte has called it 'a systems repair' whilst U.S. TV actress Suzanne Somers said it was 'sex in a capsule'.
Renewed energy: Dr Uzzi Reiss, who has long injected himself, as well as his patients, with HGH, calls it a 'rejuvenating force'
Users report feeling like they have more energy and sleep better, even if they are spending as much as $11,000 a year on the injections.
WHAT IS HUMAN GROWTH HORMONE?
Human Growth Hormone has been around as a treatment since the 1990s but has only recently been sold as an anti-ageing drug.
It is produced by the pituitary gland - a pea-sized structure at the base of the brain - to fuel childhood growth and help maintain tissues and organs throughout life.
Synthetic versions were first sold to bodybuilders looking to bulk up, but rising numbers of Hollywood actors in their 50s are using it to try and feel 20 years younger.
HGH is only available as a prescription for patients with the rare condition growth hormone deficiency but is widely used for cosmetic reasons.
It is also available in pill form or homeopathic remedies.
According to the Mayo Clinic, there is ‘little evidence to suggest human growth hormone can help otherwise healthy adults regain youth and vitality’ whichever way you take it.
However it also warns that those using the drug can experience side effects such as joint pain, muscle pain, increased risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease and in men increased breast growth.
Ms Stewart, 66, the only person who agreed to be identified in the article, told Vanity Fair: 'I had started noticing a few gray hairs coming in.
'But I noticed that when I was taking it - no gray hairs.'
Synthetic versions of HGH are legal in California with a prescription, but is often used for purposes it was not intended to be used for.
Research by Mayo clinic has found that side effects including carpal tunnel syndrome, swelling in the limbs and enlargement of male breast tissue.
But Los Angeles based expert Dr Andre Berger claimed that the injections were perfectly safe.
He said: 'We treat a deficiency disease.
'Anti-aging medicine is about making people as vital, functional, happy, and active as they can be. It's about maximizing their potential.
'People are going to be living longer. This is about preventing the chronic diseases and all the ravages that affect your quality of life.'
Dr Uzzi Reiss, who also injects his patients with HGH, calls it a 'rejuvenating force'.
He said: 'I've been taking HGH for many years. I have the energy and vibrancy of a man half my age. I don't get sick, don't get jet-lagged.
'I can't see why anybody would inject HGH if it doesn't have any benefits.'