Dr. Robert N. Butler is the President and CEO of the International Longevity Center. Whether through his many appearances in front of the United States Congress, or his hundreds of interviews with the media, Dr. Butler has worked tirelessly for decades to push population-aging issues into the public discourse. As a gerontologist and psychiatrist, Dr. Butler recognized discrimination against the elderly as early as 1968, coining the term "ageism." Eight years later, the publication of his Pulitzer-prize-winning "Why Survive? Being Old in America" solidified his reputation as someone who foresaw the impact that aging would have on American society. A founding director of the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health, as well as the nation's first department of geriatrics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Dr. Butler often consults for television and radio. He is the author of some 300 scientific and medical articles. Source: The International Longevity Center
Question: Can human growth hormone slow aging?
Robert Butler: Basically, nonsense, unfortunately. It would be nice if it were true, but human growth hormone is actually associated with a disease called acromegaly where the hands and feet get very large and in animal species, growth hormone actually shortens life rather than lengthening it. What happened was some time ago, a good scientist found that by giving him a growth hormone, muscles bulked up and they looked bigger, but they weren’t necessarily functionally any stronger because you really have to exercise, you can't just have bulk. You have to actually exercise and furthermore, the heart can get big and if you happen to have a tumor in your body since it is a growth hormone, it could increase the growth of that tumor. So, I don’t think it makes any sense whatsoever to be utilizing human growth hormone. [Inaudible] scientific studies to learn more about it and there might be some chemical sisters that could be developed, which could have some of the good functions without the bad ones, but I personally think it is irresponsible to either take human growth hormone or to administer it.
Question: Why is it so popular?
Robert Butler: Well, I don't know if they are deceiving themselves in terms of short term benefits. It may…because they may get a bigger muscle mass, they may think that helps and we have known for years something called a placebo, which means I please you. We know that all sorts of medications will have or even dummy pills will have positive effects and make you feel better. So, I think that it largely is a placebo effect.
Question: Can human growth hormone slow aging by increasing muscle mass?
Robert Butler: Muscle mass is not enough. You have to have function. So, if we get the muscle mass plus a physical fitness trainer who keeps your muscles active that would be one thing. That could be…and that is what I meant earlier by saying that maybe we could learn about certain chemicals that are close to human growth hormone for short term use with someone that is frail and not able to adequately function. It could make a huge difference, both for the caregiver let us say a wife taking care of her husband won't have to be so burdened if through short term use of something like human growth hormone that individual gains some strength and was able to be ambulatory and walk and not have to be lifted and not have to be a burden upon his spouse.
Question: What are the negative side effects of HGH?
Robert Butler: I think the most important thing is the size of the heart, hypertrophy of the heart, but also there can be thickening of the blood, there can be a greater tendency to diabetes and as I said earlier, the possibility if there already is the beginnings of an unrecognized cancer, let us say in the prostate, that this could lead to further speed up of the cancer's growth.
Recorded on: Mar 17 2008