Participants were seen weekly for assessment of adverse effects and measurement of body weight, temperature, blood pressure and pulse, and every 4 weeks for a detailed assessment and testing. Medication doses were reduced as necessary based on adverse effects. Four women and two men dropped out before the end of the study, two thirds of which were due to adverse effects.
Adverse effects in participants treated with GH included soft tissue edema, joint pain and carpal tunnel symptoms and were more common in men than in women. Men were also more likely to develop glucose intolerance and diabetes, consistent with previous findings that men are more responsive to GH. Administering sex steroids with GH did not increase the incidence of soft tissue effects or glucose intolerance. About 10% of the men receiving GH developed mild gynecomastia.
Both men and women who received GH, with or without sex steroids, increased lean body mass and decreased fat mass. Men taking GH plus sex steroid increased muscle strength marginally and increased maximum oxygen uptake during treadmill tests. Women showed no significant change in strength or cardiovascular endurance.
The findings of this study suggest that GH and sex steroid supplementation can potentially exert beneficial effects on body composition in healthy elderly men and women and possibly improve muscle strength and cardiovascular endurance capacity in men. The beneficial effects of GH for men appeared to be augmented by taking it in combination with testosterone. However, GH supplementation can lead to a number of adverse effects, most importantly glucose intolerance and diabetes. The researchers suggest that further research is needed into the safety and efficacy of GH and GH supplementation for the elderly should be confined to controlled studies.