Diabetes case tied to growth hormone ‘doping’
Athletes who take growth hormone in an effort to enhance their performance risk developing diabetes, two doctors from the UK warn in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
In the paper, Dr. James Young and Aresh Anwar from University Hospital Coventry and Warwick, Warwickshire, describe what they believe is the first reported case of diabetes associated with taking high doses of growth hormone.
The problem came to light when a 36-year-old professional body-builder was treated for chest pain in the emergency department. He told his doctors that in the past year he had lost a significant amount of weight—88 pounds or 40 kilos. He also noticed that he had to urinate excessively and was constantly thirsty and hungry.
The man admitted to using anabolic steroids for 15 years and high doses of growth hormone for the past three years. He said he went on insulin a year after starting growth hormone in an effort to counter the effects of high blood sugar, but he stopped taking insulin after a couple of episodes of sudden low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, while at the gym.
Tests showed that the man’s liver was inflamed, his kidneys were enlarged and that he had very high blood sugar. He was also dehydrated, and was diagnosed with diabetes.
He was admitted to the hospital, treated with intravenous fluids and insulin for five days and then sent home. His symptoms resolved completely, and he was no longer diabetic.
“The use of performance enhancing drugs is widely underestimated,” Young noted in comments to Reuters Health. In recent years, growth hormone has become popular with athletes because it is easy to buy online and difficult to detect in screening tests, unlike anabolic steroids.
“The internet gives easy access to these drugs as well as the ‘best’ means to take them,” Young warned. “We should not dismiss such users as being naive, as most have extensive ‘pseudomedical’ knowledge, often surpassing that of many general physicians.”
This case report “is likely to only represent the tip of an iceberg,” Young said. “There are short term risks, but of more concern are the long term implications, for which we have very little data.”
Whether or not growth hormone actually enhances athletic performance is “highly debatable,” Young and Anwar note in their report. They recommend that anyone taking high doses of growth hormone get their blood sugar levels checked regularly.
SOURCE: British Journal of Sports Medicine, online February 26, 2007.
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