Human Growth Hormone Could Reduce Fat Deposits Caused by HIV Treatment, JAMA Study Finds
Low doses of human growth hormone can reverse some of the abnormal fat distribution caused by HIV treatment and lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, but the hormone could increase the risk of side effects in people who have early stages of diabetes, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and presented Sunday at the XVII International AIDS Conference, the Los Angeles Times reports.
According to the Times, about 40% of males and 16% of females who take antiretroviral drugs develop visceral fat in the stomach, neck and cheeks, which is associated with higher levels of cholesterol and triglycerides and can increase the risk of heart attacks and stroke. Such patients typically have abnormally low levels of growth hormones, and researchers had hoped that replacing those hormones with genetically engineered human growth hormone might reverse the effects, the Times reports. However, previous studies using higher levels of the hormone produced "unacceptable" side effects, including tissue swelling and joint pain, according to the Times.
The study, led by Steven Grinspoon of Harvard Medical School, involved 56 people with HIV who had fat deposits in their stomachs and low blood levels of the hormone. Half of the people received daily doses of 0.33 milligrams of the hormone -- less than the two to four milligrams used in previous studies -- and the other half received a placebo. During the 18-month study, stomach fat dropped by 8.5% in people receiving the hormone, compared with 1.6% with the placebo group, the Times reports. However, tests showed some elevation of blood sugar in patients receiving the hormone, particularly among those who had abnormal glucose tolerance tests at the beginning of the study. The researchers did not study cardiovascular risk among the patients.
Grinspoon said the hormone produced good results but would have to be used carefully to avoid inducing diabetes (Maugh, Los Angeles Times, 8/4). He also said use of the hormone is "not a panacea" (Tanner, AP/Google.com, 8/3). Grinspoon added that future trials should involve a diabetes drug, such as metformin, to reduce side effects (Los Angeles Times, 8/4). New antiretrovirals that produce fewer side effects also are needed, according to Grinspoon.
Jeffrey Lennox, an AIDS expert at Emory University, said that although there were fewer side effects with lower doses, the results of the study were "disappointing." Lennox said the results suggest hormone injections at best have limited use for treating fat abnormalities associated with HIV treatment (AP/Google.com, 8/3).
The study is available online.
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