Supplementation can be used for growth hormone stimulation, antioxidant effects and/or general nutritional support, and I will deal with each in turn.
Stimulating growth hormone
The recent experimental treatment of ageing in the US using artificial growth hormone (see Chapter 7) has revived interest in the methods first strongly promoted by Pearson and Shaw in the early 1980s. These approaches certainly slowed, and indeed seemed to reverse, the appearance of ageing. However, there is no evidence in animals or humans, as yet, of any increase in life span as a result of growth hormone (GH) stimulation or replacement.
GH production is stimulated by sleep (release occurs about an hour and a half after you fall asleep, with none appearing if your sleep is restless or disturbed), aerobic exercise and fasting, and by specific amino acid supplementation. GH production is slowed down by insulin, which is produced more prolifically when sugar is eaten in any quantity - another reason for not eating much of this substance.
The methods suggested by Pearson and Shaw (Life Extension, 1983) are echoed by Leslie Kenton in her superb overview Ageless Ageing (Century Arrow, 1986), in which she says:
Both arginine and ornithine (amino acids) are currently being used to encourage growth-hormone release from the pituitary . . . stimulating protein production in muscles by increasing the transport of amino acids into the cells, causing fat cells to release fatty acids, and encouraging the liver to increase the rate at which it burns fat . . . it appears to improve immune functions and may therefore improve the body's resistance to illness and premature ageing.
Arginine is found in many proteins, but in greater quantities in soya beans, chickpeas and sunflower seeds. It can be taken supplementally in daily quantities of up to 8 grams, for a period of a month to six weeks at a time, in order to trigger growth hormone production by the pituitary. Or it can be taken at the same time as ornithine (so that half the 6 to 8 grams is made up of ornithine and the other half of arginine) in two doses daily, one an hour before breakfast and the other before a period of active exercise. If there is no such exercise period, take the second dose an hour before one of the other meals, with water only.
After a six week period on these supplements it is suggested that a similar period of rest be taken, before repeating the supplementation, if you wish.
- No-one with a history of herpes should take arginine, as it encourages flare-ups of the condition. In this case all the supplementation should be with ornithine, which has no such effect.
- Neither of these amino acids should be supplemented by anyone who has not completed their full stages of growth.
- If your skin appears to become thickened after supplementing for a while, the condition will reverse itself when supplementation ceases. This is highly unlikely on the dosages recommended.
- Neither of these amino acids (arginine or ornithine) should be taken by anyone with a history of schizophrenia.
Growth hormone stimulation seems to be a somewhat peripheral issue in life extension, giving the appearance of anti-ageing without the reality. However, there is much to be said for enhanced protein production and for looking younger and creating some of the attributes of youth, such as was achieved in the US trials mentioned in Chapter 7.