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J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2000 Mar;85(3):970-6.

Withdrawal of long-term physiological growth hormone (GH) administration: differential effects on bone density and body composition in men with adult-onset GH deficiency.

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Neuroendocrine Unit and General Clinical Research Center, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Harvard Medical School, Boston 02114, USA.


Adults with acquired GH deficiency (GHD) have been shown to have osteopenia associated with a 3-fold increase in fracture risk and exhibit increased body fat and decreased lean mass. Replacement of GH results in decreased fat mass, increased lean mass, and increased bone mineral density (BMD). The possible differential effect of withdrawal of GH replacement on body composition compartments and regional bone mass is not known. We performed a randomized, single blind, placebo-controlled 36-month cross-over study of GH vs. placebo (PL) in adults with GHD and now report the effect of withdrawal of GH on percent body fat, lean mass, and bone density, as measured by dual energy x-ray absorptiometry. Forty men (median age, 51 yr; range, 24-64 yr) with pituitary disease and peak serum GH levels under 5 microg/L in response to two pharmacological stimuli were randomized to GH therapy (starting dose, 10 microg/kg x day, final dose 4 microg/kg x day) vs. PL for 18 months. Replacement was provided in a physiological range by adjusting GH doses according to serum insulin-like growth factor I levels. After discontinuation of GH, body fat increased significantly (mean +/- SEM, 3.18 +/- 0.44%; P = 0.0001) and returned to baseline. Lean mass decreased significantly (mean loss, 2133 +/- 539 g; P = 0.0016), but remained slightly higher (1276 +/- 502 g above baseline; P = 0.0258) than at study initiation. In contrast to the effect on body composition, BMD did not reverse toward pretreatment baseline after discontinuation of GH. Bone density at the hip continued to rise during PL administration, showing a significant increase (0.0014 +/- 0.00042, g/cm2 x month; P = 0.005) between months 18-36. Every bone site except two (radial BMD and total bone mineral content), including those without a significant increase in BMD during the 18 months of GH administration, showed a net increase over the entire 36 months. Therefore, there is a critical differential response of the duration of GH action on different body composition compartments. Physiological GH administration has a persistent effect on bone mass 18 months after discontinuation of GH.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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