Is it possible to make elderly people less frail?

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by By JEAN ENERSEN / KING 5 News

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KING5.com

Posted on February 22, 2013 at 12:05 PM

Video: Tricking the body into producing more human growth hormone

Lew Clawson says his golf swing has improved.

"I noticed a little more strength and the ball went farther," he said.

Lew was part of study involving capromorelin, a pill developed by Pfizer to stimulate human growth hormone, which declines with age and leads to muscle loss.

"Eventually it can get to the point where folks are no longer able to fend for themselves, cant go out and shop for groceries, can't bring things home, can't get out and about and then they start requiring outside support," said Dr. George Merriam, VA Puget Sound Health Care System.

To be eligible for the year-long study, Lew had to be showing signs of physical decline.

"I think it was probably six weeks no more than two months that I could feel a big difference," he said.

Participants received body composition tests and other assessments. Not only did their lean muscle tissue increase, they also showed improvement in walking and stair climbing. And there were other changes.

"Many of our patients described just feeling more like their get up and go, which had gotten up and gone, was now coming back, there was a little more of a spring in their step. Some of our patients who had gone gray reported hair color starting to come back," said Dr. Merriam.

Lew has been off the drug for several years now.

"I thought I might shrivel when the study was done, go down rather rapidly, but I haven't noticed that. I've joined the Y and I'm working out and I feel as good now as I did then," he said.

Because the pill is a stimulator rather than human growth hormone itself, researchers believe it could be a safer option. But more studies need to be done.

As for those human growth hormone stimulators on the internet, Dr. Merriam says save your money. They don't work.

The treatment is not available yet. Phase two trials are complete. Researchers are trying to arrange a phase three, which would be a final step.

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