AIDS Patients On Growth Hormone Gain Weight Without Eating More
VANCOUVER, Canada, July 8, 1996 -- Patients with HIV-associated wasting who received daily injections of human growth hormone gained weight, particularly lean body mass, without consuming significantly more calories, according to the results of a University of California San Francisco study presented here today.
The 12 patients in the study, who were all treated at the UCSF-affiliated San Francisco General Hospital, gained an average of four pounds over a three-month period without any significant increases in intake of overall calories, protein, fat or carbohydrates, the researchers reported.
"I think all of us were a little surprised by the results. Weight gain rarely occurs without a gain in caloric intake," said Viva Tai, R.D., M.P.H., a UCSF research dietitian who presented the study results. "It's remarkable that you can gain this much body mass without eating significantly more calories."
The patients -- 11 men and one woman -- gained an average of nearly eight pounds in lean body mass but lost an average of four pounds of fat, Tai said. It appears that the growth hormone was able to tap into existing fat stores in the body to build muscle, she said.
"It may be possible that the loss in fat fuels the energy required for the synthesis and maintenance of lean body mass," she said.
The results were based on food diaries in which patients recorded everything they ate during the week before they started the study and the week before their three-month follow-up visit. Over the three-month period, the patients' daily intake increased by 194 calories from 2,647 to 2,841 average total calories per day, the researchers calculated.
Those 194 additional calories could not account for the weight gain as studies have shown that AIDS patients on growth hormone burn an average of 230 extra calories a day even while at rest, Tai said. She said the results are important because they suggest that growth hormone "may work for people who have an appetite problem and can't eat 3,000 calories a day."
Building lean body mass is particularly important as this is the tissue that enables people to function and be mobile, she said.
"I can tell you from working with these patients over three years that how they walked in and how they are living their lives now are totally different. They have a different outlook on life. They are more independent. Some of these patients have had important improvements in quality of life," she said.
Tai's colleagues in the study are Morris Schambelan, M.D., UCSF professor of medicine, and Kathleen Mulligan, Ph.D., UCSF assistant professor of medicine.
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