Recently, height boosters seem to be all the craze on social media. They claim their medications to be the latest technology from either United States or Korea. It comes with elaborate claims that it works for people from 16 years of age up to people whom are 40 and it helps to increase height as much as 9cm in one treatment course. To top it off, the price is reasonably affordable.
Last but not least, it comes with all sort of testimonies thanking these sellers for helping them gain height.
Sounds too good to be true? You’re probably right.
Let us explain why these products do not work.
The mysterious epiphyseal plate
The epiphyseal plate is the actively growing region in our long bones that increases the length of our bones. When bones lengthen, especially bones in the leg, height increases.
Not rocket science.
The problem is, the epiphyseal plate does not last forever. It is there in long bones when babies are born, and last throughout puberty and seals to form a line (in a matured long bone) when humans reach adulthood, which is around 18 to 20 years of age. When sealed, it no longer grows actively. Therefore, it is impossible to grow any taller beyond that age. To make claims that the medication helps people grow taller up to the age of 40 years is just scientifically not possible.
Growth hormones, puberty, bones and adulthood
We all learnt in secondary school biology classes that everyone undergoes a growth spurt in their teenage years before entering adulthood. That period is called puberty. This is the period where growth, not just height growth is exponential. This is due to higher circulating amounts of growth hormones in people of that age.
Growth hormone and another hormone known as insulin-like growth factor are the main players in causing the growth spurt and influencing the epiphyseal plate to growth at a quicker pace. Any medication that will be able to increase height have to go through one of the two hormonal pathways.
Here, there are a few factual inconsistencies.
Let’s assume that these products DO contain one of these hormones or something that increases or work like these hormones. These hormones are not specific and influence growth in the entire body, not just bones. Therefore, when used in adults, where their epiphyseal plates are already fused, they will not have any gain in height. Instead, they will have a condition called acromegaly, where their skull, palms and feet increase in size disproportionately to their height. This would have alerted authorities when users make any complaints.
Let us continue with the assumption. Yes, this will work for growing children and teenagers. However, as mentioned previously, these hormones are not specific, therefore when used in growing children, it will result in gigantism and not just height gain. All body parts will be larger than usual, not just long bones.
Now, lets further the assumption. Let’s assume that they have made a medical breakthrough to produce a medication that will only influence the epiphyseal plate to lengthen but not enlarge other body parts. Still, adults will not gain any height. Not only that, such a medical breakthrough will cost millions or even billions in R&D, not to mention the cost of running clinical trials. Currently, growth hormone, when has been successfully manufactured many years ago is still very unaffordable to the public due the difficulty in manufacturing it. Then, how is it possible to produce these pills at such an affordable cost?
The testimonies provided are through social media. All the testimonies seen are claims of teenagers gaining a few centimetres of height over a course or two of the medication. Have they run a study to show that this height gain is accelerated? Have they compared the gain in height with their peers who did not consume the medication? How can they be so sure that the height gained is the result of consuming their medications and not just through normal biological process of puberty? Are there any testimonies of users over the age of 25 years gaining height?
Money better spent elsewhere
These sellers are coaxing buyers online by manipulating buyers’ desire or desperation to gain height. With no scientific evidence to back these medications, it is purely a hoax. It is better to spend the money elsewhere instead of purchasing these medications, such as proper food and nutrition for growing children. As for adults, unfortunately, there is no magic pill that will produce any gain in height.
- Barrett, K. and Ganong, W. (2013). Ganong’s review of medical physiology. 25th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill.
- Longo, D., Fauci, A., Kasper, D., Hauser, S., Jameson, J. and Loscalzo, J. (n.d.). Harrison’s principles of internal medicine. 19th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill.
- Featured image from: http://www.open.edu/openlearn/sites/www.open.edu.openlearn/files/ole_images/page_children-comparing-height.jpg