Sunday 11 December 2016

Twinkle NOT wrinkle

Forget Botox and wrinkle creams -- celebrities are turning to hormone injections and snake venom to stave off ageing and boost flagging sex drives, writes Penny Crowley

Penny Crowley

Published 27/08/2011 | 05:00

Library image. Photo: Getty Images
Library image. Photo: Getty Images
Robbie Williams

Robbie Williams might have sang 'I Hope I'm Old Before I Die', but he doesn't want to feel old just yet -- especially when it comes to his sex drive.

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After blood tests revealed he had the libido of a 100-year-old man, the singer (37) decided to kick-start his mojo by taking twice-weekly injections of the sex hormone testosterone.

Speaking of the jabs that he's been on for two years now, he said: "It's like an epiphany. It has changed my life. I feel I'm getting a second wind."

Testosterone levels naturally drop with age, but there's a good chance Rob's abnormally low natural production of the hormone was linked to his battle with drugs and alcohol and the toll that's taken on his body.

Interestingly, though, the Take That star revealed he'd originally headed for the doctors with the intention of getting himself signed up for injections of Human Growth Hormone, HGH, a jab being hailed in Hollywood as 'the fountain of youth'.

Robbie said: "I went to get some HGH. It's what all the old fellas are on out there in LA that's making them look 40 instead of 60, improving their health, their memory, their hair, skin. Could give you cancer. I weighed that up. Thought I'd have it anyway."

The fact that even cancer wasn't a deterrent is testament to just how popular HGH is in LaLa land right now. If Rob had started pumping himself with growth hormones, he'd have been following in the beefed-up footsteps of big names such as Sylvester Stallone.

Sly turned his 60-something bod into that of a 30-year-old for his role in 'Rambo VI', thanks to the wonder drug.

The secret behind HGH is simple. We all produce the hormone, but it slows down after the age of 30. Injecting it essentially keeps levels topped up, leaving the injector feeling and looking younger.

It's been banned in sports as a performance-enhancing substance, and the lasting results of injections aren't known (though there are concerns over links to cancer, and the dangers of exceeding healthy limits are documented), but that hasn't curtailed its growing number of celebrity, and even non-celebrity, fans.

Actress Suzanne Somers openly told Oprah that she starts the day with her injection of HGH and gushed about its benefits online.

Hormones are raging in Hollywood right now. After years of pumping themselves with silicon and collagen, celebs have taken the quest for perfection to a new level, using hormones to stay young, fit and lose weight.

HCG is the other big name in town. The hormone, Human Chorionic Gonadotropin, is normally produced in pregnancy, but Hollywood's leading ladies aren't using it in the hope of getting knocked up, instead they want it to help them stop their bellies swelling. Dubbed the HCG diet, hormone drops are ingested or injected and are supposed to suppress the appetite, allowing users to survive on a tiny 500 calories a day.

'Jersey Shore's' JWoww and Snookie are fans. On her website JWoww gushes: "HCG drops are now my key to keeping the weight off." Actress Carmen Electra was signed up as spokeswoman for HCG Platinum, declaring: "Every time I feel I am at that point where I need to lose body weight and tone up, I can rely on HCG Platinum to shed not only my extra weight but also body fat."

But Dr Pearse Phelan from the Dublin Medical Centre isn't convinced. "If they are taking drops of HCG orally then they are wasting their time," he says. "HCG needs to be injected to have any effect. If people are taking drops thinking it will suppress their appetite then the effects are all in their head. It's obviously just the drastically low calorie intake that is causing the weight loss."

Where HCG can be of use, according to Dr Phelan, is in helping men produce testosterone. Which brings us back to Robbie -- is he safe tampering with his hormone levels?

"That's the same as asking is it safe to be in your teens or 20s? Yes it is," says Dr Phelan. "What people like Robbie Williams are doing is bringing testosterone levels back up to the normal range, which is perfectly safe. The danger is if they're going beyond that point."

Every year, some 110,000 men suffer from testosterone deficiency but most don't know about it, putting the symptoms of reduced sex drive, aches, pains and tiredness down to just getting older.

Dr Phelan, who fronts menshealth.ie, says hormone injections aren't necessarily dangerous -- but the trouble is that while some hormones have FDA approval, it's not always for the purpose that people are using them.

Testosterone Replacement Therapy is fine for treating men with low levels of the hormone, HGH is perfect for treating children with a growth deficiency and HCG is approved for fertility treatment.

But when anyone with normal hormone levels starts injecting themselves with hormones, they are taking their chances with the results.

"Absolutely you should only take hormones if you are deficient in the first place," says Dr Phelan. "People should always visit a doctor first before injecting any hormone. It is not a mainstream recommendation and to some extent it is experimental.

"If people want to use hormones for the purposes of looking younger or losing weight, they have to be aware that the hormone has not been tested for that use."

But that doesn't stop celebrities deciding the benefits outweigh the risks. "Half of Hollywood is probably on HGH," says Dr Phelan. "I visited a clinic in 2001 and there were very high-profile people going in and out getting HGH treatment."

The reason why is because it does appear to get the results. The results of a study revealed in the 'New England Journal of Medicine' showed that men who took HGH for six months reduced their body fat by over 14pc and increased muscle mass by 8.8pc.

Dr Phelan says: "HGH, especially used together with testosterone, can produce rejuvenating benefits like building up muscle, burning fat, reducing wrinkles and increased sex drive."

The bad news is that there are concerns the growth hormone could be associated with causing diabetes and an increased incidence of bowel cancer. Extreme amounts of HGH lead to acromegaly, whereby the person develops large hands, a pronounced jaw and thickness of the skin and can end up looking like the Bond villain Jaws.

Even testosterone taken above normal levels produces worrying side effects such as fertility problems, shrunken testes and the development of breasts, as the body fights to restore the balance by turning the testosterone into oestrogen.

"Of course there are risks," says Dr Phelan. "There's a risk in everything, particularly taking something that may pose problems further down the line, we simply don't know. But for some people, their quality of life is dependent on looking young and that's how they're able to balance their decision."

Hollywood's A-listers are acting like a human laboratory for shortcuts to anti- ageing -- but only time will tell what the end results will be.

Weird Celeb REGIMES

Plancenta Facials

J-Lo (right) gets two a week, at a cost of nearly ¤800, in a bid to keep her youthful visage. Human placenta is rich in proteins, vitamins, nutrients and boasts a high concentration of amino acid glycine, which makes skin look healthy.

Snail Gel

This apparently works by repairing the face using the same combination of elastane, vitamins and collagen that the snail uses to repair its own shell. Dannii Minogue apparently buys pots of the stuff in health stores and reckons it's a great anti-ageing treatment.

Leech Therapy

This extreme detox is a favourite of Demi Moore (although seriously, what can the woman have left in her to purge?), pictured right, and is said to promote youthfulness.

The leeches should be applied by qualified surgeons as leech saliva contains anti-coagulant meaning the patient could bleed for hours.

Snake Venom Creams

Snake venom is the new Botox. Rubbed into the skin as a cream, it produces the same muscle-tightening effects. Gwyneth Paltrow is a fan.

Bull Sperm Hair

For luscious, healthy, youthful locks look no further than a slather of semen from an Aberdeen Angus.

Nicknamed 'viagra for hair', treatments with bull sperm are said to rejuvenate ageing hair because the proteins in both are a good match.

Sheep Embryo Injections

Singer Debbie Harry used to swear by injections of sheep cells. She said: "I thought wow, this is so logical -- you have fresh cells." She has since moved on to HGH saying: "At one time age was considered wisdom and prestige. But now nobody really values age the way they did."

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