What’s the Deal with Deer Antler Supplements?

Our resident Health expert, Dr. Tracey Greenwood breaks down what the deal is with deer antler supplements. The “banned” supplement has become a hot topic since being mentioned in a Sports Illustrated story related to the NFL and Ray Lewis. It’s important to note that while it may be banned by the NFL it’s not an illegal supplement. Is it safe and what are the benefits for women? Read on…


Deer Antler Velvet

Deer Antler Velvet is taken from an adolescent deer before their antlers turn to bone. It comes in many supplemental forms such as spray, powder and pills.

The benefits of this new popular supplement for both men and women consist of:

• Increased strength & endurance
• Increased lean body mass
• Anti-Aging
• Reduce or Slow Signs of Aging
• Improve Immune System
• Accelerated Illness & Muscle Recovery
• Improve Athletic Performance
• Chronic Skin Ulcers
• Relieve Arthritis
• Increased Blood Circulation
• Increase Number of Red Blood Cells
• Reduce or Slow Tissue, Bone and Muscle Degeneration

The active ingredient in deer antler velvet is Insulin–like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). IGF-1 is similar in molecular structure to insulin. Its production is stimulated by growth hormone. Growth hormone is made in the anterior pituitary gland, is released into the blood stream, and then stimulates the liver to produce IGF-1. IGF-1 then stimulates systemic body growth, and has growth-promoting effects on almost every cell in the body, especially skeletal muscle, cartilage, bone, liver, kidneys, nerves, skin and lungs.

Metabolic Effects
Mediated through IGF-1, Growth Hormone facilitates the transport of amino acids across cell membrane, which results in increased amounts of RNA leading to increased protein synthesis producing an anabolic effect on skeletal muscle.

With regards to carbohydrate metabolism, IGF-1 acts much like insulin, and administration of IGF-1 tends towards a hypoglycemic state. IGF-1 is thought to be extremely important in the overall action of insulin on skeletal muscle because it moves glucose out of the blood and into the muscle to assist in growth. IGF-1 results in improved insulin sensitivity, which may be of benefit for someone with diseases that cause insulin resistance such as Diabetes and Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome.

IGF-1 may have some effects on lipolysis through facilitation of growth hormone. Growth hormone increases the phosphorylation of a hormone called Hormone Sensitive Lipase (HSL). HSL liberates stored fats and increases fat oxidation at rest as well as during exercise. Growth hormones is one of the greatest stimulators of fat metabolism.

Exclusive Benefits for Women
A possible added benefit of Deer Antler velvet for women is the speculation that it can balance hormones during menopause. Pantocrine, an active ingredient in deer antler velvet, is officially recommended for menopausal issues in Russia. Pantocrine has been found to alleviate menopausal symptoms as well as abnormal and delayed menstrual cycles. Pantocrine on its own may help women during menopause. Studies performed in Russia, showed that women taking deer velvet reported diminished symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, even to the point where their periods passed by almost unnoticed. They have also reported increased sexual interest, and a sense of being in touch with deeper reserves of vital energy, and anti aging effects in their skin.

It is always my belief that these “new” natural supplements need to be given time for extensive scientific research to prove the health claims to be valid.

Elliot, J.L. et al. Presence of insulin-like growth factor-I receptors and absence of growth hormone receptors in the antler tip. Endocrinology 1992 130: 2513-20.

Lewitt M. et al. Insulin-like Growth Factor-Binding Protein-1 Modulates Blood Glucose Levels. Endocrinology 1991 129: 2254-2256.

Sleivert, G. et al. The effects of deer antler velvet extract or powder supplementation on aerobic power, erythropoiesis, and muscular strength and endurance characteristics. Int. Journal of Sports Nutrition & Exercise, 2003 Sep; 13 (3): 251-65.

Suttie, J. et al. Insulin-like Growth Factor (IGF-1) Antler Stimulating Hormone? Endocrinology 1985 116: 846-848.

Disclaimer: Reader discretion advised, please consult your physician before beginning any exercise or diet program.