In a randomized, placebo controlled test in 2004, researchers at the University of Alberta, Canada, placed 18 males from the Edmonton Police Force into a 9 week strength training program. The results showed that deer antler velvet increased the strength and endurance of the subjects relative to the control group. The researchers found that use of deer antler velvet significantly increased blood plasma testosterone levels.
The FDA considers deer antler spray (or deer antler velvet) to be a dietary supplement. This means it doesn’t need to be extensively studied and regulated like medications. For this reason, it can be hard to tell what the actual concentration of active ingredients or IGF-1 is in various supplements. Plus products can differ quite a bit from one brand to another in terms of their purity and effectiveness.
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The harvesting of deer antler velvet can be a painful process, as the velvet tissue contains an abundance of nerves and bleeds profusely if cut or removed. Dr. Low Dog says she has no problem with harvesting velvet from deer killed for food, but is concerned that shortcuts will be taken should demand for the supplements continue to grow. She notes that the United Kingdom has banned the removal of deer antler velvet under its welfare-of-livestock regulations, unless the antlers have been damaged or most of the velvet has been shed.
New Zealand research reports that although the mechanism is unknown, deer antler velvet shows strong anti-inflammatory effects. Recent clinical tests suggest oral ingestion of glycosaminoglycan-peptide complex, or components such as chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine sulfate — both found in deer antler velvet — may help stimulate cartilage repair.
All groups experienced a significant improvement in strength. But the deer antler powder group showed the greatest increase in isokinetic knee extensor strength and endurance. However, it’s possible that this was due to exercise program rather than using the deer antler powder. None of the men in any group showed evidence of endocrine, red cell mass or VO2max changes. Therefore, researchers concluded that the “findings do not support an erythropoetic or aerobic ergogenic effect of deer antler velvet.” (12) On the other hand, this was a small study, with only 12-13 men in each group. This means that further testing is needed to confirm the validity of the results.
Deer antler velvet may help to increase macrophage activity. Macrophages are a type of white blood cell (immunity cell) that digests cellular debris, foreign substances, cancer cells, and other microorganisms. Macrophages help to stimulate defense mechanisms in the body by recruiting immune cells such as lymphocytes. With this increased number of white blood cells, your immunity system becomes strengthened and will have a better chance at fighting off a sickness or infection.
Deer velvet might have an effect due to the hormones it may contain, including testosterone, androstenedione, and dehydroepiandrosterone. Research in rats, using elk velvet antler, suggested the substance may have an androgen-like effect. The antlers are ground into powder, which people take by mouth. Dosage varies by brand, but a recent study used 215 mg per day. Some distributers, though, recommend dosages ranging from 250 mg to as high as 3000 mg (3 g) per day. So talk with your doctor before you start using deer velvet.
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