People with osteoarthritis take chondroitin sulphate as an anti-inflammatory and velvet antler contains a high concentration of this compound, as well as significant amounts of glucosamine sulphate. Both appear to inhibit the depletion of bone and cartilage. The use of velvet antler in treating rheumatoid arthritis is being studied at the University of Calgary and the University of Alberta.
S.W.A.T.S. Fitness and Performance was a dietary supplement company that sold deer antler spray and other products. The owners began distributing their products to NCAA and NFL athletes in 2008. The controversy initially started in March 30, 2009 when Alabama athletic officials sent a cease-and-desist letter to the company's owner that stated: "Refrain from using current student-athletes to endorse products. Refrain from contacting current student-athletes. Refrain from giving or selling products to current student-athletes."  The letter was then sent again in 2012.
Currently, IGF-1 is banned by both the World Anti-Doping Agency and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, deer antler spray seems to provide only very small amounts of IGF-1. This is why it’s no longer considered illegal. Insulin-like growth factor is also naturally found in other animal-derived foods, including eggs, milk and red meat. Some experts believe that the amount of IGF-1 obtained from using deer antler products is really not much more than from eating these foods.
While Lentini admits sales have picked up, he says he's been hurt by the perception in the recent baseball letter, which told players that deer antler velvet could be contaminated with methyltestosterone, a banned steroid. The connection is based on the fact that David Vobora tested positive for the steroid after using antler spray. He won a $5.4 million judgment against the company that made the spray.
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Deer antler velvet is rich in insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) which is a growth hormone produced naturally in the liver as a response to human growth hormone (HGH) stimulation. This is a key factor in how deer antler velvet can help to promote muscle growth. IGF-1 works on the body by promoting the growth of healthy, lean skeletal muscles. This growth of healthy muscle mass can be influenced by IGF-1's tendency to increase muscle protein and muscle DNA content. There is evidence to suggest that IGF-1 acts on muscle tissue by promoting protein synthesis and the proliferation of satellite cells, both of which result in skeletal muscle growth due to the enlargement of the muscle cells.
In Asia, velvet antler is dried and sold as slices, or as a powder which may be boiled in water, usually with other herbs and ingredients, and consumed as a medicinal soup. In the traditional commercial trade of Korea and China, whole stick antler velvet is divided into three sections based upon their supposed properties. Although there is an absence of uniform standardization, these sections are known as the wax piece (uppers or tips), the blood piece (middles), and the bone piece (bottoms): the wax piece may be marketed as a growth tonic for children, the blood piece supposedly for joint and bone health, and the bone piece supposedly for calcium deficiency and geriatric needs. Early commercial activity in Russia between the 1930s and 1980s led to the production of an alcohol extract from deer antler velvet marketed under the Russian drug trade name Pantocrin (also pantocrine or pantokrin).