Insulin-like Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1) is an anabolic molecule which appears to induce growth of the antlers themselves, although testosterone may be the primary growth factor. Currently, there is no evidence that serum IGF-1 is increased following Velvet Antler ingestion with one study using 1.5g of Velvet Antler for 11 weeks failing to increase serum IGF-1.
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 Russia, Korea and China, deer antler velvet is widely used by athletes to enhance performance. In the United States, more and more athletes are looking to deer antler velvet as a training aid, a promoter of recovery after physical activity and injury, and possibly an injury preventative. Deer velvet could improve athletic performance in many ways, for example by assisting strength and endurance, by supporting the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood, by facilitating minor tissue damage, and by boosting the immune system.
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Deer antler velvet's effects on cell growth and repair have been investigated in several areas. Deer antler velvet may be a natural source of hormones for those seeking aid to muscle growth and development. Research has identified various growth factors in deer antler velvet including IGF-1 (insulin–like Growth Factor-1), IGF-2 (insulin–like Growth Factor-2), and EGF (Epidermal Growth Factor).
A systemic review on human interventions makes note of a study conducted on patients of osteoarthritis (Edelman et al. 2000; cannot be located online) which found improvements in joint pain symptoms relative to baseline in the Velvet Antler group and not placebo, although a lack of information on blinding and randomization precludes results that can be drawn from this study.