In the days leading up to Super Bowl XLVII we’ve heard a lot about deer antler velvet and the question of whether or not Baltimore Ravens’ linebacker Ray Lewis used an extract of it (in spray form) to help heal the triceps muscle he tore in October 2012. This could be a problem for Lewis, since deer antler velvet contains a substance that is banned by the National Football League (NFL).
Most of the world's supply of velvet antler comes from Sika deer, red deer and elk or wapiti, including a large deer ranching industry in New Zealand. New Zealand is the world’s largest producer of velvet, producing 450-500 tons of red deer velvet antler annually. China produces 400 tons of predominantly Sika deer velvet antler annually. Russia produces 80 tons annually. United States and Canada each produce 20 tons annually.
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In an experiment (Gerard, 2004) conducted to study muscle damage and repair, 20 males ran for 35 minutes on a downhill treadmill. The participants, who were not trained runners, were pre-treated with deer antler velvet or a placebo 14 days prior to the run. The subjected treated with deer velvet showed that their creatine kinase levels, a marker of muscle damage, was significantly lower than the control group. Also, muscle soreness on average was reported to be gone 24 hours before subjects in control.
A 2014 study published in Evidence Based Complimentary and Alternative Medicine tested whether or not deer antler extract would have an effect on fatigue in mice who were led to swim distances. The findings suggested that deer antler “might increase the muscle strength through the upregulation of genes responsible for muscle contraction and consequently exhibited the anti-fatigue effect in mice.” Deer antler seems to have a positive effect on genes involved in nine different signaling pathways that affect muscles, endurance and fatigue. These include GnRH signaling pathway and insulin signaling pathways, in addition to levels of troponins. (8) Deer antler may contribute to increases in muscle strength by increasing Tpm2 expression. This affects how muscles take up proteins and repair themselves. Other studies show some evidence that deer antler extract helps prevent muscle fatigue by activating the lactate dehydrogenase activities and reducing the levels of blood lactic acid and serum urea nitrogen.
Companies attributing health claims from using dietary supplements of velvet antler have received warning letters from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) concerning the sale of encapsulated powders connected to their marketing claims. The claims were in violation of the United States Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act [21 USC/321 (g)(1)] because they "establish the product as a drug intended for use in the cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease" when velvet antler has no such scientific evaluation. Additionally stated by the FDA, velvet antler was "not generally recognized as safe and effective for the referenced conditions" and therefore must be treated as a "new drug" under Section 21(p) of the Act. New drugs may not be legally marketed in the United States without prior approval of the FDA. As of 2018, it is legal to sell velvet antler powder, extract or spray in the U.S. as a dietary supplement as long as no disease treatment claims are made and the label bears the FDA disclaimer: "This product has not been evaluated by the FDA. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease."
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Unfortunately, the potential problems with IGF would seem to negate any of these theoretical benefits. It has been shown that improper use of hormones such as dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), androstenedione, and human growth hormone may increase the risk for development of prostate cancer or promote the growth of existing prostate cancer by raising IGF-1 levels. Therefore, men who are taking supplements with IGF in it (or those that raise IGF levels) could theoretically be putting themselves at an increased risk for prostate cancer. Again, it hasn’t been rigorously studied so it’s impossible to know for sure, but if you have any risk factors for prostate cancer, it’s probably best to avoid taking this supplement.
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I took red mountain deer velvet and it really messed my stomach up. I now have cramps and bloating all the time plus it feels like my stomach shrank…I can’t eat like I used to. It was a big mistake to take that stuff. Do you know of any way I can get my stomach back to normal??? Can you recommend someone who knows a lot about deer velvet?? I have been suffering terribly since I took that junk…it’s been about 2 years now!!!! My stomach has never been the same since I took that poison!!