With the recent burst of news about Ray Lewis and other professional athletes and the actually banned substance called deer antler velvet, I thought it would be useful to inform the masses not to waste their money.  Just because someone deceived a professional athlete into using it, this does not mean it works.  If the news coverage of it makes it seem like it works…well that’s what supplement companies do — they present their product in such a way that it seems like it MUST work.

What’s in it?

Deer antler velvet is being taken and they are extracting the substance IGF-1 from it.  IGF-1 is a growth hormone and something that is actually found in your body and actually does good things for you.  Sounds good, right?  Great.  Is it found in deer antler velvet?  Possibly.

IGF-1 has been studied for medical uses and has been used in treatments for diabetes, cancer, and Lou Gehrig’s Disease.  There is some debate as to its efficacy for these various things.  Typically, growth hormones are injected when used for medicinal or even performance enhancement purposes.

Deer antler velvet products are usually available in sprays, under tongue lozenges, or capsule form.  They are not illegal, but they are banned by most sporting organizations.

Does it work?

No.  There is no evidence that it works and with the right knowledge, it would not even make sense that it could work.  First of all, people are either eating it or applying it topically to the skin.  Growth hormones are injected.  It is also unclear whether there is even enough of IGF-1 in the product that someone could buy it, inject it, not die, and get results.  Furthermore, as indicated previously, IGF-1 is very likely not useful for athletes to supplement anyway.

Let’s look at the research:

1. N Z Med J. 2012 Dec 14;125(1367):80-6.

Health benefits of deer and elk velvet antler supplements: a systematic review of
randomised controlled studies.

Gilbey A, Perezgonzalez JD.

College of Business, Massey University, Private Bag 11 222, Palmerston North, New
Zealand. a.p.gilbey@massey.ac.nz.

AIMS: The aim of this systematic review was to evaluate the evidence from RCTs of
velvet antler supplements for any condition, using the QUOROM statement as a
guiding framework.
METHODS: Four electronic databases (PubMed, Medline, Web of Science and Academic
search premier, via the bibliographical platform, Endnote) and two review
articles were searched for all randomised clinical trials of velvet antler
supplements. Retrieved trials were evaluated according to standardised criteria.
RESULTS: Seven RCTs were identified as satisfying all inclusion criteria and
examined the effectiveness of velvet antler for rheumatoid arthritis (2),
osteoarthritis (1), sexual function (1), and sporting performance enhancement
(3). Their methodological quality ranged from 3-5, as measured on the Jadad
scale. Two RCTs reported some positive effects of velvet antler supplements, but
neither were convincing while the remaining five RCTs found no effect of velvet
antler supplements.
CONCLUSIONS: Claims made for velvet antler supplements do not appear to be based
upon rigorous research from human trials, although for osteoarthritis the
findings may have some promise.

PMID: 23321886 [PubMed – in process]

This is a research review looking at all the deer antler velvet research in humans.  They found no proof for usefulness for ANY REASON, and for sports supplementation they see that it was so conclusively useless that it does not even merit further research.

Why would Ray Lewis take it?

Ray Lewis is a consumer just like anyone else.  Like it probably did for you, deer antler velvet sounded really good and it was clearly not a steroid.  Likewise, even if it worked like injectable HGH, the NFL does not do blood testing for heightened levels of growth hormones.  There was not much to lose.

The question was asked to me, “well if it isn’t very bioavailable orally and/or there isn’t enough of the stuff per bottle, isn’t he rich enough to just buy a lot?”  Sure, he’s rich enough.  At this point, though, why wouldn’t he just buy the real HGH?  It would attract less attention and be far more certain to work.  Neither could be tested for by the NFL.  I would guess that he was either sold it by a personal trainer or perhaps he did not buy it at all, and the person leaking this information is just trying to make money on deer antler velvet.

To summarize,

don’t buy this stuff.  No Excuses will take care of you if you want to invest in supplements.  If you want HGH gains, buy HGH…but I won’t help you with that.

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