Controversy over deer antler spray continues

February 1, 2013


Controversy over deer antler spray continues

Some sports medicine research looks at the effects of deer antler spray and if it can be considered a performance-enhancing supplement. It has recently come up in the news since Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis was accused of ordering it to help heal his torn tricep muscle for the Super Bowl, and the supplement, called IGF-1 plus, is banned from the NFL, The Boston Globe reported.

May provide health benefits
IGF-1 plus reportedly increases testosterone levels in the blood. It contains deer antler velvet that is extracted from adolescent deer before their antlers turn to bone. The supplement is marketed to enhance athletic performance and improve overall health, which is why advocates say it should not be banned from professional sports leagues.

According to, deer antler velvet has been used for 10,000 years in Asia to improve energy levels, as well as lung function, muscle development, stamina, kidney function and blood components. Chinese doctors have used the remedy to treat more than 55 different medical conditions, such as general pain, fatigue, chronic joint degeneration and infertility.

The problem is that endocrinologists report that there is little to no reliable evidence that claims to these health benefits are true.

However, a Harvard University study found that small amounts of IGF-1 can be obtained just from drinking milk. Researchers looked at more than 200 healthy men and women between the ages of 55 and 85 and had them consume three servings of nonfat or 1 percent milk every day for 12 weeks. They found that this increased IGF-1 levels by 10 percent when compared to subjects who did not consume any milk.

Too similar to performance-enhancing drugs?
The main concern about whether or not athletes can take the supplement is that it raises testosterone levels. Proponents state that, unlike steroids, the deer antler spray at its maximum dose would not boost a man's hormone levels beyond their normal range. Therefore, the supplement would not show up on a drug test and would not be dangerous if consumed.

"In the 17 years this product has been on the market, no one has ever reported to us that they've gotten sick from it," Rick Lentini, chief executive officer of Nutronic, which makes IGF-1 plus, told The Boston Globe. "The only side effect we hear from men is that their libido is too high, and I wouldn't consider that a bad side effect."

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