Like most “traditional” or “complementary medicine” the use and quantity of any substance it contains is not regulated, not quantitated, and – if you look at the literature, simply not present. There was a good review of the studies in the New Zealand Medical Journal (reference below) – and shows that it simply has no efficacy. There have been seven studies that have looked at Deer Antler Spray, five showed it had no benefit, two studies were so poorly done, that their questionable results are questionable.
Professional Athletes are prone to pseudoscience. First, they want an edge, any edge to help them recover from injuries, feel better, perform more. Many professional golfers use to endorse the bracelets – stating they felt better, hit better, and helped cure their aches and pains. Those bracelets have all been proven to be shams, and some have been removed from the market. Although in a small corner of my golf pro shop you can still obtain them.
Bob Charles, the 1963 British Open winner from New Zealand admitted to using Deer Antler Spray stating he was, “totally unaware of illegal substances … being in the horn or the antler of the deer. I take one or two deer velvet capsules daily and have been doing so for virtually 20 years or more.”
Relax, Mr. Charles, there is no more banned substance in the capsules or spray than there is in food, in fact if you like to eat “sweet breads,” you will have more IGF-1 in there.
VJ Singh admitted using “Deer Antler Spray,” and he paid $9,000 to a group called “Sports Alternatives to Steroids,” the same company that gave Ray Lewis “something, but not the spray.” VJ fell into a trap, there is no banned substance in the spray, but he paid hucksters a lot of money for nothing.
SCIENCE BEHIND IGF-1
Insulin-like growth factor 1 is a hormone that is similar to insulin. It is what helps growth, and is approved for “growth failure.” Surprisingly, this factor cannot be “purified” easily from tissues, and manufactured by genetically inserting the DNA into yeast or bacteria to make great quantities. Deer Antler Spray is not used for growth failure. IGF-1 increases growth factor, which is why athletes are attracted to it. While growth hormone helps to heal muscles, bones, etc. if someone could get purified IGF-1 the danger is it is also known to greatly accelerate the growth of cancer cells. In fact, people who are deficient in IGF-1 have the lowest incidence of cancer in the world.
Athletes and Trainers
The athletes are driven by their “trainers” who are individuals of suspect backgrounds. Suspect meaning they are not trained in critical science. They hear something, they don’t check the literature, the next thing you know they pass the information on to others. “Hey, this stuff works for me, it will help you.” They have no science.
IGF-1 cannot be delivered by a spray, it would have no effect. It would be degraded if you took it by capsule. The only way to get it is to take a shot.
As with the field of Nutraceuticals, there is no regulation as to what is in there, if it works, and this company that now has Ray Lewis fans worried, as well as golfers, it is all bunk.
BIGGEST ISSUE WITH DEER ANTLER SPRAY
The biggest issue- is that all this press will give some people the idea that this stuff works. It doesn’t. It is crap. The best thing professional Golf and Football could do is laugh at everyone, say that this stuff really is junk, and if the athletes should be punished, they should be punished for being stupid, and listening to people who are stupid. Perhaps they should be sent to learn critical thinking, instead of being sat out for a game, or part of a season.
Health benefits of deer and elk velvet antler supplements: a systematic review of randomised controlled studies. Gilbey A, Perezgonzalez JD. N Z Med J. 2012 Dec 14;125(1367):80-6. PMID: 23321886
Dr. Terry Simpson
Dr. Terry Simpson received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Chicago where he spent several years in the Kovler Viral Oncology laboratories doing genetic engineering. He found he liked people more than petri dishes, and received his MD. Dr. Simpson, a renowned weight loss surgeon, is a leading advocate of culinary medicine. A frequent contributor to media outlets discussing health related topics and advances in medicine, he is also a proud dad, husband, author, cook, and surgeon “in that order.” For media inquiries, please visit www.terrysimpson.com.