Competitive athletes are always looking for an edge. Unfortunately, more thought is given to glory and performance, and little to none about the side effects.
Now that the World Anti-Doping Agency has removed deer antler velvet from its banned substance list, the ingredient has become more popular than ever. Everyone wants to know why their favorite athletes were taking this substance and what it can do for them.
But what about the side effects? Let’s explore deer velvet antler side effects in depth.
Like other new dietary supplements, there’s not much information about whether deer antler velvet is safe, or what side effects to expect. As it continues to grow in popularity, however, more anecdotal side effect reports will surface.
Currently, anecdotal evidence suggests deer antler velvet increases estrogen. For men, too much estrogen leads to development of breasts, having too much abdominal weight, feeling tired, suffering loss of muscle mass, and emotional disturbances.
For women, estrogen side effects include upset stomach, nausea, headache, changes in weight, breast tenderness, or behavioral changes.
WebMD experts also explain not enough is known about deer antler velvet supplementation during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Consequently, it’s best to “stay on the safe side and avoid use.”
Furthermore, “If you have any condition that might be made worse by exposure to estrogen, don’t use deer velvet.” These conditions include breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, or uterine fibroids.
What Are You Really Getting?
Other side effects to consider from deer antler velvet are reactions to substances used to harvest the antler. Carcinogenic substances like xylazine have been found in deer antler product, and the tranquilizers and anesthetics used to remove the horn often make their way into the product.
One article investigating deer antler velvet quoted Glendale internist Steve E. Kasper as saying, “Most of that stuff is harmless, but you never know what they ground up with the antler. Twigs? Bark? Rhino horn? Plastic bags?”
Positive Side Effects
Some sites indicate deer antler velvet is a “worry-free product” and the only side effects are positive. These positive side effects include enhanced insulin receptor sensitivity, improved nerve function, and better immune response.
What’s more, these positive side effects are attributed to the IGF-1 present in velvet deer antler. IGF-1 is a powerful growth hormone stimulator. It is widely believed to have anti-aging properties thanks to effects on the pituitary gland.
IGF-1 is also the reason velvet deer antler was originally banned by the WADA. IGF-1 is still considered a banned substance; however, deer antler is now allowed because it only contains trace IGF-1 amounts.
Are the Side Effects Worth It?
At least for now, deer antler is safe and not considered a banned substance. But what does the future hold?
No long term studies have been conducted on deer antler; therefore, nothing is known about adverse side effects from prolonged deer antler use. Consequently, it’s best to exercise caution when using deer antler velvet.
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-  “Deer Velvet IGF-1 FAQ.” Natural Medical Supply.
-  Faloon, William. “Dangers of Excess Estrogen in the Aging Male.” Life Extension Magazine.
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-  Erskine, Chris. “Take two spritzes of deer antler spray and call me in the morning.”
-  Deer Antler Velvet 411. “Learn About Deer Antler Spray Side Effects.”
-  Laron, Z. “Insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1): a growth hormone.” Mol Pathol. 2001 October; 54(5): 311–316.
-  “WADA Statement on the prohibited substance IGF-1.” Official Publication of the World Anti-Doping Agency. Play true magazine. May 11, 2013.