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IGF-1 Side Effects

The hidden dangers of IGF - 1 side effects

IGF-1 seems to be just as controversial as it is popular. A recent New York Times article investigating IGF-1 begins by enumerating the many positive aspects of IGF-1:

“In theory, at least, IGF-1 seems almost too good to be true. It can, at least in animals, heal tendon injuries and build muscles…it is believed to make an athlete bigger, faster and stronger. It may boost muscle, reduce fat and improve endurance.”[1]

Athletes, of course, are forbidden by organizations like the World Anti-Doping Agency to take performance enhancing drugs such as IGF-1. But what are the consequences for someone wanting to take IGF-1 recreationally?

This is where the controversy comes in. Despite IGF’s benefits, there are several side effects to consider.

IGF-1 Short Term Side Effects

IGF-1 Benefits

One of the most common short-term side effects reported from IGF-1 usage is hypoglycemia, a disorder characterized by an abnormally low level of blood sugar.[2][3]

Many believe this is because IGF-1 binds to two cell surface receptors: IGF-1 receptor and the insulin receptor. When it binds to the insulin receptor, it activates the receptor at a smaller potency than insulin.[4] Though, this effect is primarily observed in animals, not human subjects.

Still, hypoglycemia risk is a contributing factor to the reason IGF-1 is limited in clinical application.[5]

IGF-1 Long-Term Side Effects

A review of published literature on IGF-1 and growth hormone published in the British Journal of Pharmacology maintains much more is known about short-term IGF-1 side effects, as experience with exogenous IGF-1 use is limited.[6]

These researchers, however, hypothesize the long-term side effects from IGF-1 are similar to those of growth hormone: “many of the longer-term effects of GH administration would also occur with IGF-I, as the anabolic effects of GH are closely related to the production of IGF-I in different tissues.”[7]

Further insight into long-term IGF-1 side effects is provided in an article examining long-term study and treatment of children and adults with Laron Syndrome. “Overdosage led to adverse effects such as hypoglycemia, edema, swelling of soft tissues, and hyperandrogenism.”[7]

IGF-1 Side Effects in Athletes

IGF-1 Benefits

IGF-1 has a growth stimulating effect, independent of and in conjunction with human growth hormone.[8] According to researchers, IGF-1 achieves this effect by suppressing protein breakdown and preserving skeletal muscle.[9]

Too much IGF-1, however, in the blood causes bone growth that causes changes in physical appearance.[10] Researchers have observed: “it would be reasonable to expect that athletes may develop some of the features of acromegaly (abnormal hands, feet, and face growth) with prolonged use.”[6]

Additionally, one of the more hazardous IGF-1 side effects observed in athletes is cardiomyopathy, a disease which enlarges and weakens the heart.[11] Too much GH and IGF-I results in cardiomyocyte derangement and leads to heart abnormalities, as well as problems with cardiac rhythm and heart valves.[6]

IGF-1 and Cancer

An article published in Endocrine Care examined the relationship between cancer mortality and IGF-1. A population based study was conducted involving 633 men aged 50 years and older, who had IGF-1 measured in their blood after attending a clinic between 1988-1991.

The participants were tracked through July 2006, with the study concluding, “Higher serum IGF-I in older men is associated with increased risk of cancer death, independent of age, adiposity, lifestyle, and cancer history.”[12]


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    Comments (23)

    Iam Kumara

    August 10, 2015

    IGF-1 and diabetes.

    When I injected the IGF-1, my blood sugar became, and stayed very high, in the 500 range. I had a hard time getting it down. It raised my overall blood sugar? This article states that IGF-1 has the opposit effect, causing Hypoglycemia?
    How do I inject and keep my sugar levels at normal?

      Stefan R. Wilson

      Stefan R. Wilson

      August 10, 2015

      Re: IGF-1 and diabetes.

      It is highly recommended that you discontinue your use of IGF-1 and talk to your doctor about your increase of blood sugar with the use of IGF-1 as they will know better how to help you to lower your blood sugar levels.

      October 27, 2018

      igf-1 fround in animal protein daingers

      Multiple research entries have pointed to IGF-1 that is found in animal sources of food i.e. meat, dairy and eggs causing or at least feeding cancer and diabetes. Good luck taking it along with eating it in your normal diet. Whole food plant based is the way to go.


    August 24, 2015

    Very weak

    My partner is expierencing fatigue especially in the mornings when trying to work out. Energy levels at really lagging and sometimes gets the shakes quite badly. Could this be related to insulin levels being low especially in the morning ?


      January 20, 2016




    January 5, 2016

    bovine colostrum

    are the side effects listed relevant to any supplement that contributes to IGF-1 for example bovine colostrum powder ?
    Would the use of bovine colostrum powder be prohibited by the anti doping agency?

      Stefan R. Wilson

      Stefan R. Wilson

      January 6, 2016

      Re: bovine colostrum

      The oral consumption of IGF-1 is not related to the increase of IGF-1 concentrations through the use of bovine colostrum. The IGF-1 and insulin in bovine colostrum is digested in the intestines and does not reach the blood resulting in the absorption of these protein hormones in an non-active state. This means that the side effects experienced with bovine colostrum are most likely to be different from that of IGF-1.

      While the use of bovine colostrum is not banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency, the hormone content has the potential to influence test results so its use is not recommended.

      January 13, 2017

      Colostrum increases IGF-1

      Hey there 😉 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18443138
      It seems that bovine colostrum does in fact increase Somatotropic hormone and IGF-1 blood levels, it did in my case and it freaked me out so I discontinued colostrum after reading the dangers of elevated IGF-1. I started out with low IGF-1 and after 2 months of using bovine 6 hour colostrum my somatotropic hormone and IGF-1 was high, over the range. I was very concerned about that.
      Stefan R. Wilson, can you help me understanding what the difference is between elevated IGF levels with colostrum? Aren’t they dangerous?
      Thank you very much!


    February 16, 2016

    Salicylate Sensitivities

    No doctor able to help me with my salicylate sensitivities thus far. Trying IGF sublingual cautiously at 6 drops each day, for last 3 days. Healing of cracked & bleeding painful hands in 3 days. Will occasional use for such symptoms be detrimental for a woman whose diet is salicylate restricted? I am under the care of a functional medicine professional who said I need not be concerned about the increase of testosterone from bovine colostrum because it only affects males. I use it only for occasional digestive disturbances (cramps & diarrhea). Salicylates inhibit/interfere with IGF P70 according to http://www.jbc.org/content/275/49/38261.full



    April 13, 2016

    Hair growth

    I would like to take IGF orally for hair growth. Is this a good idea. What would be my side effects? I don’t workout and not taking it for that purpose.

    Thank you

      Mike Jackson

      Mike Jackson

      April 21, 2016

      Re: Hair growth

      The consumption of IGF-1 for hair growth needs further research and testing to provide solid results on human hair. It is highly recommended that you speak to your physician before taking IGF-1 as it may cause you to experience the side effects listed in the article. If you want to experience healthier hair growth, it is recommended that you eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and talk to your trusted cosmetologist for hair trims as well as advice.


    July 24, 2016

    Starting out

    Hi i have been going to the gym a while and want to bulk up i have an athletic build and am 6ft. I dont want to take steroids but was just wondering if igf1 drops would be any good to help out (or speed process) along with my protein shakes and just to see if it is safe to use?

      Mike Jackson

      Mike Jackson

      July 25, 2016

      Re: Starting out

      IGF-1 has the potential to help with muscle growth. Safe recommended amounts are given on the instructions of the label of your chosen product. However, it should be noted that results with IGF-1 may vary from individual to individual. If you experience any negative side effects, it is highly recommended that you discontinue your use and talk to your physician.


    September 3, 2016

    IGF for teens

    hi. im 18 yo qnd been training really really hard from age 17. 6 month in clean diet. im researching bout igf 1 and was wondering if it has same side effects like roids and was wondering if its fine for me as a teen to use it for one cycle.thanks

      Mike Jackson

      Mike Jackson

      September 6, 2016

      Re: IGF for teens

      IGF-2 supplements are designed to support the NATURAL production of growth hormone and testosterone within the body. Unlike steroids, IGF-2 does NOT put extra hormones into your body so it should not cause the negative side effects that are associated with steroid use. It is highly recommended that you read the warnings and instructions before using any supplement. Many supplements, including IGF-2 products, are designed to be used by healthy adults ages 18 years and older.


    September 12, 2016


    Im 39 and want to start igf-1 , are there reliable options besides syringes and if so which companies

      Mike Jackson

      Mike Jackson

      September 13, 2016

      Re: Igf1

      Many supplement companies have created both IGF-1 boosting oral droppers and capsules to help increase the body’s natural IGF-1 production. It should be noted that pharmaceutical grade IGF-1 is concentrated and not widely available. It is highly recommended that you talk to your physician about the effect of IGF-1 on your body before use.


    September 14, 2016

    igf 1

    hi. im 18 yo and was wondering if IGF 1 effects on height or not?


    Christie Heckler

    November 19, 2017

    50+ lb overweight & 60 y/o & medications

    Ive considered trying IGF-1 for weight loss. I am about 50 lb overweight & 60 yrs old female. Is my age a factor against using this? I also take some daily medications for
    – Gastro-intestinal
    – hypothyroidism
    – psychiatric/behavioral
    Would there be drug interactive issues?



      February 15, 2018


      This is something you’d have to take up with your physician, Christie.

      October 27, 2018

      IGF-1 is found in animal sources of food

      If you eat a lot of animal sources for food you get an oversupply of IGF-1 without supplementing. I would definitely not suggest taking IGF-1 as it causes diabetes and feeds cancer. You best bet to loose weight is with a whole food plant based diet


    September 9, 2018


    I’m planning to go for igf-1 and I’m 25years old. how can I use it and what is the dosage
    After using it what is the safety measures do I need to take with out affecting side effects.
    If it is harmful then from which food helps me to pump my body.
    Please help me on this.



      September 12, 2018


      Hi, Bhanu! Thanks for the question. As far as dosage is concerned, supplements vary quite a bit. On the low end we’ve seen 500mg and on the high as much as 2000mg. As far as we know there isn’t an RDA for this supplement. One you get past the choice on whether or not to try it out, we’d suggest starting out with a small dose to see how it’s going to affect you, and watch out for any of the side effects we’ve listed in this article, or anything else funny, that might be a reason to stop using it. Best of luck!

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