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Question

What is deer velvet, does it really contain IGF-1, and is it banned by the military?

OPSS Answer

Deer velvet (also known as deer antler velvet, velvet deer antler, and velvet antler, among other names) is an ingredient used in dietary supplement products touted to increase strength and improve endurance. Deer velvet is a portion of the growing antlers of certain deer, elk, moose, etc. that exists before the antlers finally harden. The material is harvested seasonally for use in traditional Chinese medicine and in pharmaceutical and dietary supplement products. The growing antler material contains a variety of hormones, amino acids, minerals, and other compounds, including insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1).

Without laboratory analysis there is no way to know for certain whether dietary supplements that list deer velvet among their ingredients do or do not contain IGF-1. If the product does contain IGF-1, it is considered a drug and not a dietary supplement. For more information about IGF-1, see the OPSS FAQ.

With regard to the military stance, please see the OPSS FAQ on banned supplements.

FAQ updated 19 May 2014