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Deer Antler Velvet: Does It Work?

by TJ AllanFebruary 3, 2013
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Thanks to Ray Lewis, deer antler velvet has taken center stage during the Superbowl. Although the media is primarily concerned if Ray really did use it, most of us are asking a different question. Does it work?

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As Confitdent’s resident Supplement Doc, I love to explore studies and break down the basics for everyone to further understand supplements or products like Deer Antler Velvet. For this particular case, I’m happy to share some of the information that I have collected while breaking out key takeaways for us to better digest the benefits or lack thereof when it comes to Deer Antler Velvet.

Although I will admit I have very little experience with deer antler velvet, I did spend the morning perusing Pubmed to see if it had a “a leg to stand on.” After about 6 hours of reading through various studies and journals, the answer is a resounding no.

Here are a few conclusions researchers made in the relatively few studies I could find (I apologize ahead of time for the citations. Technically, they are not correct, but I’ve given you enough information to find the studies):

Deer Antler Velvet Studies

deer antler velvet

Claims made for velvet antler supplements do not appear to be based upon rigorous research from human trials, although for osteoarthritis the findings may have some promise. – The New Zealand Medical Journal, “Health benefits of deer and elk velvet antler supplements: a systematic review of randomised controlled studies.”

EVA (Elk Velvet Antler) supplementation does not significantly improve rowing performance nor alter hormonal responses at rest or after acute exercise than training alone. - International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, “Effect of elk velvet antler supplementation on the hormonal response to acute and chronic exercise in male and female rowers.”

Although some patients reported clinical improvements in their symptoms, there were no statistically significant differences between groups. Overall, elk velvet antler does not effectively manage residual symptoms in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. – Biological Research for Nursing, “A randomized clinical trial of elk velvet antler in rheumatoid arthritis.”

Further, the inconsistent findings regarding the effects of deer antler velvet powder supplementation on the development of strength suggests that further work is required to test the robustness of the observation that this supplement enhances the strength training response and to ensure this observation is not a type I error. – International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Science, “The effects of deer antler velvet extract or powder supplementation on aerobic power, erythropoiesis, and muscular strength and endurance characteristics.”

Side note: Although this study did reach statistical significance in strength and endurance measurements, blood levels of testosterone, insulin-like growth factor, and erythropoietin did not change. Thus, I’d be willing to say chance played a significant factor in the strength and endurance measurements.

And the one bright spot evaluating wounds in rats….

This study indicates that topical treatment with an EVA water-soluble extract accelerates repair of cutaneous wounds in diabetic rats. – Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, “Effects of topical elk velvet antler on cutaneous wound healing in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats.”

Side note: I didn’t find a follow-up study to this so I wouldn’t get real excited.

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