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IGF-1 Overview | Top Benefits, Side Effects & Foods

IGF-1 Overview | Top Benefits, Side Effects & Foods

What is IGF-1?

IGF-1, or Insulin Growth Factor 1 is a hormone that works alongside our growth hormones to regenerate and produce new, healthy cells. HGH primarily comes from the pituitary gland and its purpose is to produce both IGF and IGF-1 hormones which generate new cell growth that contribute to the following: 

1. Healing (of the bone, skin, gut lining, etc.) 
2. Tissue Strengthening (building up muscle, improve bone density) 
3. General body development, most especially in adolescents and pregnant mothers. 

IGF-1 is such an important aspect of human growth that a short stature usually results if a person's IGF-1 levels are insufficient. 

IGF-1 & The Effects on the Human Body

IGF-1 testing has proven to be a contributing factor to overall health and longevity. In animals such as mice, worms and fruit flies, lower levels of IGF-1 and HGH resulted in an extended lifespan by up to 55 percent. In human studies though, the results were far too inconclusive to draw a clear line. 

However, a good maintaining balance of IGF-1 can reduce the the risk of death from all causes. In 2011, a number of participants in a group of 15,000 individuals were observed to have died from all causes; it was observed that these individuals either had too low or too high IGF-1 levels. The general consensus was that you have a greater risk of dying from diseases such as cancer if your IGF-1 level was too low as compared to being too high. If your IGF-1 hormone is too high, then you have a risk of dying from chronic inflammation and auto-immune diseases as compared to being too low. 

Read More About IGF-1

Top 14 Benefits of IGF-1

1. Anti-Aging Properties 

One of the best indicators of life expectancy is the length of telomeres in our DNA. IGF-1 was found to be a clear element in the length of telomeres in 2 studies that included a group of all ages and one that had only elderly men in it. 

The Framingham Heart Study showed how important IGF-1 is in longevity. In a group of 525 people, aged between 72 to 92, those who had higher levels of the hormone IGF-1 were less likely to die from all causes in the next two years. IGF-1 is associated with the growth of new brain cells in rats, which points to how IGF-1 could prevent cognitive decline as one grows older. 

In a group of older women, those who had lower IGF-1 levels were more prone to the effects of aging and its frailties, including less mobility, a slower walk and lesser muscle strength. Furthermore, scientists have found that individuals who were critically ill had a significantly lower IGF-1 levels than normal. 

2. Antioxidant Properties 

The IGF-1 hormone increases the production of glutathione peroxidase, a known antioxidant enzyme. Glutathione peroxidase increases overall antioxidation in the body and protects the cells that are exposed to radiation against cell death. IGF-1 hormones may counteract the effects of chemotherapy as it could "protect" the cancer cells against radiation. 

3. Autoimmunity and Inflammation Resistance 

The relationship between inflammation and IGF-1 is such that inflammation is low when IGF-1 hormones are high. 

In tests involving mice, brain inflammation and autoimmunity, it was proven that an injection of the IGF-1 hormone delayed the onset of the said diseases. Autoimmunity and brain inflammation had a notable resurgence when the IGF-1 hormone was injected after the development. In another research of mice study, an injection of IGF-1 hormones reduced diseases such as type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis and allergic contact dermatitis. 

Those who were suffering from inflammatory bowel diseases and HIV were shown to have low level of IGF-1; in the same vein, patients who had lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and other chronic inflammatory diseases had lower levels of the IGF-1 hormones circulating in their bodies. 

One purpose of IGF-1 is that it increases the production of T cells when fighting against autoimmune conditions. The hormone also decreases the expression of the MHCI genes. Animal testing has found that low IGF-1 levels tend to correlate with high histamine levels in the body. 

4. Improved Brain Functions 

In animal testing models, a dose of IGF-1 has shown to improve memory and learning. The hormone helped with lowering anxiety and depression in mouse testing, more notably in a test that reduced the effects of depression in old mice. 

IGF-1 has proven to be effective in speeding up mental processing in a group of older men. The way it works is that it prevents the forming of amyloid plaques in the brain as shown in a rat study involving Alzheimer's. Individuals suffering from dementia and Alzheimer's have notably lower IGF-1 levels; insulin resistance is connected with IGF-1 resistance in the effects of Alzheimer's. 

Individuals who have ALS have lower IGF-1 hormones; the more IGF-1, the slower the development of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Scientists have mentioned that the hormone also increased the presence of BDNF i one's brain, which happens during exercise. 

5. Helps Builds Muscles 

Researchers have discovered that IGF-1 has a hand in building muscle and in preventing muscle atrophy brought upon by diseases and general aging. 

6. Blood Sugar Balance 

Having lower IGF-1 hormones may result in the acceleration of metabolic syndrome. Patients who were subject to IGF-1 infusions had lower triglycerides and a notably improved sensitivity to insulin. Subjects who were obese were found to have a lower IGF-1 level than those who were not. 

In regards to hepa C, individuals who had lower IGF-1 levels tend to have more resistance against insulin. 

7. Prevents Heart Diseases 

IGF-1 is known to have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties which helps stabilize blood vessels, reduce plaque accumulation and stabilize the existing ones. Reduced IGF-1 has a connection with a slower recovery rate in patients who suffer from congestive heart failure, ischemic stroke, fatal ischemic heart disease and coronary artery disease. 

In one study involving the Chinese population, it was found that those who had lower IGF-1 hormones had higher chances of stroking out as compared to those who had normal and elevated levels. 

8. Growth and Height Spurt 

As mentioned above, HGH and IGF-1 are primarily responsible for the body's general growth, development and repair. When one lacks the IGF-1 hormone, stunted growth and development are likely to occur. An intake of IGF-1 can potentially bring about a growth spurt in children who have a notable deficiency of the hormone. 

It's likely that stunted growth in a baby is the effect of a low IGF-1 hormone. Research has concluded that IGF-1 and dwarfism are connected, as shown in a study of children. 

9. Improved Bone Density 

Research has shown that older women had greater bone density if they have a higher IGF-1 level as compared to those who had lower hormones. IGF-1 helps directly with the development and growth of bone. The anabolic property of IGF-1 may also assist with the formation of bone density, which in turn helps increase muscle mass and bone strength. 

10. Improved Gut Health 

In an animal group study involving jaundice, burns and colitis, IGF-1 hormone treatment has been found to improve overall gut health by stimulating protein content, mucosal DNA and drastically reducing translocation of bacteria in the stomach. 

The conclusive result shows how IGF-1 hormones reduced bacterial translocation and increased the absorptive function of the gut. In a different model, infants who were given an injection of IGF-1 showed rapid healing response in relation to gut permeability. 

11. Clears Bacterial Infections 

The hormone improves survivability in cases of sepsis and clears out bacterial infections faster. Animal studies have found that IGF-1 helped clear bacteria in animals who suffered from cystic fibrosis. 

12. Boosts Immune System 

IGF-1 has been proven to help with the production of b-cells and increase natural cell-killing activity. 

13. Maintains Electrolyte Balance 

IGF-1 helps with fluid balance restoration in a study involving elderly mice and another study involving humans. 

14. Improves Skin Tone 

Regeneration of collagen synthesis prevents the aging of the skin. IGF-1 is one of the best sources of collagen stimulators around, which in turn can deter the onset of skin aging.

IGF-1 Side Effects

IGF-1 is a hormone whose role is to support growth. This can be counterintuitive in individuals who are prone to cancer. This hormone plays an important part in each stage of cancer in patients who have them. IGF-1 has the following abilities: 

- decreases cell death 

- increases metastasis 

- increases angiogenesis 

- increases cellular proliferation 

- induces a greater resistance to chemotherapeutic agents 

Both IGF-1 and IGF-1 binding protein are important for patients who have cancer. More notably, the free levels of the IGF-1 hormones are the ones that are essential in light of these conditions. 

IGF-1 May Accelerate Cancer Development 

The IGF-1 hormone may set the environment that precedes a higher risk of developing certain cancers such as breast cancer while making the body more resistant to anti-cancer treatment. Research has shown how IGF-1 increased the invasiveness of breast cancer cells in patients. 

IGF-1 and the risk of developing breast cancer is related. IGFBP3, or the IGF binding proteins have a huge role due to how it reacts with estrogen-sensitive tumors. In a male study, IGF-1 has been found to have a correlation with people who have developed prostate cancer. The levels of IGF-1 are higher in patients who are suffering from lung cancer as compared to those who don't. The same results show likewise in patients who have colorectoral cancer. 

Surprisingly, it was found that having both a low and a high level of IGF-1 increases your chances of dying from cancer. The results are not based on solid grounds, though. Some studies have considered IGFBP3 as the likely culprit, while other studies dismissed the protein from having a noticeable effect. This protein is primarily responsible for keeping free IGF-1 hormones in control; when IGFBP3 levels are low, then free IGF-1 hormones are free to move about and cause all kinds of trouble. Elevated IGF-1 hormones may reduce cancer risk instead of increasing it based on other scientific studies. 

IGF-1 May Increase Acne Production 

An increased IGF-1 level may contribute to acne in both adult women and men. Testosterone hormones may play a significant role in acne production in men, while IGF-1 hormones play a significant role in acne production in women. 

How To Increase Your IGF-1 Levels 

The key word here is balance. If you have low IGF-1 hormones, then it would be a good idea to increase your IGF-1 hormone levels. If you have a genetic pre-disposition to autoimmune conditions, then here are the following things you can do to increase your IGF-1: 

  • Buy IGF-1 injections online from Nuimage Medical
  • Greater dietary intake 
  • More caloric intake 
  • More fat intake, in particular high saturated fat. 
  • Calcium and dairy products 
  • Red meat 
  • More casein intake 
  • Vitamin C 
  • More isoflavones 
  • More ursolic acid 
  • More carnitine 
  • More astragalus 
  • More eleuthero 
  • More selenium and magnesium 
  • More zinc 
  • More HMB 
  • More leucine 
  • More cinnamon for skin health 
  • More resveratrol 
  • More prolactin 
  • More parathyroid hormones 
  • More DHEA 
  • More cortisol 
  • More HGH (human growth hormone)
  • More blueberries 

How To Decrease Your IGF-1 Hormone Levels 

If you have high IGF-1 hormones, then it would be a good idea to decrease your IGF-1 levels. If you have a genetic predisposition to cancer, then here are the following things you can do to lower your IGF-1: 

- More carbs 

- Restrict protein intake 

- Restrict caloric intake 

- Brisk walking 

- More thyroid hormones 

- More legumes 

- More royal jelly 

- More glucosamine 

- More bilberry 

- More luteolin 

- More curcumin 

- More resveratrol 

- More boron 

- More EGCG, i.e., green tea 

- More lycopene 

- More apigenin 

- More tamoxifen 

- More genistein 

Diseases and IGF-1 Ranges 

Breast Cancer

Studies showed the IGF-1 in ranges between 170 to 190 for women who are aged 45 to 60. Pre-menopausal women who had IGF-1 levels in the 207 range had an increased risk for breast cancer.

Prostate Cancer

Research showed the IGF-1 in ranges between 160 to 170 for men who are aged 60 and have prostate cancer. IGF-1 levels were at 150 to 170 in men who were aged 65 and have prostate cancer. An IGF-1 level of over 185 notably increased one's predisposition to prostate cancer. 

Cancer and Cardiovascular Diseases

An IGF-1 level of 190 and higher notably increased one's disposition to cancer death and cardio events in men aged 75. 

Overall Mortality and Disease Risk. Having an IGF-1 level of 80 or lower increased one's disposition to developing serious diseases and death.


About the author

Dr. Constance Odom, MD

6 min read