IGF-1: Surprising Brain Boosting Molecule Unless You Have One Condition


IGF-1 is shorthand for insulin growth factor 1, which is a hormone that is crucial for optimal physical and mental performance. IGF-1 is involved in healing wounds of all kinds (including exercise) [1].

Similar to growth hormone, IGF-1 helps to reproduce and regenerate cells that the body needs. Because IGF-1 is ubiquitous in most mammals, our body autoregulates this important hormone to meet our needs. However, because IGF-1 is so crucial in the development of cells, it can be problematic to have high quantities alongside cancer.

For healthy, non-cancerous adults, balanced IGF-1 can be beneficial for a number of things including increased lifespan [2], reduced inflammation [3], improved learning and memory [4], reduced risk of anxiety and depression [5], and prevention of amyloid plaque in Alzheimer’s models [6].

IGF-1 and Longevity

With more scientific knowledge and research, upper class westerners are seeking treatments that can extend their lifespan, Adding years to our lives (and especially quality years) is a major priority and balancing IGF-1 can help.

The key is to ensure IGF-1 is balanced rather than too low or too high. From numerous animal models, we know that IGF-1 influences lifespan. One 2011 study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that IGF-1 plays a central role in regulation of various diseases [7].

That doesn’t mean more is better.

One study found that inhibiting (reducing) the IGF-1 in animals could increase lifespan by up to 55% [8]. Other studies show that having IGF-1 that is too low can increase health risks [9].

It is safe to say, it is better to be balanced with insulin growth factor 1 because both high and low are implicated in increased risk of dying [10].

As you will learn below, having elevated IGF-1 can be useful in certain situations and harmful in others. We’ll provide a full list of ways to increase this hormone so as to heal quicker and hopefully live longer.

Brain Benefits of IGF-1

Our brains are the greatest asset as a species and at Nootropedia, our main priority is optimizing cognitive capacity. While it is possible to utilize nootropics for improving certain aspects of mental performance, simply altering our hormones can play a big role.

Increasing levels of IGF-1 can improve learning and memory ability in animal models [11]. The study showed that IGF-1 could increase long-term potentiation (similar to what CILTEP does) in the hippocampus (where memories are primarily stored).

It may also improve memory and learning through neurogenesis (by increasing BDNF) [12]. This is similar to nootropic supplements like lion’s mane mushroom or even noopept.

Beyond the memory and learning benefits, there are advantages for reducing anxiety and depression in animal models according to a study in Neuropsychopharmacology [13]. Many people take things like CBD oil or tianeptine to treat anxiety, but sometimes optimizing these hormones can do the trick.

Finally, for Alzheimer’s disease, for which there is still no assured cure, there is evidence low levels of IGF-1 are associated with these neurodegenerative diseases [14]. That does not mean that having more IGF-1 automatically solves these medical issues, but it does show a correlation.

When IGF-1 is Not Good

Having a high IGF-1 count can be as bad as having a low one, but under one specific condition it is best to keep insulin growth factor low: cancer.

Cancerous cells that have the IGF-1 hormone will reproduce faster and grow stronger, which will lead to poor health outcomes. Numerous studies show that high IGF-1 creates an environment where cancer can grow. This includes studies of breast cancer [15], prostate cancer [16], and lung cancer [17].

What’s even worse, people who are undergoing chemotherapy may find their treatment less effective because of high insulin growth factor.


Reducing IGF-1

For people with a genetic predisposition towards cancer, it is a good idea to reduce IGF-1 levels. This can be done through a number of means, but primarily through the following:

  • Fasting (especially multi-day fasts)
  • Protein restriction (especially red meat)
  • Legumes

There are also a number of nootropics you can use to reduce IGF-1 hormone. These include things like curcumin, resveratrol, and EGCG. Taken in moderation, they can be effective for reducing IGF-1 and may also prove helpful in other ways.

Maximizing IGF-1 Hormone: A Short Term Approach

For many people, especially bodybuilders or athletes who rely on their body, maximizing IGF-1 is a priority. Some people assume they have low levels of IGF-1, but there are ways to test and determine the truth through blood work.

Either way, here are a few of the ways you might maximize the level of IGF-1 for growth purposes:

  • Higher protein intake
  • Red meat specifically
  • Dairy
  • Weight lifting

There are also nootropics and supplements that can aid in IGF-1 as well. These include basic vitamins like vitamin C, DHEA, zinc, and magnesium.

Getting Started with Insulin Growth Factor

There is a correlation between size, strength, and activity level and IGF-1, but that doesn’t mean that everyone who does not have big muscles is deficient. The human system is complex with many variables that are often neglected.

If you believe insulin growth factor hormone might be important for you to balance (whether increase or decrease), it is useful to first start with a baseline level. Take a blood test and see where your IGF-1 levels are before starting to self-treat with supplements and nootropics.

References (Click to Expand)
  1. //www.metabolismjournal.com/article/S0026-0495(14)00330-8/fulltext
  2. //press.endocrine.org/doi/full/10.1210/jc.2011-1377#sthash.ILNE6e6z.dpuf
  3. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC508763/
  4. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14598295/
  5. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17342171/
  6. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12415260
  7. //academic.oup.com/jcem/article/96/9/2912/2834729#sthash.ILNE6e6z.dpuf
  8. //press.endocrine.org/doi/full/10.1210/jc.2011-1377#sthash.ILNE6e6z.dpuf
  9. Ibid.
  10. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23015658
  11. //www.nature.com/mp/journal/v12/n12/full/4002076a.html
  12. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10751445
  13. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17342171/
  14. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12415260
  15. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4335664/
  16. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25348852
  17. //jnci.oxfordjournals.org/content/91/2/151.abstract?ijkey=69855e4ac6de06e56d8110a5a1480bd6db94345d&keytype2=tf_ipsecsha


Nootropedia is meant to be a resource for individuals researching drugs and supplements that are good for brain health, otherwise known as nootropics, and thus we are the Nootropics Encyclopedia. Because of our in-depth coverage of this topic, our community has requested that we cover other brain health topics and "lifehacks" so that has become the focus of Nootropedia.