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What’s the difference between IGF-1 and IGF-2?
It’s a matter of molecular structure.
Both are growth factors; more specifically insulin-like growth factors or IGFs.
Both are mediated by growth hormone (somatotropin), which is generated in the anterior lobe of the pituitary gland.
GH is an anabolic hormone critical for tissue building that promotes metabolic and growth-promoting functions in the body.
IGFs are peptide hormones that can aid in muscle-building and fitness.
Insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) is manufactured in the liver, so where does IGF-2 come from?
Is IGF-2 Effective for Bodybuilding Efforts?
Can IGF-2 aid bodybuilding efforts.
And can it aide bodybuilding as much as IGF-1, a popular and prescription-only drug that is commonly purchased and used by bodybuilders for enhanced physical physique, muscle growth, and performance?
Yes, but not safely.
IGF-2 is mainly involved in fetal development; one of its primary mechanisms of action is its ability to dramatically increase proliferation or division of cells required for fetal growth.
Growth Factor Basics
The pituitary gland, located in the brain, is responsible for the manufacture and secretion of growth hormone (hGH).
In response to growth hormone floating around in the bloodstream, the liver is triggered to manufacture and release growth factors of its own, also known as growth hormones.
Some of these growth factors are given the name “insulin-like” factors because their structure is similar to that of insulin hormone.
While IGF-1 is more commonly known, especially among bodybuilders and athletes, the liver produces three different types of growth factors: IGF-1, IGF-2, and IGF-3.
Growth factors are protein hormones that, like human growth hormone (HGH) provides a number of functions:
Promotes linear bone growth
Triggers growth of cells throughout the body, including muscle cell involvement in the number of chemical-based activities throughout the body, its organs, and organ systems including digestion, metabolism, as well as cardiovascular and brain functions.
Enhances retention of nitrogen in the muscles. Nitrogen in muscle fibers helps to reduce loss of muscle tone and can protect against muscle wasting or cachexia, often experienced by individuals dealing with a chronic illness or disease processes.
Growth hormone and growth factors trigger cellular proliferation. The difference between IGF-1 and IGF-2 is that IGF-2 is typically most active during fetal development, and secretions of it decrease following birth. 
IGF-1 continues to be manufactured in the body through childhood, adolescence, and adulthood, again in response to secretions of growth hormone.
Where Does IGF-2 Come From?
IGF-2 is inherited by the paternal family member.
Of course, female (maternally inherited) IGF-2 is also identified, but it’s not often activated. This process is known as genomic imprinting.
This is not to say that IGF-2 doesn’t have a function in an adult body. Some studies have found that elevated levels of IGF-2 in an adult can contribute to medical conditions. A 2008 study describes a woman with elevated free IGF-2 levels contributing to early stage, localized breast cancer. 
Additional studies have attempted to determine whether IGF-2 is associated with reproduction processes only, or may be associated with other body functions, including cognitive and memory retention capabilities.
Bodybuilders and IGF-2
Should bodybuilders use IGF-2? Bodybuilders are often interested in any anabolic androgenic steroid, growth hormone, growth factor, enzyme, or peptide that can enhance their efforts to grow muscle, increase the appearance of physique, as well as improve stamina and endurance.
As with IGF-1, use of any hormone or growth factor when it is not medically recommended is strongly discouraged by medical professionals.
A number of newer nutritional and sports supplements products are making their way onto online and physical store shelves today, IGF-2 being one of them.
However, over-the-counter products don’t contain pharmaceutical-grade growth factors, although some of these non-prescription strength supplements do have the potential to not only aid the pituitary gland in the release of gross hormone, but by doing so, triggering increased accretions of growth factors.
The Issue is Safety
When it comes to IGF-2, it’s important to remember that the body knows what it’s doing.
IGF-2 is designed to dramatically proliferate differentiation and division of cells during fetal development. Injecting it or taking it in any other form as an adult can cause a number of issues.
IGF-2 side effects are relatively unknown, as humans are not involved in any studies. Scientists experimenting with mice determined that any disruption of chemical balances in the body can disrupt otherwise normal balances of hormone levels and other fluid balances.
Growth hormone and insulin-like growth factors contribute to growth. It’s not just applicable to muscle, but any cell in the body.
One of the most common side effects associated with higher than normal levels of HGH in the body is the potential for acromegaly.
This condition contributes to out-of-control growth of not only muscle cells, but bone and connective tissue cells. This is especially prevalent in wrist joints and those of the face, and is often irreversible.
Before experimenting with HGH, IGF-1, IGF-2, or even IGF-3, be aware of what those compounds can do in your body. For most, nominal muscle growth and development is not worth the potentially long-term adverse effects that IGF-2 can have on the body.