Popeye the sailor is indeed famous for gaining strength from spinach. The recent studies have proved that it may not be just fiction but rather, a scientific fact that spinach may boost one’s muscle strength. A recent study found that an extract from the spinach can boost muscle strength considerably and thus, the scientist involved in the study recommends that such supplements be banned for athletes and sports participants.
Known as a superfood, spinach is rich in calcium, magnesium, and iron and has a number of health benefits including the capability to effectively deal with cancer cells, preventing asthma, lowering blood pressure, and effective management of diabetes. Though the whole plant was not considered, a particular extract from the plant was found by the researchers to enhance muscle strength in individuals.
Maria Parr, a professor of pharmaceutical chemistry at the Freie Universität in Berlin, Germany conducted a study to examine the effect of ecdysterone on athletic performance and muscle strength.
Ecdysterone, the main compound in spinach extract, is a phytosteroid which is a natural steroid present in plants and belongs to a particular class called phytosterols, which are ‘structurally similar to cholesterol.’
There have been studies in the past about this compound and the studies showed that it has a range of potential benefits. In the 1980s this particular steroid was termed as the ‘Russian Secret’ as there was a general suspicion that Russian athletes used this steroid in order to boost their athletic performance.
This compound has also been proved to increase protein synthesis in skeletal muscle. The new study has also proved that ecdysterone is more potent than other steroids banned in sports, such as methandienone.
A double-blind study involving 46 young athletes was employed in the research. Participants were divided into two groups, (one that received spinach extract (the intervention group) and another that received a placebo) the intervention lasted for 10 weeks. Moreover, in this period, the participants in the intervention group were given different doses of ecdysterone containing supplements’ to ascertain their effects on performance enhancement. After the test period, the participants were analyzed for ecdysterone and ‘potential biomarkers of performance enhancement and comprehensive screening for prohibited performance-enhancing substances was also done.
The results revealed that those who consumed ecdysterone had significantly higher muscle mass and enhanced performance in the one-repetition bench press and all these without any signs of liver or kidney toxicity.
This particular spinach extract is thus recommended to be included in the list of prohibited drugs in sports. Popeye consuming spinach to get strength is thus not a bedtime story now, but rather a real scientifically proved fact.
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