WEB DESK: According to a study conducted by a group of international researchers, including experts from Freie Universität Berlin, a chemical extract from spinach plants can be used to boost the performance of competitive athletes.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) commissioned researchers to study the effects of ecdysterone, a kind of phytosteroid, on strength training. Their findings indicate that the substance greatly affects muscle cells.
Among the researchers who suggested to consider adding ecdysterone to the list of prohibited substances was Maria Parr, a professor of Pharmaceutical Chemistry at Freie Universität. Professor Parr specializes in pharmaceutical analytics and metabolism. Phytosterols belong to the chemical class of substances known as sterols and can be found naturally in plants. They are chemical derivatives of cholesterol.
In addition to Maria Parr from Freie Universität, other contributing researchers included Prof. Patrick Diel from the German Sport University Cologne, Prof. Francesco Botrè from the anti-doping laboratory in Rome, and Dr Catrin Goebel from the anti-doping laboratory in Sydney.
In the double-blind study, one group of athletes received a controlled amount of the spinach extract, while another received a placebo, without either knowing which they were taking. After the 10-week study period, the athletes who actually took ecdysterone showed a significantly higher increase in maximum muscle strength.
Ecdysterone is the main component in spinach extracts. The research team was able to show that the substance affects estrogen receptor beta. Many dietary supplements on the market contain the chemical. Maria Parr noted that ecdysterone had already been dubbed “the Russian secret” for enhancing athletic performance several years ago. Earlier in vitro and animal experiments showed that it had a very strong effect on muscle cells, even stronger than anabolic androgenic steroids, such as methandienone, which are prohibited in sports.