Popeye Did Drugs?

Popeye Did Drugs?

A study calls for spinach to be included in the list of doping substances. One of its ingredients increases performance in elite athletes. Popeye Did Drugs?

A substance found in spinach (Ecdysterone) increases muscle mass. Researchers propose that it be included among doping drugs.

Popeye Did Drugs

Not the spinach itself, but one of the chemical compounds found in its natural composition, the Ecdysterone, according to researchers at the Free University of Berlin.

We all know Popeye the Sailor, the cartoon born in 1929 that after swallowing a can of spinach acquired a huge force due to the amount of iron they provided (although today we know that the study used as a reference multiplied by ten the actual content due to an error in the placement of the decimal point).

Spinach Ecdysterone Develops Musculature

What is surprising is that the study published in the journal Archive für Toxikologie has confirmed that spinach Ecdysterone has the property of developing musculature.

Ecdysterone is a steroid hormone that has been known since the 1980s. Its extraordinary effect was commented on back then and it was attributed with the strength, at least in part, of Soviet athletes at the Moscow Olympic Games. The “Russian secret” was spoken of.

Today it is marketed as a supplement specially designed to increase sports performance.

Scientists have been surprised by the effects


The researchers wanted to know whether Ecdysterone had significant properties and even whether it could be considered a doping substance.

They gave 46 athletes a dose of Ecdysterone or placebo for 10 weeks. After administration, the athletes had to jump, do squats and weights.

As a result, athletes who had ingested Ecdysterone had better performance and developed muscle mass.

Particularly striking were the results with weight lifting. After ten days of training, participants who took Ecdysterone gained twice as much muscle strength as those who took placebo.

Researcher Maria Kristina acknowledged that “we expected to see an increase in performance, but we didn’t imagine it would be that big”. So large that the study recommends to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) that Ecdysterone be classified among doping substances.

However, with the dose administered, no kidney or liver damage was detected.

More than six kilos of spinach per day

Whatever decision WADA makes, it is highly unlikely that spinach will ever be banned for athletes.

Experts will have to decide from what dose of Ecdysterone is considered doping and whether that amount can be obtained by eating spinach.

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