Vegetables as a doping agent: spinach increases performance in sports

Study: Spinach extract can lead to increased performance in sports

According to a new study, an extract from spinach can lead to increased performance in sports. The main ingredient of this extract is ecdysterone. According to a scientist involved in the investigation, this substance is to be placed on the doping list.

Healthy vegetable

Spinach is healthy. The vegetables are full of vitamins and minerals that are important for the muscles, among other things. This is also scientifically proven. Swedish researchers from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm discovered in a study on mice years ago that spinach promotes muscle building. Years ago, scientists reported a study with people that showed that spinach strengthens muscles. And an international team of researchers has now found that an extract from the vegetables increases muscle mass and can lead to increased performance in sports.

Strong effects on muscle cells

According to an international study involving the Free University (FU) Berlin, an extract from spinach can lead to increased performance in top-class sport.

According to the strength training study, the substance ecdysterone - a so-called phytosteroid - has strong effects on muscle cells, according to the scientists involved.

Phytosteroids are substances from the chemical class of sterols that occur naturally in plants. Chemically, these substances are derived from cholesterol.

The study commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) was published in the specialist journal "Archives of Toxicology".

In addition to the Free University, the German Sport University Cologne, the Rome Anti-Doping Laboratory and the Sydney Anti-Doping Laboratory were involved.

Significantly higher increase in muscle mass

As the FU explained in a message, the subjects in the so-called double-blind study received controlled spinach extract or a placebo substance from the research team for ten weeks without knowing which group they belonged to.

After completing the study, the study participants who received ecdysterone (verum) achieved a significantly stronger increase in maximum strength.

"A significantly higher increase in muscle mass was observed in those participants who were given ecdysterone," the study authors put it.

Ingredient should be on the doping list

Ecdysterone is the main ingredient in spinach extract. According to the research team, its effects are mediated via the estrogen receptor beta. There are numerous nutritional supplements that contain this spinach extract.

"A few years ago, ecdysterone was called 'the Russian Secret' for increasing performance in sports," explains Maria Parr, professor of pharmaceutical chemistry with a focus on analytics - metabolism at the Free University of Berlin.

It has stronger effects on muscle cells in vitro and in animal experiments than anabolic androgenic steroids, such as the substance metandienone, which is banned in sports.

"Depending on the variety, the lower dose in our experiment, ie two capsules per day, corresponds to around 250 grams to four kilograms of leaf spinach per day," explains the scientist.

“You would have to eat this amount every day for ten weeks to get the same amount as some of the subjects in our study. In order to achieve the effect of the higher dose administered, one to 16 kilos of spinach would have to be consumed, ”said Parr.

The researchers suggested to WADA that the substance should be included in the list of prohibited substances.

Parr went one step further: in an interview with ARD, she recommended WADA to put ecdysterone on the doping list. (ad)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • Freie Universität Berlin: Study: Spinach extract leads to increased performance in sport, (accessed: June 26, 2019), Freie Universität Berlin
  • Specialist magazine "Archives of Toxicology": Ecdysteroids as non-conventional anabolic agent: performance enhancement by ecdysterone supplementation in humans, (accessed: June 26, 2019), specialist magazine "Archives of Toxicology"

Video: Russia banned from all global sport by World Anti-Doping Agency (November 2021).