Study: Spinach Is Pretty Much a Steroid, Maybe We Should Ban It

Men who were on the greens had 3x the strength gains of their abstaining counterparts

Spinach steroid
Spinach contains a chemical that acts as a steroid. (Bildagentur-online/Universal Images Group via Getty)
Universal Images Group via Getty

Popeye really was onto something.

Scientists in Berlin have recently made the recommendation that ecdysterone, a chemical found in spinach, should be tacked onto the list of banned substances held by the World Anti-Doping Authority (WADA) because of how similar they believe it to be to steroids, Vice reported.

In a 10-week study that involved 46 men, the researchers gave some participants a placebo and others a supplement that had the same concentration of ecdysterone as nearly nine pounds of spinach. While participating in the same exact physical training program, the men doping on spinach had three times the “strength gains” and developed larger muscles than those on the placebo, according to Vice.

“Even more relevant with respect to sports performance, significantly more pronounced increases in one-repetition bench press performance were observed,” the authors of the study wrote. “These data underline the effectivity of an ecdysterone supplementation with respect to sports performance.”

The effects of a boat-load of spinach and ecdysterone were no surprise to the researchers, who already assumed the participants who were jacked up on the “steroid” would outperform those who weren’t. But the stark difference between the two groups raised a few eyebrows.

“Our hypothesis was that we would see an increase in performance, but we didn’t expect it to be that big,” the study’s co-author, Maria Parr, said. “We recommended to WADA in our report that the substance be added to the doping list. We think that if it increases performance, then that unfair advantage should be eliminated.”

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