Nutritionists have long hailed spinach as one of the healthiest foods on the planet. However, it now appears that it might be too healthy after a study discovered that the leafy green vegetable works almost as effectively as steroids, per Insider Hook. It is so effective that the World Anti-Doping Authority might even have it banned.
Scientists discovered in a 10-week study of around 50 men that giving a supplement of ecdysterone, a compound found in spinach, had a drastic effect on the body. Even though the control and the supplement group had the exact same physical training program, the men who received the spinach-based supplement had three times the "strength gains," as well as more muscle mass than the placebo group.
"Our hypothesis was that we would see an increase in performance, but we didn't expect it to be that big," said Maria Parr, the study's co-author.
"Even more relevant with respect to sports performance, significantly more pronounced increases in one-repetition bench press performance were observed," the researchers wrote in their abstract.
"These data underline the effectivity of an ecdysterone supplementation with respect to sports performance," the writers added.
The scientists even mentioned the World Anti-Doping Agency, mentioning that they hope the governing body considers banning the supplement due to potential "unfair advantages."
"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," they wrote.
WADA has not yet released a statement on their position concerning the new research.
This is not the first time that Ms. Parr has studied the incredible effects of ecdysterone. According to Vice, the scientist also authored a study that tested its effects on rats. Unsurprisingly, the study showed that the powerful supplement could promote the same hypertrophy, i.e. muscle growth, as many anabolic steroids.
Even then, Parr was urging WADA to look into the ecdysterone due to its similarity to steroids.
"With respect to doping prevention the high anabolic potency of ecdysterone justifies its classification as an anabolic agent and therefore needs to be listed in the category 'S1 Anabolic Agents' of the list of prohibited substances of the World Anti-Doping Agency," Parr and her co-authors wrote.
That said, for those looking to get jacked quickly, note that a lot of spinach is required to get the necessary dose of ecdysterone. The supplement given to men in the study was worth nearly nine pounds of the leafy green.