National Editor Tom Karst
National Editor Tom Karst

Barry Bonds would have been lauded and not scorned if broccoli and mustard greens were his performance enhancing drugs.

In news that seems too good to be true, a release from the North Carolina State University Plants for Human Health Institute suggests that some veggies may trigger a response similar to anabolic steroids.

Excerpts from the release:

KANNAPOLIS, NC – Mustard greens and cabbage could very well be back-up plants for Popeye’s spinach when it comes to building muscles and increasing physical performance.  Recent studies show that brassinosteroids present in mustard and other Brassica plants such as cabbage or broccoli trigger a physiological response in rats that is similar to anabolic steroids. Researchers hope that these substances in plants can be used to provide effective, natural, and safe alternatives for age- and disease-associated muscle loss, or be used to improve endurance and physical performance.

The researchers studied rat skeletal muscle cells, exposing them to different amounts of homobrassinolide, a plant steroid. They then measured protein turnover and found that muscle cells respond to brassinosteroids by increasing protein synthesis and decreasing protein degradation in cell culture. The result was a significant increase in net muscle protein.  The next step was to feed healthy rats a homobrassinolide daily for 24 days.  The researchers measured changes in body weight, food consumption and body composition. The rats that were fed the plant steroid showed an increase in lean body mass over those that were not fed the substance. Results from the study also showed an increase in the number and size of muscle fibers crucial for increased physical performance.
According to the researchers, the findings suggest that therapies using brassinosteroids could represent a viable future approach for repairing damaged muscle.”

TK:  Can you imagine if researchers can genetically modify (or selectively breed) broccoli or cabbage to contain higher levels of brassinosteroids? Functional veggies that would promise to add muscle mass would fly off the shelves, in my view. Super performance without the stigma.