Popeye took drugs? Spinach chemical is steroid-like and should be banned from sports, say scientists

[Representational image] | Picture credit: Creative Commons

Scientists in Germany are calling for the ban of spinach in sports, claiming a chemical in it is almost steroid-like.

The leafy green vegetable, made famous by the cartoon character Popeye, should be on the list of banned doping substances, the researchers are saying.


The chemical at the heart of this discussion is called ecdysterone. It was found to be enhancing the performance of those who consumed spinach in certain quantities.

In fact, it was apparently found that the substance increased the strength of those who took it three times of those who didn’t!

Steroids in spinach?

It all with the World Anti-Doping Authority (WADA) deciding to back a test into the effects of spinach on athletes.

The 10-week study was to be conducted by researchers from the Freie Universität Berlin in Germany.

More specifically, the research was conducted by scientists from the university’s Institute of Pharmacy.

A total of 46 athletes participated in the study. Of these, some were given ecdysterone that was the equivalent of 4 kg of spinach. The others were given placebo.

Those who got the ecdysterone supplement reported a tripling of their strength, according to a report in DW.

“Our hypothesis was that we would see an increase in performance, but we didn’t expect it to be that big,” the report quoted Maria Parr from the university as saying.

[Representational image] | Picture credit: Creative Commons

What happens next?

Maria was also quoted by the report as saying: “We recommended to WADA in our report that the substance be added to the doping list.

She added: “We think that if it increases performance, then that unfair advantage should be eliminated.”

However, action on this will possibly not be taken right away. Any action will be finalised by an expert body within WADA.

And even then, it will come after it determines how many athletes — if any at all — use supplements containing ecdysterone.

Follow us on Twitter (@TimesOfFood) and Facebook (Times Of Food) for more F&B-related news.

What's on your mind?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: