BERLIN - Popeye the cartoon sailor would eat spinach to quickly grow muscles, boost his strength and save the day, but while it's just a cartoon, new research suggests Popeye may have actually been "doping."
A study released by Freie Universitat Berlin suggests that a chemical found in spinach has similar effects to steroids, and should be added to the doping list.
Ecdysterone, a naturally occurring steroid hormone that is found in the leafy green vegetable has similar effects to steroid drugs, according to the study.
Researchers tested 46 athletes who trained three times per week for 10 weeks, giving some doses of ecdysterone while others received a placebo.
The athletes were administered various doses of ecdysterone-containing supplements in order to evaluate its performance-enhancing effects.
The study found that those who took ecdysterone saw their performance improve by three times as much as those who did not.
According to the study, "significantly higher increases in muscle mass were observed in those participants that were dosed with ecdysterone."
"Even more relevant with respect to sports performance, significantly more pronounced increases in one-repetition bench press performance were observed," added the study.
Researchers said that these findings meant that ecdysterone had a place on the list of banned substances for sports.
"Our results strongly suggest the inclusion of ecdysterone in the list of prohibited substances and methods in sports in class S1.2 'other anabolic agents.'"