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Spinach does make biceps bulge like Popeye's

June 26, 2012 - London

Spinach really does boost your muscles thanks to the high level of nitrate found in high quantities in the vegetable, researchers say.

Tests on mice showed that a compound boosts the production of two proteins key to muscle strength.

The researchers, from Sweden's Karolinska Institute, insist that there is no need to emulate the cartoon sailor man and guzzle whole cans in order to benefit, the Daily Mail reported.

The same level could also be obtained from two to three beetroots, experts said.

It is also found in lettuce and chard.

"From a nutritional perspective our study is interesting because the amount of nitrate that affected muscle strength in mice was relatively low," researcher Andres Hernandez said.

"Translated to humans it means that we can obtain the equivalent volume by eating more of a vegetarian diet, as nitrate is found naturally in several leafy vegetables, especially in beetroot juice, for example."

His team is hopeful to use the findings to pursue new treatments for people with weak muscles.

"The really exciting part is to go ahead and look at people with muscle weakness, with muscle diseases, and even ageing, and see if this can improve their muscle function," he said.

The team, which conducted the experiment on mice, examined different muscles on the mice's legs and feet a week after the commencement of the study.

They discovered that the mice that had been on consistent nitrate had much stronger muscles, the greatest effect being observed in the extensor digitorum longus muscle, which extends down the tibia, and the flexor digitorum brevis muscle of the foot.

Continuing their study, the researchers then discovered that the nitrate mice had a higher concentration of two different proteins in their muscles, which is assumed to be accountable for the greater muscle strength.

The study has been published in the Journal of Physiology.


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