Ecdysteroids as non-conventional anabolic agent: performance enhancement by ecdysterone supplementation in humans
Recent studies suggest that the anabolic effect of ecdysterone, a naturally occurring steroid hormone claimed to enhance physical performance, is mediated by estrogen receptor (ER) binding. In comparison with the prohibited anabolic agents (e.g., metandienone and others), ecdysterone revealed to be even more effective in a recent study performed in rats. However, scientific studies in humans are very rarely accessible. Thus, our project aimed at investigating the effects of ecdysterone-containing products on human sport exercise. A 10-week intervention study of strength training of young men (n = 46) was carried out. Different doses of ecdysterone-containing supplements have been administered during the study to evaluate the performance-enhancing effect. Analysis of blood and urine samples for ecdysterone and potential biomarkers of performance enhancement has been conducted. To ensure the specificity of the effects measured, a comprehensive screening for prohibited performance-enhancing substances was also carried out. Furthermore, the administered supplement has been tested for the absence of anabolic steroid contaminations prior to administration. Significantly higher increases in muscle mass were observed in those participants that were dosed with ecdysterone. The same hypertrophic effects were also detected in vitro in C2C12 myotubes. Even more relevant with respect to sports performance, significantly more pronounced increases in one-repetition bench press performance were observed. No increase in biomarkers for liver or kidney toxicity was noticed. These data underline the effectivity of an ecdysterone supplementation with respect to sports performance. 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”.
KeywordsSports performance Doping Ecdysterone Spinach extract Humans Resistance training
The authors acknowledge the financial support from the World Anti-Doping Agency (grant no. WADA 15C18MP). Dr. Jan F Joseph, Core Facility BioSupramol, Freie Universitaet Berlin (FUB), Germany, is acknowledged for analytical support and Steffen Loke, Institute of Pharmacy, FUB, for copyediting.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare no conflict of interest.
- Haupt O, Tchoukouegno Ngueu S, Diel P, Parr M (2012) Anabolic effect of ecdysterone results in hypertrophy of C2C12 myotubes by an estrogen receptor mediated pathway. In: Schänzer W, Geyer H, Gotzmann A, Mareck U (eds) Recent advances in dope analysis. Sport und Buch Strauß, CologneGoogle Scholar
- Joao GA, Evangelista AL, Gomes JH et al (2014) Effect of 16 weeks of periodized resistance training on strength gains of powerlifting athletes. J Exerc Physiol Online 17(3):102–110Google Scholar
- Parr MK, Haupt O, Ngueu ST, Fritzemeier K-H, Muhn P, Diel PR (2013) Estrogen receptor beta mediated anabolic effects—insights from mechanistic studies on the phytoecdysteroid ecdysterone and selective ligands. Endocrine reviews 5:6. https://doi.org/10.1210/endo-meetings.2013.nrsha.3.sat-340 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Parr MK, Wolber G, Naß A, Ambrosio G, Botrè F, Diel PR (2015b) ER-beta mediated action of dietary supplement ingredient edcysterone confirmed by docking experiments. Endocrine Rev FRI-270Google Scholar
- Tchoukouegno Ngueu S (2013) Bioactivity of plants secondary metabolites: Estrogenic, cytotoxic and anabolic effects on estrogen target organs of an extract of Erythrina excelsa and Ecdysterone. German Sport University, CologneGoogle Scholar