Swedish study suggests Popeye’s diet works

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 28th June 2012

The muscular cartoon sailor Popeye maintained his physique by gulping cans of spinach.

Swedish researchers, from Stockholm’s Karolinska Institute, have found that nitrate, found in spinach, other leafy greens and beetroot, can actually improve muscle strength.

The study, funded by four scientific and medical groups including the Swedish Research Council, involved lacing the drinking water of mice with nitrate for seven days and monitoring the muscles in the mice’s legs and feet. They found that mice drinking the nitrate solution had significantly stronger muscles than the control group.

The increased strength in the nitrate mice was explained by a higher concentration of two proteins, CASQ1 and DHPR, in their muscles. These proteins help regulate calcium, which determines muscle contraction.

Leading researcher, Dr Andrés Hernández, said his team is keen to continue the study and see how their findings may be applied to people suffering from muscle weakness.

“From a nutritional perspective our study is interesting because the amount of nitrate that affected muscle strength in mice was relatively low,” Dr Hernández, 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.”

In Australia, nitrate found in celery has been used in some smallgoods as a natural food ingredient carrying food preserving or colouring attributes.