A new research has revealed that a specific plant steroid triggers a response similar to anabolic steroids with minimal side effects.
Homobrassinolide, which is found in the mustard plant, produces an anabolic effect, increases appetite and muscle mass along with the number and size of muscle fibres.
"We hope that one day brassinosteroids may provide an effective, natural, and safe alternative for age- and disease-associated muscle loss, or be used to improve endurance and physical performance," Slavko Komarnytsky, a researcher involved in the work from the Plants for Human Health Institute said.
"Because some plants we eat contain these compounds, like mustards, in the future we may be able to breed or engineer these plants for higher brassinosteroid content, thus producing functional foods that can treat or prevent diseases and increase physical performance," he stated.
Komarnytsky and his colleagues exposed rat skeletal muscle cells to different amounts of homobrassinolide and measured protein synthesis in cell culture, which resulted in increased protein synthesis and decreased protein degradation in these cells.
Healthy rats then received oral administration of homobrassinolide daily for 24 days and changes in their body weight, food consumption, and body composition were measured using dual-emission X-ray absorptiometry analysis that showed increased lean body mass in treated animals over those who were not treated.
The researchers repeated this study on rats that were fed high protein diet and similar results were observed.
They also used surgically castrated peri-pubertal rat models to examine the ability of homobrassinolide to restore androgen-dependent tissues after androgen deprivation following castration and the results showed increased grip strength and an increase in the number and size of muscle fibers crucial for increased physical performance.
"The temptation is to see this discovery as another quick fix to help you go from fat to fit," Gerald Weissmann, Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal said .
"And to a very small degree, this may be true. In reality, however, this study identifies an important drug target for a wide range of conditions that cause muscle wasting," he added.
The results of the study have been published in the FASEB Journal.