Definition: "An ergogenic aid is any substance or phenomenon that enhances performance "

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Brassinosteroids are anabolic

Researchers at Rutgers University have discovered that a group of plant steroid hormones have an anabolic effect on animal muscle cells. We already had anabolic ecdysteroids – and now we have anabolic brassinosteroids too. At Ergo-Log we already had our suspicions...

Brassinosteroids are plant hormones. The diagram shows an example. Plant hormones are as crucial to plants as steroid hormones are in our bodies. [Vitam Horm. 2002; 65:195-223.] You find them mostly in young leaves, buds, pollen and seeds.

Farmers use brassinosteroids as a growth enhancer in crops. Experience has shown that they work best when farmers use little fertilizer or pesticides. Researchers don’t think that brassinosteroids are capable of increasing the yields of high-tech agriculture, but in countries like India and China many farmers use brassinosteroids as growth enhancers.

Because researchers want to be sure that the plant hormones are not dangerous to humans, they are doing experiments on cells and animals. These have shown that brassinosteroids have positive health effects. For example, they protect cells against the measles virus [Antivir Chem Chemother. 2002 Jan; 13(1): 61-6.] and the herpes virus [Antivir Chem Chemother. 2000 Jan; 11(1): 71-7.]. According to rumours, the effects of brassinosteroids are so positive that researchers studying the health effects of these substances have started to take the plant hormones as supplements.

How the researchers at Rutgers University came up with the idea of studying the anabolic effects of brassinosteroids is not clear in their publications, which will be published soon in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry. "In the previous study we found that orally applied (22S,23S)-28-homobrassinolide produced significant anabolic effects and improved physical fitness in healthy animals with minimal androgenic effects", they write. But the previous study has not been published.

The researchers put 9 brassinosteroids into test tubes containing rat muscle cells. Some of the 9 occur naturally, others don't. The figure below shows the effect that the hormones had in a concentration of 10 micromoles on the build-up and breakdown of proteins. The second figure compares the anabolic effect of components 1 and 2 with that of IGF-1, and the third compares their anticatabolic effect with that of insulin.

Brassinosteroids activate the adrenergic receptor alpha 1d in the muscle cells, but also with the anabolic signal molecule Akt and the transcription factor MyoD. That brassinosteroids in concentrations of micromoles can induce hypertrophy is therefore pretty likely – if they have at least a 6-keto group and 22alpha,23alpha-hydroxyl groups.

Brassinosteroids are expensive. If brassinosteroids become the next hype, rest assured that there will be idiots who start putting cheap and ineffective brassinosteroids in their products. And those supplements may well have dangerous side effects. Some brassinosteroids in effective concentrations are toxic for cells, the researchers discovered.

J Med Chem. 2011 May 26. [Epub ahead of print].

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