Why supplementation with sterols is still interesting for athletes
The chemical structure of sterols is similar to that of testosterone. That's why some companies claim sterols imitate the effect of testosterone and accelerate muscle growth. That's not the case, of course. However, a human study recently published by Chinese scientists in the Journal of Food Science suggests that supplements with sterols might be interesting for athletes. But then in a completely different way...
Nuts, avocado, brown rice, beans, vegetable oil and a lot of other plant based foods contain sterols. As a result, we consume around 200-300 milligrams of sterols every day. If you are a vegetarian or vegan, that can amount to 600-800 milligrams per day. Because sterols inhibit the absorption of cholesterol from the diet, the food industry uses sterols in cholesterol-lowering functional foods.
The researchers experimented with a mixture of sterols that consisted of 55 percent beta-sitosterol, 29 percent from campesterol and 23 percent from stigmasterol.
They gave 2 grams of that mixture, added to soymilk, for 4 weeks to 18 healthy subjects.
At the end of the supplementation period, in the subject's blood the concentration of nitrate and nitrite was increased. Nitrate and nitrite are precursors of nitric oxide [NO]. If you want to know what NO does for fun things, you can check our archives.
In test tubes, the researchers exposed human immune cells, which normally circulate in the bloodstream, to sterols. They saw that the sterols caused the cells to produce more nitrate and nitrite. Especially campesterol proved to be an effective nitrate booster.
"Dietary plant sterols supplementation in the presence of a food matrix may upregulate the vascular NO production", the researchers concluded.
After reading this publication we, not inhibited by noteworthy knowledge, can not resist the urge to make some bold speculations which would make scientists feel embarrassed.
Like: could it be that supplementation with sterols - especially campesterol - makes the blood vessels more supple? And: would athletes benefit more from arginine or citrulline if they stack those substances with sterols? And: could sterols make the immune system more aggressive?
More coming soon.
J Food Sci. 2017 Jul;82(7):1750-6.
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