26/06/2012 06:54 BST | Updated 26/06/2012 07:25 BST

Why Popeye Got It Right: Spinach Does Help Build Muscles

According to scientists at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, a compound found naturally in spinach may have a powerful effect on muscle strength.

The study found that mice supplied with 'nitrate' in their drinking water developed significantly stronger muscles, than those who were not.


"From a nutritional perspective our study is interesting because the amount of nitrate that affected muscle strength in mice was relatively low," said Dr Andrés Hernández, researcher at the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology in a statement.

"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. There are currently no dietary supplements containing nitrate."


According to a statement, the researchers located that the 'nitrate mice' had a higher concentration of two different proteins in their muscles.

These two proteins, CASQ1 and DHPR, are involved in the homeostasis of calcium, a critical determinant of muscle contraction.

Future research will concentrate on how such a link could be explored further and practically applied to aid people with muscle weakness.

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