Probably native to the Mediterranean basin, mustard is a plant of the cruciferous family (cabbage, broccoli, turnip) which has been part of the human diet since prehistoric times. As with all cruciferous vegetables, the identification of this plant by our distant ancestors proved to be an excellent choice for your health!
Mustard greens are indeed an exceptional source of nutrition, not to mention that they also contain a high concentration of glucosinolates, a class of molecules responsible for the anti-cancer effects of cruciferous vegetables. But it is above all the use of mustard seeds as a condiment to accompany meats that has contributed to the great popularity of this plant. When grinding the seeds in vinegar, the glucosinolate called sinigrin is converted into allyl isothiocyanate, a highly aromatic molecule that stimulates the trigeminal nerve in the face and triggers a strong (but temporary) sensation in the throat and nose.
This property of mustard “to go up in the nose” has been appreciated for millennia and, even today, this condiment plays an essential role in enhancing the taste of sauces and vinaigrettes or meats and cold cuts.
Natural molecules that behave like male hormones
In addition to their rich content of vitamins, minerals and glucosinolates, crucifers such as mustard also have the particularity of harboring brassinosteroids, a class of molecules that have a structure similar to animal steroids. These plant steroids play an essential role in plant growth, but little is known about their effects on animal metabolism.
This is an important question because we know that, in humans, the administration of steroids leads to spectacular effects: by mimicking the effect of male hormones such as testosterone, these molecules increase the synthesis of proteins in the cells (anabolic effect) and thus promote the growth of muscle mass. However, these anabolic steroids also cause multiple side effects that are problematic, both from a hormonal (abnormal development of secondary sexual characteristics) and physiological point of view.
Do herbal steroids have a similar action to these anabolic steroids and cause the same bad side effects?
An increase in muscle mass
To answer these questions, American researchers fed model animals for 24 days with a normal diet, supplemented or not with the brassinosteroid called 28-homo-brassinolide. Adding this compound stimulated muscle protein production while slowing muscle breakdown, leading to increased lean muscle mass and a noticeable improvement in physical condition.
For example, models fed the herbal steroid showed a 7% increase in strength in their lower limbs!
Mustard has its limits
On the other hand, fortunately, the molecule does not cause a significant increase in the activity of male hormones, even when they are injected subcutaneously. Plant steroids therefore appear to possess the positive effects of anabolic steroids in terms of increased muscle performance, without the adverse hormonal effects.
which are unique to these steroids.
These observations obviously do not mean that one can develop one’s mass
muscle simply by eating mustard! However, the presence in this plant of anabolic steroids without harmful hormonal effects could serve as a springboard for the discovery of new drugs capable of correcting the loss of muscle mass which is associated with certain diseases, in particular myopathies and cancer.
Esposito D et al. Anabolic effect of plant brassinosteroid. FASEB Journal;25: 3708-19
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