It turns out Popeye was right when he gobbled down cans of spinach to set his biceps bulging.
Researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm said Monday they had conducted a study showing that nitrate, found naturally in spinach and several other vegetables, tones up muscles.
For the study, which will be published in the Journal of Physiology, the research team had placed nitrate directly in the drinking water of a group of mice for one week and then dissected them and compared their muscle functions to that of a control group.
"The mice that had been on consistent nitrate had much stronger muscles," they said in a statement.
The nitrate used "was equivalent to a human's consumption of about 200 to 250 grams of spinach a day, so it's a very easily obtained amount," said one of the researchers at the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Andres Hernandez.
"Well, it is if you eat spinach. For people who don't eat their vegetables it will be more tricky," he added.
While no effect could be seen in the so-called slow-twitch muscles used for moderate exercise and endurance, the scientists saw a clear change in the fast-twitch muscles used for strength and more high-intensity exercises, Hernandez said.
Copyright 2012 AFP. All rights reserved.
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